Hamilton waiting for call to step up to Formula One

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The Independent Online

If Lewis Hamilton was a less composed young man, his nails might now be bitten down to the quick. After his toe-to-toe battle with Nelson Piquet Jnr for the GP2 championship was resolved in his favour at Monza last weekend, he waits for a call from McLaren that will determine whether he will race in Formula One in 2007 and thereby become the first black Grand Prix driver.

The team principal, Ron Dennis, and chief executive officer, Martin Whitmarsh, have indicated that the choice of partner for incoming Fernando Alonso will be made within the McLaren group, which means the current incumbent Pedro de la Rosa, the test driver Gary Paffett, or Hamilton, whom Dennis has been supporting since he was a child racing karts.

Hamilton is a markedly assured 21-year-old from Tewin in Hertfordshire, and his drives at Silverstone and Turkey stood out as some of the best on-track action of the season. But McLaren prefer to take seasoned campaigners, though the unfortunate experience with Juan Pablo Montoya, who quit in June, may have been cause for reflection.

Hamilton does not believe he can do much more to state his case for the race seat rather than a testing role.

"It's been a fantastic season and I have done everything I feel that I needed to do to be ready for F1. Now it is over and done, I'm ready to get into an F1 car and to start testing. I feel that I'm ready to race. Racing is what I do best, so the sooner, the better.

"I haven't heard anything official from Ron yet, but I'm hopeful. I saw him on Sunday and he was very happy with the work I've done this year."

On paper it might seem folly to partner an experienced champion such as Alonso, but Hamilton has no qualms on that score and believes nothing could suit him better.

"I see it absolutely as a major advantage, in the sense that it's better to compare yourself to a guy like that," he said.

"In GP2 I was fortunate to be able to do that with an experienced second year driver as my team-mate - Alexandre Premat. Without him I never would have improved myself and got up to speed the way I did.

"Being alongside the best driver, with all that experience - the things I can learn from Alonso would be endless. A race seat alongside him would be the best place for me. I'm ready."

* Michael Schumacher's manager has hit back at Fernando Alonso after the reigning world champion described the German as the least sporting driver of all time. "It was an unbelievable insult, totally below the belt," Willi Weber said. "I regard Alonso as a brilliant driver, but his behaviour right now is just pitiful. Michael will give him a suitable answer on the track." Weber, who has represented the seven times world champion since 1988, demanded an apology from Alonso for what he called "unfair and cheap" remarks.

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