Lewis Hamilton has said that he intends to get his contract situation sorted out as quickly as possible to further allow him to focus on regaining the F1 world championship in 2012.
The Briton was dogged by several distractions through a turbulent 2011 campaign, with speculation about his future - and whether it would be with McLaren - overshadowing several weekends. Hamilton did little to quieten the rumour mill by making an overt visit to Red Bull Racing's Christian Horner in the Montreal paddock, but ended the season by hinting that he was committed to the team that brought him up through the ranks and helped him to the world title in only his second F1 season.
The 27-year old is currently entering the final year of his original deal with the Woking team and, with Red Bull and Ferrari - amongst others - likely to have openings in 2013, thee is no guarantee that he will stay put. Hamilton was out-performed by a team-mate for the first time in 2011, as Jenson Button led the pursuit of eventual champion Sebastian Vettel, but the younger Briton is unlikely to find an easier ride at either of McLaren's main rivals, with Vettel and Fernando Alonso both inked in for several seasons to come.
Emphasising the need to focus on his racing this term, Hamilton told journalists at McLaren's pre-season launch that he intended to remove the uncertainty over his situation as soon as possible once the preliminaries to the campaign were out of the way.
"At the moment, the focus is on the preparation we have coming up for the season [but] probably, after the first couple of races, it's something we will probably want to get out of the way, probably in the earlier part of the year rather than later," he insisted, "We can then focus on the rest of the year without the team being concerned and without it being something hanging around. Then [the media] won't have to ask questions about it!"
Despite the struggles of the past few years, Hamilton remains grateful for the leg-up that the Woking equipe
gave him from karting to the big time.
"Absolutely. It feels very strange to be going into my sixth season, [as] it feels very much like it was only yesterday that I went up to Ron [Dennis], when I was 10, and
explained to him that I wanted to race for his team," he reflected, "But it's been a fantastic journey and, of course, we've been competing at the front for all those years that I've been here.
"You know, we are one of the only teams, if not the only team, that's won a grand prix every year, and three of those years we've been competing for the title right to the end, so it just shows, as Ron's famous words are, our strength in depth. We've got a great team, with an incredible amount of strengths, a great foundation we work from
and, as Jenson said, they just never give up."