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'Silly season' rumours increase over driver deals

Speculation about which drivers might be going to which teams in 2013 have intensified at Spa, with the futures of Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa proving pivotal.
This days, 'silly season' in F1 2012 seems to run for virtually an entire year, but the intensity of the speculation went up several notches at Spa as it emerged that the driver transfer market was essentially blocked while three key drivers weight their options.

One of the drivers in question is Michael Schumacher, who had to decide whether or not to bow out of F1 for good at the end of 2012 or whether to return for another campaign in 2013 - either with Mercedes again, or even back at Ferrari. Running in his 300th Grand Prix weekend at Spa, Schumacher maintains that he's made no decision yet and won't do so until next month - which many experts and teams are complaining is too late to leave it. (See separate story.)

The ever-changing signals from the McLaren/Lewis Hamilton camps about the driver's future at Woking is another big spanner in the works to contract negotiations up and down the rest of the F1 pit lane. At times said to be keen and on the verge of extending his stay there, the next minute Hamilton's management team are cooling down such talk and suggesting he might have other plans.

The latest speculation is that Hamilton might follow Kimi Raikkonen's lead and take a sabbatical in 2013 away from the sport altogether - something Hamilton was quick to deny to The Sun on Saturday.

"I'm not going to walk away from F1," Hamilton told the newspaper. "Why would I take a sabbatical? I am too young. That is definitely not going to happen."

But Hamilton did suggest that there were "lots of sticking points" in his current contract talks with McLaren. "Nothing's signed, nothing's decided," he emphasised.

One potential sticking point might be his preference for a one-year deal with McLaren that allows him to keep his options open for the following season, which could be a crucial year for the sport. The team typically insists on much longer contracts for their driving talent.

"You don't know what is going to happen because in 2014 the regulations change quite heavily," he told the newspaper. "So you don't know what is going to be the [best place to be.]"

While Hamilton is unlikely to be eyeing up a reunion with former McLaren sparring partner Fernando Alonso over at Ferrari with any real enthusiasm, the situation at Maranello regarding Felipe Massa is certainly the other major question mark that's stopping deals from going forward.




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