3 July 2012
Hamilton: Leaving top team would be tough
Lewis Hamilton is no closer to sitting down and discussing a new deal with McLaren, but admits that leaving a top team would be hard to do.
Lewis Hamilton has admitted that walking away from McLaren would be a big step to take in his F1 career, but insists that he has still to focus his energies on cementing a new contract with the team.
The Briton, currently third in the 2012 world championship heading to his home grand prix at Silverstone this weekend, is out of contract at the end of the season, the five-year, £75m deal struck by his father at the end of 2007 having run its course, but he is in no rush to renew as he concentrates on not only getting the right conditions but also a second crown.
Hamilton has made no secret of his willingness to wait for negotiations, deliberately putting them off until there is less at stake on track, with next month's three-week break from competition likely to be the point at which he sits down with both manager Simon Fuller and team boss Martin Whitmarsh.
"I'm sure I could call Simon now, and say 'let's do it right away', but I'm not focused on the contract and I haven't given it enough energy yet," Hamilton told Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, "But there's a period coming up when I'll be on holiday and be able to get on the phone to Simon. All I'm thinking of this weekend is how I can help McLaren win, how we can make this car better and how I can extract more from these intelligent people around me."
Former team boss Ron Dennis has claimed that Hamilton may have to make concessions to his demands, as the economic climate is very different now to when he signed his original long-term deal in 2007, but the 27-year old driver is after more than just a hike in salary - despite his belief that he is worth as much as the likes of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel - and reckons that he and the team will already be in agreement on many aspects of the contract before talks get underway.
"I think we will be talking with Martin who, in case people forget, is the boss now," Hamilton noted, "Ron will be always the guy who signed me and I expect he will have a huge impact on the discussions with Simon, but I have to respect Martin is the man who will make the decision.
"I haven't sat down and forged all the criteria I am looking for, but probably 95 per cent is ticked off within McLaren. There could be small things, like I'd like to keep my trophies I win. Ron's never going to want to give them up, but that's all right, I'll get him on the money side!"
While Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes might all have vacancies that would appeal to Hamilton for 2013, McLaren is naturally keen to ensure that the all-British partnership with Jenson Button remains intact into a fourth season and beyond. Despite speculation to the contrary, and in spite of Button becoming the first team-mate to get the better of Hamilton in 2011, the pair work well together.
"Professional sportsmen do move teams," Hamilton pointed out, "Footballers do, and so do racing drivers. Jenson has been with a lot of teams, for instance. It's different when you are in one of the top teams already, though. [Moving on] would be tough to do."
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