McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has insisted that while McLaren's current malaise could ultimately dent Lewis Hamilton's aspirations of a second F1 world title in 2012, it is unlikely to influence his thinking on a new contract with the Woking team.
Whitmarsh and Hamilton are expected to begin thrashing out the framework of a new deal once the German and Hungarian grands prix are in the history books and F1 heads into its traditional summer break but, on the form of last weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the 2008 champion could be more than 60 points adrift of the leaders in this year's standings and wondering if his ambitions can be fulfilled by a prolonged stay at McLaren.
Hamilton started and finished a disappointing eighth in his home race at the weekend, netting a measly four points, while championship pacesetters Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber finished second and first respectively, with the Australian cutting his rival's lead by seven. Should the same result play out over the next two rounds - albeit unlikely in a season marked by unpredictability - Webber would assume the lead on 166 points, with Alonso a single point behind, while Hamilton only just breaks the century barrier.
Whitmarsh, however, remains confident that, while the championship battle may be a tough one, Hamilton will still be a part of the McLaren family in 2013. Hamilton, who dominated qualifying in the early part of the season, claiming pole in Australia, Malaysia and Spain, and won in Canada just three races ago, has made a point of not opening contract talks while his title hopes take centre stage, but let his new-found mask of calm slip a little as he saw his main rivals get the better of him in Saturday's timed session at Silverstone.
Despite suggestions to the contrary, Whitmarsh claimed that it was his belief that his star turn wanted
to remain with the team that nurtured him from a young age, and produced the championship goods in just his second year in F1.
"I think he's smarter than that," Whitmarsh told the BBC
when asked if he felt McLaren's current form would be a factor, "He's got to want to stay in this team, which I believe he does.
"He knows that [form fluctuates], I know that and we're disciplined and battle-hardened enough these days to know that. You've got to take stock, learn from these weekends. Sometimes you can learn more from these than the successful ones."
Hamilton, who carried the Olympic torch on the latest stage of its journey to London on Monday, admitted that he could promise 'nothing' when asked what he would say to fans disappointed by his Silverstone result. Speaking to Sky Sports
in the wake of the British GP, however, he conceded that, without a drastic upturn, McLaren - which has dropped to an uncharacteristic fourth in the teams' standings - could kiss the season goodbye.
"We are still in the fight but, unless we find something, it is going to be hard to stay in the fight," he noted with nine of the year's 20 races done, "I raced my heart out as always, but we just struggled. We did not have enough speed in general.