Lewis Hamilton linked with Mercedes switch
|By Jonathan Noble||Wednesday, September 5th 2012, 17:21 GMT|
Lewis Hamilton has been strongly linked with a surprise move to Mercedes next year, even though his current McLaren team have been assured that the Briton has not decided his future plans yet.
Former team boss Eddie Jordan, who is a pundit for the BBC, has suggested that Hamilton and Mercedes have agreed a deal and that confirmation of their tie-up could happen soon.
He told the BBC: "I believe Hamilton and Mercedes have already agreed personal terms and a deal could be imminent. Negotiations between Lewis Hamilton and McLaren continue. It would appear Michael [Schumacher] is leaving and Lewis is arriving at Mercedes."
However, McLaren has been assured by Hamilton's management team that no deal has been finalised and that Jordan's claims are incorrect.
A McLaren spokesman told AUTOSPORT: "We have been told by Lewis Hamilton's management team that the story is untrue."
Hamilton's management team XIX Entertainment are widely known to have spoken to a number of teams on the grid - including Ferrari and Mercedes – about options outside of McLaren for 2013.
The door at Ferrari appears closed, however, with Fernando Alonso reluctant to renew a partnership that produced friction when they were together at McLaren.
Mercedes, however, is a realistic option – although it depends on Schumacher electing not to continue next year.
Jordan's belief would suggest that Schumacher is now set on quitting, and any move by Hamilton would leave McLaren with a big hole to fill if it lost the former world champion. Force India's Paul di Resta would be favourite to replace him.
Hamilton and McLaren's contract negotiations are believed to have stalled over money – with the world financial situation making it impossible for the Woking-based team to hand the driver the kind of big wages he had when they last finalised a contract.
Relations between the team and driver have also been strained at times this year – especially at Spa last weekend when Hamilton tweeted confidential set-up data that revealed car secrets to rival teams.
Mercedes insisted last weekend that it was in no rush to finalise its driver plans for 2013, with Schumacher having said that he expected a final decision to be made in October.
Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug said: "There is no deadline as such. We will just take the time and we are having internal discussions."