Hamilton contract talks to speed up
McLaren have no "Plan B" in place should Lewis Hamilton decide to leave the team.
MONZA - McLaren have no "Plan B" in place should Lewis Hamilton decide to leave the team at the end of the season and will speed up contract negotiations in the next few days to try to make sure he stays.
Speaking to reporters after Hamilton won Sunday's Italian Grand Prix, team principal Martin Whitmarsh dismissed as "fantasy" speculation that the 2008 champion was close to agreeing a deal with Mercedes.
"I haven't given Plan B any thought," he said when asked about an alternative strategy should Hamilton decide to go. "We want Lewis to stay and we want him to stay if he wants to stay."
Briton Hamilton, who media reports say wants more money as well as control of his brand, showed on Sunday why he is one of the hottest properties in Formula One while McLaren made a compelling case for him remaining with them.
The victory at Ferrari's home circuit was McLaren's third in a row from pole position, something no other team has managed this season, and came after a record 62nd front row sweep in qualifying.
They are now 29 points adrift of champions Red Bull in the constructors' standings with seven races remaining and Hamilton second in the drivers' title race with 37 points between him and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
Mercedes, McLaren's engine suppliers and former co-owners, have won once - in China this season - since they took over the title-winning Brawn GP team at the end of 2009.
"I'm not really focusing on next year, I want to focus on this year. This is one race at a time and I'm trying to take this team to the top," Hamilton, who has been backed by McLaren since he was a teenage go-karter, said on Sunday.
"I'm trying to help them as they are trying to help me to win both championships. It is an incredible team and I have a great relationship with them so I'm really looking forward to the future," added the 27-year-old.
Hamilton arrived in Monza after Eddie Jordan, the former team owner now employed as a pundit by BBC television, said a deal was imminent with Mercedes for Hamilton to replace Michael Schumacher.
The report set the tone for the weekend, with Hamilton and McLaren doing their best not to be distracted by the constant rumblings of the paddock rumour mill.
Hamilton is represented by XIX Entertainment, who also look after the affairs of former England football captain David Beckham and tennis player Andy Murray, and Whitmarsh expected a new impetus to talks now the last European race of the season was out of the way.
"I can imagine we'll have some conversations before Singapore," he said, referring to next week's 14th round of the 20 race championship.
"Predicting the timing of when two get to dance is always dangerous," he cautioned, however. "My feeling is that this is a great team for Lewis to stay in.
"We are a winning team, Lewis is a winning driver and there is a lot of sense in us working together."
While next year's car is under development, having a driver who could possibly leave at the end of the year and take details with him was of no concern.
"Most of the focus with Lewis and the technical programmes is about what we are doing now," said Whitmarsh. "Developing next year's car is the work of technologists, engineers and designers.
"The drivers, apart from when they sit in it, are not that intimately involved in the process."