Whitmarsh 'doubts' Hamilton switch
McLaren boss claims media "titillation" fuelling Hamilton-Mercedes rumours
By William Esler. Last Updated: 09/09/12 3:20pm
Martin Whitmarsh "doubts" that Lewis Hamilton will defect to Mercedes at the end of the season despite admitting the driver's future remains unresolved.
The Italian GP has been dominated by talk of the merits or otherwise of reports that emerged on Wednesday night suggesting that Mercedes were closing in on securing Hamilton's highly-prised signature for 2013 - yet McLaren chief Whitmarsh has moved to dismiss those rumours as pure media "titillation".
Whitmarsh has said publicly on numerous occasions in recent weeks that he expects Hamilton to remain at Woking and, despite this weekend's frenzied speculation, continues to believe that the 27-year-old's career would be best served by staying where he is.
"Personally, I would doubt it, because he knows that the best place for him is at McLaren," he told the official Formula 1 website when asked about the chance of Hamilton joining the Silver Arrows. "I think it is a bit of titillation in the media."
The topic of Hamilton's future has continued to overshadow McLaren's on-track activities at Monza, although the team did their best to sway paddock talk back to racing by locking out the front row in qualifying for Sunday's race.
Asked what the current state of play was regarding Hamilton's contract, Whitmarsh replied: "Unresolved.
"This much I can say: we are heading for the right place. People are having some speculation - and fun - but I don't think that it alters the course particularly.
"Right here and now, genuinely I wouldn't want Lewis to focus on that issue so I haven't spoken to him about a deal this week and I don't want to speak with him about it here as I want him to be on form. I want to finish one-two on Sunday - if I can - so I don't think that we need to talk about the future - about contracts - right now.
"It is too important for Lewis as he needs a strong result here for his championship - and we want a strong result for both our championships. That is the priority."
Hamilton's desire to establish himself as a brand, particularly in the United States, was reported to be a stumbling block in contract negotiations with McLaren. The Woking-based squad have traditionally kept a tight rein on their drivers' commercial activities, but Whitmarsh says the team would not take exception to 'Brand Hamilton', as long as it did not detract from the Briton's on-track performances.
"I think Lewis is going to develop his brand and we don't have a problem with that," he added.
"We are happy with that. But first and foremost he is a race driver - and the best way to develop his brand is to win on Sunday and then win in two weeks' time and so on and so forth. First and foremost Lewis Hamilton is a world-class athlete and a race driver - and that is how we think he should develop his brand.
"Lewis and his team are very interested in the Hamilton brand and providing anything that happens doesn't distract him from being a race driver, we are 100 percent relaxed about it. We are not at odds over that. I think at the moment we all should focus on winning a race and then next week we will sit down and get some discussions going."