Lewis Hamilton may have to reconsider his contract demands if he is to remain at McLaren for the next few years, although the Woking team is hopeful that he will remain alongside Jenson Button beyond 2012.
Speaking to Sky Sports
in the wake of Hamilton's dramatic Canadian Grand Prix victory, former team principal Ron Dennis played down media suggestions that McLaren was prepared to offer its star a pay hike in order to keep him onboard, claiming instead that talks may actually go the other way. Hamilton's current deal, signed after his meteoric debut campaign in 2007, expires at the end of the season, and the Briton is a natural target for those frontrunners potentially in need of a driver next year, but Dennis says that there can be no excessive offerings just to retain his services.
"It's a complex situation," Dennis admitted, "He's on the end of a contract which was signed at a time when the economy was somewhat different, and now there has to be a balance between that.
"You're obviously going to look at what's available - he's going to look at [where can he go], we're going to look at who's available - [but], at the end of the day, hopefully, the fact that he's been part of this team from the beginning of his career will pay a significant role in whatever decisions both sides make. But it's a little early to be talking about it."
Hamilton's victory in Canada will undoubtedly add a 'feelgood factor' to a relationship with McLaren which, in recent races, showed signs of strain as operational errors led to results failing to live up to expectation. Even Canada had its problems, with neither pit-stop being exactly smooth and the team convincing its driver that his main rivals would also be two-stopping when, in fact, both intended to try and make it to the end on one, but things finally worked out in the Briton's favour, making him the seventh winner in as many races this season.
Hamilton began the weekend, however, by insisting that his role in the title fight would probably preclude any early conclusion to contract talks, which are currently being handled by management company XIX Entertainment. With several high-profile seats potentially freeing up in the next few weeks - including Mark Webber's at Red Bull, Felipe Massa's at Ferrari and Michael Schumacher's at Mercedes - Hamilton does not need to rush back into McLaren's arms, even if they are the ones he is most familiar with.
"I haven't even discussed anything,” he told journalists after arriving in Montreal, "I underestimated how difficult the season would be, how busy I would be, and I have also realised how unimportant [contract talks are] at the moment. The championship is more important than what I plan to do, what my next contract will be. My future at the moment is not important - I might not even see next year! What's important is making sure I capitalise and maximise on this year."
Should he remain at McLaren, Hamilton will almost certainly line up alongside Button, who inked a long-term deal at the Japanese Grand Prix last season, and believes that it could be some time before the make up of next year's grid becomes clear.
"It will be towards the end of the year when most of the people get their contracts done," the Briton told the UK's Daily Mail
newspaper, "For next year, if they are moving teams, they need to start focusing on settling into that team and making sure they are a big part of that team and not a second driver. A driver needs to give good input and get the team around him because that is a big thing in the sport these days, especially at the top teams with the team-mates they will have. They are all very competitive and very clever individuals."