World champion Lewis Hamilton yesterday told McLaren that he is happy to stay with them for the rest of his Formula One career.
Visiting the 1000 employees at the team's headquarters in Woking, the newly crowned world No 1 said: "I love this team, I'm going nowhere. This is the best team in the world. I'm very proud of everything McLaren have achieved.
"Even when I was growing up, when I first knew that racing was what I wanted to do, I knew that it was McLaren I wanted to drive for. I used to go to the old headquarters and see Ayrton Senna's championship-winning car, Mika Häkkinen's too. And I used to touch the steering wheels and dream that some day I'd have one with my name on and the No 1 on the front. And now that dream has come true." In recognition of Hamilton's achievement on Sunday, the sign at the entrance to the McLaren Technical Centre has been changed to the "rocket red" colour that is used on team T-shirts on victorious weekends.
Meanwhile, Renault have confirmed that former champion Fernando Alonso will stay for next year, while Dutch banking sponsor ING is believed to be the reason why Nelson Piquet has been retained as his team-mate after an unsatisfactory debut year. Piquet's mother is Dutch.
"I have decided to stay because I feel very happy and comfortable," Alonso said. "It's a very close-knit team with a competitive and winning mentality, and also a relaxed and warm attitude, which suits me perfectly. My back-to-back wins in Singapore and Japan proved how competitive we can be."
The World Motor Sport Council has announced that, from 2009, engine life will be extended from two to three races. There has also been a review of stewarding at races after several muddle-headed decisions. Besides more on-site training for rookies, the stewards will also have the benefit of a new replay system so that all incidents will be investigated and action taken during the race, unless it is essential to seek further evidence afterwards.
2009 Formula One calendar
29 March: Australia; 5 April: Malaysia; 19 April: China; 26 April: Bahrain; 10 May: Spain; 24 May: Monaco; 7 June: Turkey; 21 June: Britain; 12 July: Germany; 26 July: Hungary; 23 August: Europe (Valencia); 30 August: Belgium; 13 September: Italy; 27 September: Singapore; 4 October: Japan; 18 October: Brazil; 1 November: Abu Dhabi.
Singapore will officially remain the one night race with an 8pm start time, but the Australian and Malaysian races will start at 5pm local time