Lewis Hamilton has said that he will not allow the ongoing speculation abut his F1 future to take his attention away from the closing the still sizeable points gap to championship leader Fernando Alonso.
The Briton has seven rounds to overhaul his rival's 37-point advantage, beginning with this weekend's night race in Singapore, but is in danger of being distracted by rumours linking him to a move away from McLaren, the only team that he has driven for in the top flight and which helped deliver the 2008 world title in only his second season.
While his name has previously been mentioned in connection to possible vacancies at both Ferrari and Red Bull - and remains an outsider for the former until Felipe Massa's future is known - it is Mercedes that remains the favourite to land his signature for 2013. The speculation started with claims from former team boss Eddie Jordan that Michael Schumacher would retire, with Hamilton having already agreed terms to slip into the seven-time world champion's seat alongside Nico Rosberg, despite the Three Pointed Star not being a match for McLaren - or Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari - in the second half of 2012.
Both the Belgian and Italian grands prix were dominated by paddock conjecture surrounding the move, but Hamilton insists that he will not be deflected from the task in hand as he looks to repeat his Monza victory as often as possible over the 'flyaway' races that now make up the run-in to the end of the season and a potential title showdown with the man with whom he shared his debut season at McLaren in 2007.
Alonso has held top spot in the championship for much of the year, and actually extended his advantage over second place in the standings despite only finishing third at Ferrari's home race, but Hamilton refuses to give up on his dream of another title, despite the 37-point deficit that currently extends between himself and top spot.
"I don't have a timeline [to finalise a new deal], and my focus is on trying to win this world championship," the 27-year old told Reuters reporters at a promotional event for McLaren sponsor Vodafone in Mumbai, "Of course, I have to have those things sorted out, but I have people in the background working on those contract negotiations.
While McLaren insists that it is doing all it can to work out a new contract with its star driver, the rumour mill has begun churning out the names of potential replacements, with the latest suggestion adding Sauber star - and Ferrari 'academy' member - Sergio Perez to a list that already includes Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Hulkenberg, Paul di Resta and, most radically, Kimi Raikkonen. While the 2007 world champion and both Sahara Force India drivers currently have contracts with their existing employers, Kovalainen and Perez remain free agents at the end of the season and have shown the sort of form this season to put them high on the shopping list of teams with seats to fill. The Mexican has long been tipped as a potential replacement for Massa at Maranello, but has twice been branded as 'too young' by Ferrari management despite having racked up three podium finishes - including second places in Malaysia and Italy - this year.
"There's a lot of speculation, and there's a lot of stories that aren't true," Hamilton continued, "I think we're all wise enough to understand that people write things and that what is written is not necessarily what is true. I think the most important thing is that I'm 100 per cent focused on winning with this team and taking them forward.
"I've been with the team since I was 13 and we've worked so hard since 2009 to try and win this championship. Hopefully, finally, we're in the position where we can, [and]the most important thing is that I do not get distracted by all the rubbish that's been around."
With his Monza victory, Hamilton became only the second driver this season to win more than two races, joining Alonso at the head of that particular table, but he still has to make up for a troubled first few races, where problems cost McLaren better results. Since then, he has won in Montreal, and in two of the last three races in Budapest and Monza, and is confident that the Woking team has turned a corner after beating allcomers in every race since late July.
"We lost a lot of points at the beginning [of the year]," Hamilton admitted, reflecting on the fact that it took him until Canada to record his first win of 2012, "We were on the front row in the first seven or eight races, [and] we should have won all of them, but we learn from those experiences and that's what life is about. Now we're in a very, very strong position. We're getting stronger and we will get stronger through the rest of this year."