Lewis Hamilton has given the strongest indication that he wants to remain a McLaren driver for the foreseeable future, but insists that he is still no rush to ink a new deal with the Woking team.
Although team-mate Jenson Button inked a 'long-term' agreement with the team at the Japanese Grand Prix, there has been little news regarding a new deal for Hamilton as the team left him to battle his personal demons in the latter part of the season. The Briton made no secret of his interest in exploring other options when he was spotted making a visit to Red Bull team boss Christian Horner in Montreal - apparently not the only time he sought out the leader of the current world champions - but it now appears likely that he will return to the squad that gave him his motorsport break as a teenager.
"I don't think there's any question of my commitment to the team," the 26-year old told the BBC
, "I just want to continue on this path. I think it's likely, I'm confident about that."
Kimi Raikkonen's surprise confirmation at Renault [see story here
] adds an extra twist to the driver market going forward, with Felipe Massa and Mark Webber expected to make way for other drivers at Ferrari and Red Bull at the end of 2012. Hamilton has been linked with both teams, but could find his path blocked by Robert Kubica and Raikkonen respectively, although both teams also have young talent ready and waiting to step up.
After a tough 2011 campaign, however, Hamilton insists that he doesn't want to be rushed into anything, and will make time to talk to the team when he feels ready.
"[Team principal] Martin [Whitmarsh] has already spoken to me about re-signing, so I know it's there at some point, and I guess at some stage when we have time we'll sit down," he confirmed, "There's no real rush to have to do anything. The most important thing is to focus on the season ahead, getting back to where I should be - to the good performances, to winning, to enjoying life, enjoying the year."
Whitmarsh is confident that McLaren can hang on to the driver it nurtured through the junior ranks, then almost carried to a world title in his first year out of GP2.
"There is a deep affection between him and the team, and I'm sure that love affair will carry on for many years to come," Whitmarsh confirmed, "By his extraordinarily high standards, he has had a difficult year, but he's in a positive place right now. I've known him since he was eleven, but he is still a young man, and I'm fairly confident we'll find a good way forward."