Hamilton and Button deny McLaren exit plans

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button laughed off reports linking them to other Formula One teams yesterday and made clear they expected to be staying at McLaren.

Hamilton triggered media speculation that he could move to Red Bull when he was seen talking to that team's boss, Christian Horner, at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier this month. "I've a pretty solid contract at the moment, but [McLaren team principal] Martin [Whitmarsh] has spoken to us [Hamilton and his manager] about discussing a new contract fairly soon, in the coming months," Hamilton said here ahead of this weekend's European Grand Prix.

"Definitely, hopefully, by the end of the year I will have something in place and I can continue on."

Button, who won in Montreal after roaring from last place to overtake Red Bull's reigning champion Sebastian Vettel on the final lap, was reported to be on Ferrari's wanted list, an idea he rejected out of hand. "Hilarious, because none of it is true," said Button, grinning.

Fernando Alonso's frustration with Ferrari's season, meanwhile, exploded yesterday. The Spaniard, currently fifth with 69 points to leader Sebastian Vettel's 165, has yet to win a race. "I have driven the best seven races of my career this season, especially in terms of my qualifying laps," he said, "and here we are at the back of the pack."

Alonso's best chance of a win was frustrated in Monaco when Vettel was allowed to change to fresh tyres during a race suspension just when the Ferrari driver was moving in for a final attack on fresher rubber.

Last year the Spaniard lost out badly during an early safety car deployment here, and is determined to make amends. "I always believe that luck and bad luck balance out and maybe this unwritten rule also applies to race tracks," he said. "I would be more than happy if last year's misfortune was paid back now."

Ferrari are hoping that a change in the regulations governing engine mapping will clip Red Bull's wings this weekend. Running a very aggressive map creates more exhaust gases, which are flowed over the diffuser to increase downforce. This is believed to have given Red Bull a crucial edge in qualifying. However, the FIA has informed all of the teams that they may no longer use different settings for engine maps between qualifying and the race.

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