Lewis Hamilton has played down reports that he has given the McLaren team an ultimatum to make him world champion or see him leave for someone that can.
The story made the front page of the British motorsport press in the build-up to this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but Hamilton insists that he remains committed to the Woking outfit that nurtured him through his junior career. Although Ron Dennis is no longer at the helm, the 2008 champion has a good relationship with successor Martin Whitmarsh, and is keen to underline his loyalty.
"I've spoken to [team principal] Martin [Whitmarsh] to reassure him I am here, I am committed to the team, [and] committed to winning," Hamilton told the Press Association
as he geared up for first practice at Albert Park, "This is where my heart and mind are. I'm not thinking about going elsewhere, I don't have my people going elsewhere and doing any other talking.
Both Hamilton and team-mate Jenson Button struggled for pace and reliability during pre-season testing, but are hoping that emergency revisions to the design of the MP4-26's underside and exhaust can make them more competitive in Melbourne. Rumours about his future, Hamilton admits, can only be a distraction to the recovery process and something he is keen to avoid.
"I try and put myself in other people's positions, to understand how they would feel. I think that's important," he continued, "I can imagine how I would feel if I heard stories that they were looking for another driver to replace me, it would be upsetting and distracting, and I kind of assume that may have been the case. So I wanted to make sure I put that right, and that's why I spoke with Martin."
Hamilton's current contract runs until the end of next season and, while he admits that the future is never certain, for now he remains focused on delivering both his second world title, and McLarens's first constructors' crown since 1998.
"Of course, I'm going to be in F1 for some time, and you never know which way the wind will take you," he conceded, "As I said, for now, I'm committed to trying to make this team the most successful it can be, and I feel we can do that."
Whitmarsh insists that he did not read too much into the story, but admitted that he was glad that Hamilton had taken the time to reassure the team about his commitment.
"You glance through the headlines and you see lots of things, but you don't spend too much time dwelling on them," Whitmarsh said, "Lewis has grown and developed in self-assurance and his manner in the years I've known him, and has a genuine affection for the team and the people in it. Obviously, he has grown up with this team, we have had some great times together, and I'm sure we're going to have some great times together in the future as well.
"He knows we will have highs and lows in any season, but he also knows this team is committed to winning. We're a great team, we enjoy working together. There are always plenty of challenges in this sport, and that's what we are here for."