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Brazilian Grand Prix 2012: What next for Lewis Hamilton, McLaren and Bernie Ecclestone?

A fine season… so what happens next for Hamilton, McLaren and Bernie

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UPDATED:

23:22 GMT, 25 November 2012

Has the championship got the right winner Yes, if fusion between car and driver is paramount. But Fernando Alonso, 31 and at the pinnacle of his powers, was the supreme driver of the season in a Ferrari inferior to Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull.

Let's not quibble: we can just say we were privileged to watch two of the greats in a memorable fight.

Was it a stellar season What an opening sequence of races and what an unforgettable, rain-speckled climax yesterday. Eight winners and some exciting races indicate it has been a tremendous year.

Centre of attention: Vettel celebrates his third title on the spin and with Adrian Newey and Christian Horner (below)

Centre of attention: Vettel celebrates his third title on the spin and with Adrian Newey and Christian Horner (below)

Centre of attention: Vettel celebrates his third title on the spin and with Adrian Newey and Christian Horner (below)

But, still, we can aim this warning at the Formula One bubble: go easy on the tyre fetish. Fast-wearing rubber distorts races, disadvantages aggressive driving and the tyre debate clogs up television air space with tedious discussion that can only turn away the casual fan – option, prime, hard, soft, super-soft, medium-compound tyres Please get a grip.

What about next year – will Vettel win the title again With ace designer Adrian Newey and his 2B pencils at the ready, Vettel is likely to start as favourite. He will be just 26 next year. When will his dominance end

And Hamilton Can he win next year now he has moved to Mercedes Yes, even if he has merely an adequate car like this year's Mercedes. We know that because Nico Rosberg won in China and he is no Hamilton-esque force of nature.

End of the road: Hamilton was forced into an early retirement after a collision with Nico Hulkenberg

End of the road: Hamilton was forced into an early retirement after a collision with Nico Hulkenberg

End of the road: Hamilton was forced into an early retirement after a collision with Nico Hulkenberg

Remember 2009 and that poor McLaren Hamilton drove the wheels off it to win two races. A better chance of season-long success is presented by the major rule changes for 2014, when Mercedes will be one of just three manufacturers making the new turbo engines.

Nevertheless, McLaren are a team with winning pedigree. Will Hamilton regret leaving them No time soon. He finally found McLaren so claustrophobic that one team principal privately said he thought Hamilton would have rather taken a year out than stay.

As for McLaren, we should guard against the Anglophone narrative that tells of their unending brilliance. They have won nothing under Martin Whitmarsh, whose benign leadership contrasts with the sharp-edged style of predecessor Ron Dennis. It invites indecision where there was direction. The appointment of Sam Michael, a flop at Williams, as sporting director is baffling.

That's handy: Hamilton congratulates Vettel on his third world title

That's handy: Hamilton congratulates Vettel on his third world title

How will Hamilton's replacement, Sergio Perez, gel with Jenson Button Perez has not scored a point since he was named as a McLaren driver in September. He can hardly be expected to win races straight away, which is hardly satisfactory for a team of McLaren's significance.

All credit to Button for the way he has prospered in what many thought was Hamilton's domain. His charm has won round the team and his skills have shown he is a consistently high performer. But is he a McLaren No 1 And, if Perez is unproven, why did McLaren plump for him

Out of the race: Perez is without a point since his move to McLaren was announced

Out of the race: Perez is without a point since his move to McLaren was announced

Given that questions surround their finances, with Vodafone rumoured to be stalling over a sponsorship deal, Perez's backing from Carlos Slim Domit, eldest son of the world's richest man who owns telecoms giant Telmex, is a persuasive explanation.

Would a cash-rich McLaren not have re-signed Kimi Raikkonen Or if they were intent on youth, why not the superior Nico Hulkenberg, 25

What should we look out for this winter Like Bernie Ecclestone's lawyers, we turn our eyes to Germany, where prosecutors are pondering whether to charge the 82-year-old with bribery.

It is claimed he paid banker Gerhard Gribkowksy 30million to sell F1 to CVC, the private equity firm on whose behalf Ecclestone now runs the sport at a reduced rate. Gribkowksy has been jailed but Ecclestone denies any wrongdoing and his lawyers are working frantically on his behalf.

He has had some tight scrapes in the past and this is yet another he will have to deal with. We will find out in the next few months whether he is indicted. If he is, it is likely to precipitate the biggest shake-up in the sport's hierarchy since Ecclestone and Max Mosley seized control 35 years ago.

Lewis Hamilton on pole in Brazil

Hamilton in line for big finish after securing pole for Brazilian Grand Prix

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UPDATED:

17:49 GMT, 24 November 2012

Lewis Hamilton gave McLaren their first pole position in Brazil for 12 years ahead of his final grand prix for the Woking-based team.

With Jenson Button alongside him, the duo combined to give McLaren their 62nd front-row lock-out as they left championship contenders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso trailing in their wake.

Vettel, who has a 13-point cushion over Alonso, will line up fourth as even Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber managed to qualify ahead of him, whilst Alonso is a disastrous eighth in his Ferrari.

