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."

shares
comments
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
The long-term F1 vision causing Haas’s short-term pain Plus

The long-term F1 vision causing Haas’s short-term pain

From ranking as one of the most impressive new teams to join the Formula 1 grid, Haas’s stock has plummeted along with its on-track performances over the past two seasons. Everything now hangs on whether its reforged alliance with Ferrari can deliver a better car – and whether its rookie drivers can set aside their quarrels. OLEG KARPOV asks if any of these goals are achievable…

The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race Plus

The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race

OPINION: Max Verstappen has made the 2021 Formula 1 championship. He’s taken the fight to the all-conquering Mercedes squad and its dominant champion, produced driving displays few can match. But he’s been on a controversial course too, and finally crossed a particular line in Jeddah

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

An ill-tempered Saudi Grand Prix made Formula 1 more soap opera than sporting spectacle at times, but there were some strong performances up and down the field on the world championship's first visit to Jeddah

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series Plus

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a race packed full of incident as Formula 1 2021's title contenders repeatedly clashed on track. Lewis Hamilton won out over Max Verstappen to level the scores heading into next weekend's Abu Dhabi finale, as Jeddah turned F1 into a drama series

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance Plus

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance

Dropped by Red Bull last season, Alexander Albon has fought back into a Formula 1 seat with Williams. ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains what Albon has done to earn the place soon to be vacated by the highly rated George Russell

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2021
How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes Plus

How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes

Mercedes led the way in practice for Formula 1’s first race in Jeddah, where Red Bull was off the pace on both single-lap and long runs. But, if Max Verstappen can reverse the results on Saturday, factors familiar in motorsport’s main electric single-seater category could be decisive in another close battle with Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1
Dec 3, 2021
Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer Plus

Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer

Earning praise from rivals has been a welcome sign that Lando Norris is becoming established among Formula 1's elite. But the McLaren driver is confident that his team's upward curve can put him in the mix to contend for titles in the future, when he's hoping the compliments will be replaced by being deemed an equal adversary

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention Plus

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention

After a disastrous 2020 in which it slumped to sixth in the F1 constructors' standings, Ferrari has rebounded strongly and is on course to finish third - despite regulations that forced it to carryover much of its forgettable SF1000 machine. Yet while it can be pleased with its improvement, there are still steps it must make if 2022 is to yield a return to winning ways

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021