Hamilton in fresh Red Bull link

McLaren looks set to have a fight on its hands to keep Lewis Hamilton on board for the long term after the British driver sounded out Red Bull Racing about future plans in Canada last weekend, AUTOSPORT has learned

Hamilton in fresh Red Bull link

During an ultimately difficult event for Hamilton, who had gone into the Montreal grand prix as favourite for victory but suffered a troubled qualifying and an early exit from the race, fresh speculation emerged about what he intends to do after his current contract ends in 2012.

AUTOSPORT can reveal that Hamilton met for private talks with Red Bull Racing chief Christian Horner at the team's office buildings on Saturday evening - where the two spent at least 15 minutes together chatting in private.

Although it is not known exactly what they talked about, as one Red Bull source cheekily dismissed the get-together as nothing more than a 'social visit', it would be unlikely that the pair did not discuss future intentions.

There is no suggestion that it was anything more than a preliminary chat, or that the talks will definitely develop into something in the future, but Hamilton's actions are of intrigue amid signs of growing frustration at the competitiveness of McLaren at a time when Hamilton is in the prime of his career.

His crashes in Monaco and Canada, which have led to criticism of his mindset, are borne of the fact that he has to push so hard to try and beat Red Bull Racing.

Hamilton had started the season as Sebastian Vettel's main threat for title glory, and his challenge for the championship had looked strong when he grabbed victory in the Chinese Grand Prix.

However, since then McLaren has not made the progress that it had hoped with its car and Hamilton's difficulties in Monaco and Montreal - two races he had been expected to win - have left him 76 points adrift of Vettel in the standings.

The performance in Canada last weekend was much more of a disappointment because he had gone into the weekend as clear favourite for the victory - only for McLaren to have made an error with the drag levels it needed to take the fight to Red Bull Racing and Ferrari in qualifying.

Longer term, Hamilton and his new management team of Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment are widely known to be weighing up future intentions for when his current contract ends after 2012, and there must be some thought being given to the fact that McLaren has not been a pacesetter in F1 since his title season in 2008.

Hamilton's only real options for the future, in terms of giving him the best chance of having a frontrunning car, are either to remain at McLaren, or make the switch to Ferrari or Red Bull Racing.

Ferrari appears to be a closed door, however, with Fernando Alonso having signed a long-term deal and the Spaniard likely to be resistant to renewing a team partnership that turned so sour when he and Hamilton were together at McLaren in 2007.

And although Red Bull Racing would appear to be an unlikely destination, with the team currently so focused on Vettel, the capture of a top-line driver like Hamilton for 2013 could be viewed as a huge coup for Red Bull chief Dietrich Mateschitz.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has played down talk of Hamilton's frustrations, however, and thinks there are no worries about his driver's mindset at the moment.

"I think he has had an unfortunate run," said Whitmarsh when asked by AUTOSPORT about Hamilton's current difficulties. "But I think he has to be the racer he is, and I am sure he will be. I am sure he is disappointed, but he is enjoying the win for the team."

Hamilton's latest links with Red Bull Racing are nothing new and earlier this season, on the back of McLaren's troubled pre-season testing programme, there was already speculation suggesting that the driver and team could get together from 2013.

At the time, however, Hamilton insisted that his focus remained wholly on McLaren - although he did not rule out a potential switch in the future.

"Of course, I'm going to be in Formula 1 for some time, and you never know which way the wind will take you," he said in March. "As I said, for now, I'm committed to trying to make this team the most successful it can be, and I feel we can do that."

Red Bull Racing also moved at the time to play down the prospects of partnering Vettel and Hamilton - although the idea was not totally dismissed.

"It's difficult to see how you could have two drivers of Lewis and Sebastian's calibre under one roof," said Horner, during a media briefing at Silverstone.

"There tends to be fireworks, as we saw with Fernando Alonso and Lewis. So we're very happy with the line-up that we have and we'll see how things evolve."

Despite the difficulties Hamilton is facing in his current situation, those who know the former world champion well have moved quickly to suggest he will lift himself out of the troubles he is facing.

Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug, who has helped guide Hamilton's career for many years, thinks that the Briton is simply going through the kind of difficult phases that all drivers experience in their careers.

"I understand Lewis perfectly and I will defend him," Haug told AUTOSPORT. "He is a good driver, he is a friend and I do not share the criticism that is on him.

"We will support him and he is a great driver. There are phases that you have to go through. There are difficult times but he will deliver okay and he is one of the great guys in the field. Of course he gets a lot of criticism, but this will make him only stronger."

Horner relaxed about Vettel's error

Previous article

Horner relaxed about Vettel's error

Next article

Button's win 'among F1's greatest'

Button's win 'among F1's greatest'
Load comments
What Verstappen is risking with his current stance on 2021 F1 world title defeat Plus

What Verstappen is risking with his current stance on 2021 F1 world title defeat

OPINION: Max Verstappen is back in the lead of the 2021 Formula 1 drivers’ championship, with the season’s final flyaway events set to get underway in the USA this weekend. But a defensive stance he’s recently adopted could have a lasting impact for the Red Bull driver when it comes to his chances of defeating Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes

The hidden Ferrari struggle that Sainz’s recent charge put to rest Plus

The hidden Ferrari struggle that Sainz’s recent charge put to rest

Despite appearing to adjust to life as a Ferrari driver with relative ease, it was far from straightforward under the surface for Carlos Sainz Jr. But, having made breakthroughs in rather different routes at the Russian and Turkish races, he’s now targeting even greater feats for the rest of the Formula 1 season

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Plus

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Autosport's technical consultant

Formula 1
Oct 18, 2021
Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence Plus

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLaren juggled works entries in F1, sportscars and the Indy 500 while building cars for F3 and F2. Now it’s returning to its roots, expanding 
into IndyCars and Extreme E while continuing its F1 renaissance. There’s talk of Formula E and WEC entries too. But is this all too much, too soon? STUART CODLING talks to the man in charge

Formula 1
Oct 17, 2021
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Plus

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Plus

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers Plus

Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021