Former McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen has told former team-mate Lewis Hamilton to stay with the team for the 2013 season - despite being one of the people linked with a drive if the Briton did decide to move elsewhere.

Hamilton is out of contract at the end of the season with rumours suggesting he could be on the verge of walking away from the team that has guided his career since he was still in karts to move to Mercedes.

However, Kovalainen - who partnered Hamilton for two seasons - said he felt the Briton would be better off staying where he is and shouldn't consider a switch.

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"If I was him, I would stay there," he told the Daily Mail. "McLaren is a great, great team and every year they are there or thereabouts and if they have some difficulties they are able to come back.

"I know from my experience there that they have great facilities and great people and they have all the ingredients to win a lot of races."

The Finn added that it would be difficult for Hamilton to find a 'better team' than McLaren if he did elect to walk away.

"It will be difficult for him to find a better team," he said. "There are not a lot of better places than McLaren in terms of history, facilities, stability and budget.

"But in the end it is Lewis' decision and sometimes you might feel like you need a change."

Those comments come despite Kovalainen having himself left the team at the end of the 2009 season before he eventually joined F1 newcomers Caterham - then running under the Team Lotus banner.

Although he took his one and only win with McLaren, Kovalainen insisted that there were a number of reasons why he ended up leaving and said he had regained confidence in his own ability in the seasons that followed.

"I let the difficulties get into me a little bit and I wasn't strong enough," he said. "It wasn't the only issue, there were many other issues but in the end it just didn't work out.

"Towards the end of 2009 I had lost confidence and things started to get more difficult and I wasn't confident of setting up the car. Things became blurry - you're not clear in your mind what you need to do so you burn yourself out and it is difficult then to go forward.

"I needed to take a step back to make those two steps forward. I certainly have my confidence back now and know what is expected of me here and I know how to deliver so it is much easier a place to be."