Lewis Hamilton 'to buy £10m Monaco apartment'
Lewis Hamilton will confirm his elevation to sporting superstardom by exchanging his one-bedroom flat in Surrey for a £10million apartment in Monaco, it was claimed last night.
The 22-year-old, who was on pole for today's Chinese Grand Prix, a race in which he was hoping to clinch the Formula 1 world championship, was originally thought to have preferred the tax haven of Switzerland.
However, a number of estate agents in the tax-free principality have come forward claiming they have been instructed to find Hamilton a seaview apartment
in the exclusive Fontvieille district.
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According to Stephane Carinni, a Monaco estate agent, the former comprehensive-schoolboy had been formulating plans for his move at least six months ago.
Mr Carinni said: "When Lewis was here last May, he put the word out that he was looking for an apartment in the four to five million pounds mark, which is relatively modest by Monaco standards.
"But since the Formula 1 season has progressed - and it now looks almost certain he is going to win it - he has doubled what he is prepared to spend."
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Fontvieille is already home to Hamilton's fellow British driver David Coulthard, who owns the Columbus Hotel. Another F1 rookie, Nico Rosberg, also owns property in the area.
One apartment said to have caught Hamilton's eye is in Fontvieille's Seaside Plaza, where he has asked for details on a 2,000sq ft, four-bedroom duplex with views across the Mediterranean.
The lavish pad, complete with four bathrooms, a steam room and a 300sq ft sun terrace, would make a perfect lovenest for Lewis and any of the beautiful female companions he has been linked with this year.
They include on-off girlfriend Jodia Ma, pop star Natasha Bedingfield and Saudi billionaire's daughter Sara Ojjeh, who was pictured with Hamilton in St Tropez this summer.
Mr Carinni said: "The place he is interestedin is very desirable and would suit a single man looking for a base here perfectly. But it is by no means the most expensive apartment in the building. There are several on the top floor that are three times the size and on the market for £30million.
"For someone with his potential wealth, the benefits of moving here are obvious. He will pay no income tax and have a safe haven where he will be surrounded by fellow multi-millionaires and have no trouble from roaming paparazzi."
The district, which has a population of around 3,000, has long been a retreat for sports stars. Boris Becker, Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher have all been one-time residents.
At the Ship and Castle British pub on Fontvieille Harbour, regulars seemed unconcerned about the arrival of yet another celebrity. Resident Tom Henton-Smith said: "This is one of the few places in the world where someone like Lewis Hamilton can stroll unbothered.
"We've had Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Bjˆrn Borg and Pavarotti in here over the years, so no one's going to bat an eyelid if Lewis Hamilton wanders up to the bar and orders a beer."
When he is not racing around the world, Hamilton lives in a comparatively modest bachelor flat around the corner from the McLaren F1 team's base in Woking, Surrey.
In just eight months, he has become a sporting phenomenon. His income has already soared from a 'meagre' £250,000 at the beginning of this year and some experts are claiming he could soon be earning in excess of £50million in his bid to become the first driver in Formula 1 history to land the world championship in his debut season.
His achievement would be all the more remarkable given that those entering the sport are frequently bankrolled by wealthy parents.
The youngster was brought up on a council estate in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, by his father Anthony, a former railway booking clerk who acts as his son's manager.
Mr Hamilton has previously described how he had to scrimp and save just to get his son racing on the go-kart circuit.
Even if Hamilton were not to win today's race, he could still seal the championship when it moves on to Brazil.
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