McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has said he is confident Lewis Hamilton will remain with the Woking-based outfit when his current deal expires at the end of next season, although he added neither the team or Lewis are in any rush to ink a new agreement.
Speculation about Hamilton's future intensified earlier this month, prior to his win in the Chinese GP, when the F1 2008 world champion responded to talk McLaren want him to stay for 'another five years at least', by firing back that 'loyalty has its limits' and that he doesn't see 'any attraction whatsoever' to staying with one team forever. Although he then backtracked on those comments [see separate story - click here
], Whitmarsh insists he is not concerned.
“Lewis has a long career ahead of him and I think he's intelligent enough to realise that the environment he has here is good for him and plays to his strengths,” Whitmarsh told British newspaper The Mail on Sunday
. “Lewis has made it clear to me he wants to stay in the team and I've made it clear to him I want him to stay.
“At some point, we need to get a contractual agreement that reflects that, of course. But I don't think — despite the media interest — that either of us thinks we have to get to a contract in three months or six months. I trust him and I think he trusts me.”
With Hamilton's nemesis Fernando Alonso at Ferrari, current champions Red Bull Racing are probably the only other team the Englishman would consider moving to, although Whitmarsh was keen to point out that their primary function isn't racing, something Hamilton himself acknowledged last month when he noted they are 'just a drinks company'.
“We are focused on winning the championship this year, next year, in five years and 10 years' time, as motor-racing is our core business,” Whitmarsh added.
“Ferrari can also say that with some credibility. But a lot of other teams are selling consumer goods, cars or high-caffeine drinks.
“I'm not criticising them. But can they say, consequently, that they are in F1 for the long run?” he pondered.
Meanwhile, Whitmarsh noted Hamilton's recent Chinese Grand Prix victory was a big boost for the whole squad, especially given the fact pre-season testing had been so tough.
“As I walked out of the circuit [in Shanghai last Sunday], I felt proud of the team. Red Bull are strong, but we beat them and we will beat them again this year.”
“However until I deliver a championship [as team principal], I'm not going to be satisfied. If you sit back and think you're in reasonable shape, you're finished in this business. The pace of change is relentless and the championship is wide open,” he summed-up.