Formula 1: Whitmarsh won’t be drawn on Lewis Hamilton’s future with McLaren
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh last night laughed his way through the latest barrage of questions regarding Lewis Hamilton’s future.
Whitmarsh insisted he was not putting on a brave face, however at no stage did he deny Hamilton would be leaving the team at the end of the year. Instead, Whitmarsh maintains the focus from the team and Hamilton is on winning this year’s drivers’ and constructors’ titles.
Hamilton is believed to have two contract offers on the table from McLaren and Mercedes, with the ball in his court as to where he decides to go. Asked whether he accepted Mercedes had offered Hamilton a deal, and with reference to Caterham owner Tony Fernandes sat alongside him, Whitmarsh smiled and said: “I suspect Tony has made him an offer as well. He is a very good racing driver.” A non-plussed Fernandes simply replied: “I haven’t.”
Whitmarsh conceded after Hamilton’s win in the Italian Grand Prix 12 days ago there was “no plan B” in terms of finding a replacement. Although Sauber’s Sergio Perez has been linked of late, Whitmarsh again denied there had been any consideration towards a replacement.
“No,” said Whitmarsh. “We’re focused on trying to do a very good job here. The speculation is not a distraction. The last three races we have got stronger and more focused. Anyone who knows Lewis has witnessed, in Italy and here in Singapore so far, he is very focused on doing a job. He realises this year we have a strong opportunity to win a world championship.
“There are stories and speculation swirling around, but that’s Formula 1, and we’re content to get on with our job quietly.”
Asked whether McLaren were looking to pay Hamilton less, and it is understood the new deal involves a pay cut of a third on his current £10 million-per-year contract, Whitmarsh again dodged the question. “I’m sure he’ll want more money and I’m sure we’ll want to pay less, that’s how business normally works,” he said. Given the levity of some of Whitmarsh’s replies, it led to him being asked whether he had seriously given thought to life without Hamilton.
“It’s not a question of putting on a brave face, it’s a question of focusing on doing our job,” he replied. “We’re concentrating on this year’s championship, and speculation on next year is something we don’t need to entertain or respond to.”
Which prompted the suggestion McLaren could even wait until the end of the year to make an announcement over Hamilton, to which Whitmarsh said: “We might wait until then. You never know.”
Given Hamilton put a block on questions yesterday with regard to his future, it is clear he and McLaren are adopting a siege mentality and have closed ranks. As far as they are concerned, with the titles on the line, they are the goal.
After winning two of the last three races, Hamilton has closed to within 37 points of title leader in Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. With the team winning the last three races overall given team-mate Jenson Button triumphed in Belgium, McLaren are 29 points behind Red Bull in the constructors’ championship. The suggestion McLaren are favourites was one Whitmarsh, rightly on this occasion, expressed caution over. “We were firm favourites going into the season and firm favourites coming out of Australia (after Button’s win), but it can change,” he said. “We’re very pleased we’ve been competitive at the last three events on very different circuits.
“What we haven’t done is piled on the points as we should given the competitiveness of our car. We’ve clearly a strong package so we should be disappointed with the points we don’t have rather than the points we do. “But you don’t look back, you look forward, and we’re hopeful of getting a result here.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east