Lewis Hamilton has assured McLaren of his 'intentions' says team principal Martin Whitmarsh as Mercedes rumours continue
Friday 07 September 2012
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has been given assurances as to Lewis Hamilton's intentions, but knows until a new contract is signed nothing is a done deal.
Hamilton has confirmed this week he is in "advanced negotiations" with McLaren, although there is a distinct possibility he may yet move to Mercedes.
Hamilton's management company, XIX Entertainment, are known to be in discussion with the German manufacturing giant, a global brand that would align with XIX owner Simon Fuller's aim of turning the 27-year-old into a world superstar like he did with David Beckham.
The dilemma for Hamilton is whether to join a Mercedes team who have won just once in 50 races since their return to Formula One at the start of 2010, in direct opposition to his own ambitions of being a multiple world champion.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn is convinced, in conjunction with a major regulation change due in 2014, notably to engines, Mercedes' three-pointed silver star is rising, even though they have gone backwards of late this campaign.
In the opposite corner, his counterpart at McLaren in Whitmarsh is firmly led to believe Hamilton will be re-signing and extending a stay that began when the Briton was 13.
Speaking ahead of Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, Whitmarsh cannot escape the gossip dominating the Monza paddock.
"Media like that sort of speculation," said Whitmarsh. "I've been doing this job too long to be surprised by it.
"It's a fairly incestuous paddock so you tend to know - certainly if you have been around over 20 years - what's going on.
"Often stories that get circulated are blown out of proportion for entertainment reasons or whatever.
"The important thing is we don't spend any time, energy or concentration on stuff like that. We just concentrate on doing our job.
"Lewis and his management have assured me of their intentions, we're focused on working together at the moment.
"This weekend is important for Lewis. He needs to ensure he gets his championship hunt back on track, and that's what he wants as well.
"There's going to be all sorts of speculation, but we are really focused on making sure we do a good job here in Monza."
Crucial for Whitmarsh, though, is signing a driver who, after 14 years with McLaren, is motivated to continue with the team.
There was an element to Hamilton's tweeting last weekend in Spa, and which landed him in hot water, that suggested all is not as it should be in his McLaren world.
It is why Whitmarsh cannot be 100% certain Hamilton will stay as he added: "Ultimately a driver has to drive where he is happy to drive.
"So we (the team) and I don't want anyone not 100% committed to it. You can't work like that. I've made it clear from the outset.
"Now lots of very positive things have been said to me.
"But there again, I've learned over the years that until people support that by inking the paper then you don't get too excited about it."
There is every indication this is a situation likely to remain ongoing for another few weeks, certainly until next month.
That would appear unhealthy for all concerned, particularly with a championship battle bubbling away, with Hamilton still in the hunt at 47 points adrift of championship leader Fernando Alonso.
Whitmarsh, though, is unconcerned, adding: "It will get resolved when it is, but I don't think it is as big an issue in this team as it possibly is in the media room.
"For us, it's not a distraction. For the engineers, technicians, mechanics, it's business as usual."
Instead, Whitmarsh feels Hamilton is more distracted by the death last week of a close aunt, Diane, who lost her battle against cancer.
"He has been a little heavy-hearted, with real, genuine reason of course," said Whitmarsh.
"Those issues in his personal life have probably had a bigger impact than all of this media hype at the moment.
"But he has come here, he is clearly focused on that (the race), so I'm not going to talk to him about contracts.
"One, because it's inappropriate; two, because it's the wrong time. We want to focus on winning a race."
It is why all negotiations are being conducted with Fuller rather than Hamilton personally, although with the impresario casting an eye over another of his clients, Andy Murray in New York at the US Open, talks have stalled this weekend.
"I have plenty of personal contact with the driver, but he always gives me plenty of other things to talk to him about," said Whitmarsh.
"I don't think it's right for him to get involved in negotiations, that's why we have managers.
"Most of them are in New York at the moment, but when they are here we can talk to them.
"We've still got the telephone so we might be able to sort something out."
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