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Exclusive - Whitmarsh on Hamilton’s McLaren future 07 Sep 2012

Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 7 September 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 7 September 2012 Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer talks with Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 27 July 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 7 September 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 7 September 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 7 September 2012

Lewis Hamilton is keeping McLaren in suspense. What should have been signed weeks ago - a new contract between the two parties - remains something of a cliffhanger. Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren’s team principal, doubts that Hamilton has a real interest in leaving and puts the rumours down to media ‘titillation’. But one thing is clear: someone must be playing hardball…

Q: Martin, the last time we talked about it - before the summer break - you said that the situation with Lewis’s contract would be solved during that time. Now we are at the second race after the break, still no contract signed and the rumours running hot. What is the state of affairs?
Martin Whitmarsh:
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. First things first! (laughs)

Q: Where are the glitches?
MW:
I think it is just focusing on going racing better. I think Lewis had a personal issue at a time when it’s possible we put a lot of pressure on him - and it probably was not appropriate to put a lot of pressure in that particular moment, because of his personal situation.

Q: Rumour has it that Lewis was increasingly unhappy that McLaren doesn’t give him the chance to develop his own brand. As Lewis can see his future in the United States one day, being a brand does indeed help to put down roots, both personally and economically…
MW:
I think Lewis is going to develop his brand and we don’t have a problem with that. 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.

Q: There was the issue with him keeping his trophies. Was that just a distraction from bigger issues?
MW:
Well, I think the trophies are a personal thing - and I can understand that - but yes, the issue of the trophies is not going to be the one that comes between us at the end of the day.

Q: So the trophy discussion is just some kind of door opener for the real issues?
MW:
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.

Q: So what about Lewis turning his back on McLaren and heading for Mercedes?
MW:
Personally, I would doubt it.

Q: Why?
MW:
Because he knows that the best place for him is at McLaren. I think it is a bit of titillation in the media.

Q: Is it really only down to that?
MW:
Yes.

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