Hamilton expected to extend McLaren deal

Updated: Nov 29, 2011, 09:29 AM IST

Sao Paulo: Lewis Hamilton has given a strong hint that he intends to stay at McLaren for the long term.

The 2008 Formula One world champion has a contract to the end of next year but he told reporters after Sunday`s season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix that talks were under way to extend that.

"(Team boss) Martin (Whitmarsh) has already spoken to me about re-signing, so I know it`s there at some point, and I`ll guess we`ll sit down (to discuss it)," he said.

Asked whether he felt it was more than likely he would stay, he replied: "Yeah, I do."

Hamilton`s team mate Jenson Button, the 2009 champion for Brawn GP, signed a multi-year extension to his contract earlier this year and has also said that deal is unlikely to be his last.

While Button has had a standout season, finishing second overall, Hamilton has been beaten in the overall standings by a team mate for the first time in his motor racing career.

This year has been marked by crashes, controversy and personal pain but Hamilton, winner of three races including the penultimate one of the season in Abu Dhabi, has shown signs of being far happier of late.

"What is most important for me next year is getting back to where I should be, back to the good performance, back to winning, back to enjoying life, and enjoying the year," said the 26-year-old, who made his debut for McLaren in 2007.

"I think I`m there now, it`s getting better, and I just want to continue on this path because it would be good.

"I`m in no rush (to sign a new contract). I don`t think there`s any question of my commitment to the team, so there`s no real rush to have to do anything," he added.

Whitmarsh also made clear he expected Hamilton, who has been back by McLaren since he was a 13-year-old go-karter, to figure in his plans well beyond 2012.

"There is a deep affection between him and the team and I`m sure that love affair will carry on for many years to come," he said.

"I`m fairly confident we`ll find a good way forward (so) that in years to come he`s going to be very, very great as a driver and he will win plenty of races for McLaren."

Ferrari, champions Red Bull and Mercedes could all have vacancies at the end of next year after retaining their current lineups for 2012.

Bureau Report