Questions remain over Lewis Hamilton's McLaren future
Wednesday 19 September 2012
Lewis Hamilton faces the heat and humidity of Singapore this weekend with his future still the burning subject of speculation.
Press Association Sport has learned fresh talks have taken place over the past few days since Hamilton's victory in the Italian Grand Prix.
However, there remains no resolution as Hamilton continues to mull over the biggest decision of his entire career.
The choice is simple: either stay with McLaren, a team that has taken care of him since he was 13, or gamble and switch to Mercedes in the hope they will become a powerhouse when the new engine regulations kick in from 2014.
It is understood final contract offers are on the table from both teams with the ball now firmly in Hamilton's court, and with the likelihood a decision will be made by the middle of next month at the very latest to avoid keeping either party waiting.
It means the 'will-he/won't-he-leave-McLaren' saga will rumble on for the next few days under the bright lights of Singapore's Marina Bay Street circuit as Formula One again revels in its only night race.
The distraction for Hamilton, when his focus needs to be singularly on the world championship battle at this particular juncture, would appear unwanted.
But as he proved at Monza, the 27-year-old is not going to let the gossip get the better of him as he followed up his 23rd career pole position with his 20th race victory.
Earlier this week Hamilton insisted the "rubbish" surrounding him and a possible move to Mercedes would not shatter his attention from the task at hand.
With McLaren on a roll of three consecutive race victories - two for Hamilton in Hungary and Italy sandwiching team-mate Jenson Button's win in Belgium - the momentum is with him as he seeks to close the 37-point gap to championship leader Fernando Alonso.
"We're now inching closer to the finishing line, and this is where it starts to get exciting," said Hamilton, looking ahead to seven long-haul races on three continents in the space of 10 weeks.
"After winning the last three races of the European season, the whole team starts the long haul around the world for the final series of flyaways that will determine the outcome of this year's championship.
"After winning in Hungary and Monza, I head to Singapore full of positivity and optimism that we can take the title fight to Fernando.
"Although I had a fantastic win there back in 2009, I've not had the greatest of results in Singapore recently.
"I got a puncture and retired after tangling with Mark Webber in 2010 and I was delayed after touching wheels with Felipe (Massa) last year.
"Both those races were unlucky for me - I think I need a better roll of the dice this time around."
For Hamilton and McLaren, just 29 points adrift of Red Bull in the constructors' championship, Sunday's race could prove to be make or break, according to technical director Sam Michael.
After comfortable triumphs on two power tracks in Spa and Monza, the feeling is if McLaren can pull off another success on a circuit as tricky as Marina Bay, it will prove to be a significant marker with regard to the destiny of both titles.
"Now is a critical point of the championship for us," said Michael.
"We are coming from behind and we know we have a big challenge to try and get up there in the constructors'.
"This next race is important because if you look at the last three there are various circumstances that may have contributed to our main competitor, such as Red Bull, suffering in performance.
"One, in particular, is the lift-to-drag ratios of tracks. We have been to two low-drag circuits, Spa and Monza, and those are quite different aero packages compared to what you normally run.
"We are now going back to Singapore, which is a maximum downforce circuit.
"If we go there and we still have the same sort of advantage, as we had in the last two races, I would say we are in a really strong position to challenge.
"If RBR is quick again and on the front row with both cars, it doesn't mean we cannot win the championship, but it will be a tougher job."
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