• Chairman says: ‘We employ him, not the other way round’
• Hamilton relaxed over situation and expects talks in summer
Lewis Hamilton has distanced himself from remarks made by Ron Dennis, the McLaren executive chairman, relating to his contract, ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix here. Hamilton’s contract expires at the end of this year and the British driver insists the question of where he will be driving next year is not of particular import at this stage of the season.
Dennis told Radio 5 Live there was “no reason Lewis won’t be driving our cars in the future”. However, he added: “I think people get the wrong impression though, as when I last looked at the contract I was paying him. It’s a question of whether we employ him, not the other way around.”
The latter was clearly a response to the ongoing debate focusing on why Hamilton has yet to renew his contract and the reasons why he and McLaren have not come to an arrangement. Hamilton is managed by Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment and Fuller was at the race in Germany last weekend prompting further speculation over whether negotiations were ongoing.
In the wake of Dennis’s remarks Hamilton remained unconcerned over the contract situation and insisted any negotiations would take place with the McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, and that Fuller and he had not discussed the matter last week.
“When he [Fuller] came, we didn’t speak about it once. We are relaxed at the moment,” Hamilton said. “At some stage he will sit down and speak to me over the summer.”
He pointed out that the contract issue was not one he was discussing with Dennis. “I don’t even know what he has been saying, so I don’t know what questions he has been asked, so it’s not really for me to comment on. It has nothing to do with me particularly, what he says,” he noted, before concluding: “Martin is my boss.”
Hamilton’s remarks suggest that the close relationship the pair shared when Dennis was team principal, until he stepped down in 2009, is no longer in place. Dennis was fundamental in bringing Hamilton to McLaren, signing him to the team’s driver development programme in 1998, when he was 13 years old. Then as McLaren team principal, Dennis brought Hamilton into the full Formula One team in 2007 alongside Fernando Alonso.
The issue will not go away, however. With Red Bull re-signing Mark Webber after his win at Silverstone, the only top-end seat potentially available outside McLaren is that of Felipe Massa at Ferrari. But Alonso would certainly not want to partner Hamilton in the wake of their difficult season together in 2007, and he is also the team’s undisputed No1 driver.
The other remaining drive might be Michael Schumacher’s at Mercedes but the German has given no indication he will be leaving and the team principal, Ross Brawn, has made it clear he would happily continue with his partner from their championship-winning period at Ferrari.
All of which fuels speculation as to why, with McLaren as the clear choice, no deal has yet been done.
But Dennis did note that: “If things pan out the way I expect them to I’m pretty sure he [Hamilton] will be sat in a McLaren next year.”
On track the teams will be hoping to enjoy some dry running during practice on Friday, which was denied them in Germany, although rain is forecast off and on across the weekend. Pirelli have brought the same medium (prime) and soft (option) tyres used in Hockenheim to the Hungaroring but this high-downforce circuit is not at all similar. With only one straight, and it always being punishingly hot, both aerodynamic and mechanical grip from the tyres will be key and due to the recent lack of dry running, understanding degradation rates will be of crucial importance.