Hamilton revving-up to join Massa, Webber and Schumacher on the contract merry-go-round
21:07 GMT, 9 June 2012
After two seasons of stagnation in the driver market, the transfer merry-go-round is finally showing signs of spinning into action.
Chief among the potential protagonists is Lewis Hamilton, whose contract at McLaren expires at the end of the current campaign.
The 2008 world champion may continue to stick to the mantra that the complexities of the 2012 championship mean he has little time to ponder his future.
The future is unknown: Lewis Hamilton's contract expires at the end of the season
But rest assured that his management company, Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment, are giving it plenty of thought — even if serious negotiations are unlikely to begin in earnest until after the British Grand Prix next month.
That they have something to ponder is down to the fact that at Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, Mark Webber, Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher find themselves in the same boat as Hamilton.
It will take one of that quartet to start the ball rolling, perhaps Webber to Ferrari to replace Massa or Schumacher if the German goes back into retirement, freeing up a space at Mercedes.
Maybe all employers and employees will decide they are happy with the status quo, lucrative contracts and preferential clauses permitting.
One thing is for certain, Jenson Button is absolutely delighted his long-term deal with McLaren was signed, sealed and delivered during the relative calm of last season.
Top three: Alonso, pole-sitter Vettel and Hamilton pose in Montreal
There are obvious reasons for his contentment. Despite enduring a difficult start to 2012, barring his victory in the opening race in Australia, Button’s place with one of the true greats of Formula One is almost as assured as that of Fernando Alonso at Ferrari.
It also means that Button can remain fully focused on reviving his title tilt this year. Just as well given he suffered another frustrating qualifying session in Canada yesterday, only just making it into the top 10 shoot-out by the skin of his teeth, thanks to Pastor Maldonado blowing his chance by clouting the ‘Wall of Champions’ at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.
Ultimately, Button could only manage 10th on the grid for the race. Once again he was comprehensively out-qualified by Hamilton, who will start second after offering the sternest challenge to Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, celebrating the 32nd pole of his career with yet another faultless lap.
Whatever this season has in store for Button, the 2009 world champion, by next year he will be in his third campaign at McLaren, fully bedded in and without the need to start feeling his way into a new team. He knows a thing or two about having to carve a niche in an organisation with a formidable team-mate, having chosen to pit himself against Hamilton, who has been at McLaren since he was 13 years old. ‘It will be towards the end of the year when most of the people get their contracts done,’ said Button.
Deal sealed: Button signed a long-term contract with McLaren
‘For next year, if they are moving teams, they need to start focusing on settling into that team and making sure they are a big part of that team and not a second driver.
‘A driver needs to give good input and get the team around him because that is a big thing in the sport these days, especially at the top teams with the team-mates they will have. They are all very competitive and very clever individuals.’
No wonder Button has a mischievous smile on his face when asked about the ensuing silly season. ‘I like a bit of action, it’s good fun,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of talk, even about Sebastian Vettel, who has got a contract at Red Bull.
‘It’s interesting to hear the top drivers’ comments — the drivers who you know play games and those who don’t.’
He does not have to indulge in such scheming. Indeed, Button need only worry about getting his title challenge back on track.