Lewis Hamilton has revealed that he is not interested in McLaren offering him one of its F1 cars as reward for the service he has given the team over the years, insisting that he has his eye on something a little smaller.
Hamilton was famously told that, should he be able to repeat as F1 world champion, he may be able to get his hands on the orange McLaren F1LM in the foyer of the team's Woking base, and many of his rivals have had examples of their grand prix steeds bestowed to private collections or museums, but Hamilton insists that he would prefer to keep his trophies - and its a 'push point' that could play an important part in his ongoing contract negotiations with McLaren.
The Briton has only ever driven for the team in F1, having been groomed for stardom through his teens, and therefore does not have an original trophy to show for his 19 race wins and 47 podiums, as every bit of silverware remains in Woking. It is a quirk of team contracts that dates back to Ron Dennis' time as principal, with the drivers receiving replicas if they so desire. A Ferrari-bound Alain Prost infamously defied 'tradition' by 'donating' his 1989 Italian GP winner's trophy to the tifosi
, and Hamilton admits that he is uncomfortable with the current policy.
“There are the two things that are the most valuable to a driver - crash helmets and trophies,” he claimed to the media after winning at the Hungarian GP last weekend, “I don't care if they don't give me my cars, but those two things are what you put your blood and sweat in to. For me, they are priceless.”
The 2008 world champion is in the final year of a five-year deal with McLaren and, with talks over money expected to start during the impending summer break, he is also keen to include the possession of trophies in any future negotiations.
“We haven't spoken about it yet,” he noted, “but, in a lot of other teams, the drivers get theirs. [At McLaren], the team have all the trophies in the cabinet and the drivers get replicas. Whatever contract I'm having next, that is going to be a push point."
While the options available to him elsewhere are gradually becoming less attractive, Hamilton is in no rush to confirm his seat for next year, preferring instead to secure the deal that suits him as he views the end of his career in the top flight.
"I don't feel I have a tough decision to make, but it is my career I'm talking about however - the last part of my [professional] life," he concluded, "It's the first time I've been in this position, so I guess it still remains an important decision."
Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari have all been listed as potential Hamilton destinations, but the former is now closed off following Mark Webber's re-signing. The Mercedes seat would require Michael Schumacher to head back into retirement and question marks will always remain over the possibility of the Briton working with former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso following their acrimonious 2007 campaign, all of which could limit Hamilton's bargaining power, even if Dennis is no longer than man on the other side of the table....