McLaren insist Lewis Hamilton will sign new contract
McLaren insist their error-strewn start to the Formula One season won’t put the brakes on Lewis Hamilton signing a new contract.
The 2008 world champion’s five-year deal with the Woking squad runs out at the end of the year, but both parties have previously said they are eager to continue the relationship.
However, Hamilton has been linked with Red Bull and Ferrari in recent months, and McLaren’s mistake-ridden 2012 campaign has raised questions about whether or not he wants to remain at the team.
The 27-year-old hasn’t put a wheel out of place so far this campaign, but hopes of a second world title are being undermined by McLaren - the latest gaffe occurring in Spanish Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday shortly after Hamilton was celebrating clinching pole, only to be told to stop on track for what later emerged as fuel issues.
The race stewards punished the Brit severely, erasing all his times from qualifying and dropping him to the back of the grid, from where he finished a respectable eighth.
Yet McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh is confident the poor start won’t affect contract negotiations. Asked if Hamilton might be persuaded to leave the team following the hiccups, Whitmarsh replied: “No, I don’t. He has got to build the support of the team, he has got to feel comfortable doing it, he has got to want to drive and he is in good shape.
I look forward to working with him for a long time to come.” Whitmarsh also spoke of his admiration for Hamilton in the way the super speedster handled the sorry situation in Barcelona.
“I was concerned because it is a pretty tough thing to happen to a driver. But I have to say he showed some greatness I had not seen before. By the end of our chat he was consoling me,” Whitmarsh said.
“He was saying ‘we win and lose as a team’. He was a great, great driver this weekend. My affection and admiration for Lewis have been enhanced by events this weekend.
“The relationship between Lewis and the team is stronger and hopefully we will work together for a long time.”