Pole position: Lewis Hamilton (centre) starts ahead of Jenson Button (right) and Mark Webber

Pole position: Lewis Hamilton (centre) starts ahead of Jenson Button (right) and Mark Webber

Hamilton is currently on a high at the end of his 14-year association with McLaren before joining Mercedes on a three-season contract from next year after winning in the United States last week.

Hamilton, yet to win in Brazil, was again brilliant as he posted a time of one minute 12.458secs for the undulating Interlagos circuit.

The 27-year-old edged team-mate Button by 0.055secs, with Webber then ahead of Vettel by almost two tenths of a second.

Felipe Massa lines up fifth in his Ferrari, followed by the Williams of Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India, and then Alonso.

Maldonado, however, missed a weighbridge session at the end of Q1, and could yet be penalised by the stewards, so potentially promoting Alonso at least one place.

Centre stage: Hamilton left Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the shadows

Centre stage: Hamilton left Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the shadows

The fifth row of the grid sees Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen alongside Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes.

A heavy rain shower 35 minutes prior to the start which lasted for around five minutes caused some consternation, and threatened to turn the grid on its head.

But with air temperatures of 24 degrees, the track was relatively dry an hour later come the start of the second session, which made for a straightforward programme.

Come the end of the middle 15-minute period, hopes for Force India's Paul di Resta of making the top 10 were dashed as the Scot will line up 11th after missing the cut by 0.073secs.

Di Resta starts ahead of Williams' Bruno Senna and Sergio Perez on his last outing for Sauber before joining McLaren, with Michael Schumacher 14th at the end of his final qualifying run in F1 and for Mercedes ahead of retiring for a second time.

Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, without a seat for next season after the team announced Esteban Gutierrez is to step up, starts 15th ahead of Toro Rosso pairing Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Nobody faster: Hamilton secured his first pole position at Interlagos with a fine performance

Nobody faster: Hamilton secured his first pole position at Interlagos with a fine performance

The worst of the conditions were at the start of Q1, throughout which a dry line eventually materialised and the lap times tumbled.

With his future on the line, as he has yet to be confirmed for 2013, Lotus' Romain Grosjean made a critical mistake by clipping the back of the HRT of Pedro de la Rosa, resulting in him losing his front wing, and a stewards' investigation.

Although the Frenchman was able to return to the pits for a new nose and post one final quick lap, it was not enough to lift him out of the bottom seven for the first time this season.

'He (De la Rosa) didn't see me and there was no space to squeeze between him and the wall,' said Grosjean.

'It's a disaster for tomorrow because we have a very good car.'

It means Grosjean will start 18th ahead of Caterham duo Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen, both fighting for the one remaining seat with the team after Charles Pic was confirmed yesterday.

Big finish: Lewis Hamilton starts on pole for the final race of the season and his last with McLaren

Big finish: Lewis Hamilton starts on pole for the final race of the season and his last with McLaren

On his final outing for Marussia, Pic was out-qualified by team-mate Timo Glock, the duo starting 21st and 22nd ahead of the HRTs on the back row, with Narain Karthikeyan in front of De la Rosa.

Hamilton is now looking to end his McLaren days on a high following the 26th pole position of his career, and his first in Brazil.

'It's been a good weekend so far, and I'm grateful to be able to put the car on the front row,' said Hamilton.

'To have a one, two with Jenson, that's a fantastic job by the team, I'm grateful for all the opportunities the team have given me, and hopefully we can turn it into a positive.

'The weather is going to be tricky tomorrow (with rain forecast), so it's going to make it more of a lottery.

Pushing hard: Jenson Button also starts on the front row alongside team-mate Hamilton

Pushing hard: Jenson Button also starts on the front row alongside team-mate Hamilton

'But we've put ourselves in a good position, we'll work together as a team, and we'll make sure we do absolutely everything to get the top result.'

Button hinted it to be a shame his partnership is ending with fellow Briton Hamilton as he said: 'I'm very happy to be on the front row because my last couple of qualifyings have been a bit tricky.

'To both be on the front row for Lewis' last grand prix with the team…the team is in great shape, and it's a pity things have to change, but things do change.'

Webber, with Vettel right behind him, refused to concede whether he will play any role in helping the 25-year-old German.

The Australian said: 'We focus on ourselves and do the cleanest race we can. I'll be focusing on my effort in the cockpit given there will be some tricky conditions.'

Lewis Hamilton beats Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel to pole position in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2012

Hamilton blitzes qualifying in Abu Dhabi, romping to pole ahead of Webber and Vettel

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UPDATED:

15:06 GMT, 3 November 2012

Lewis Hamilton proved to be untouchable in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he claimed his sixth pole position this year and 25th of his Formula One career.

The 27-year-old was fastest throughout all three sessions around the Yas Marina circuit that was bathed in warm fading sunshine when the session began and was under the floodlights when it ended as darkness set in.

Hamilton finished a third of a second
quicker than Red Bull's Mark Webber as team-mate and championship leader
Sebastian Vettel could only manage third, the first time he has failed
to make the front row of this event.

Pleased as punch: Lewis Hamilton grins like a Cheshire cat after sealing his sixth pole of the season

Pleased as punch: Lewis Hamilton grins like a Cheshire cat after sealing his sixth pole of the season

Vettel, whose car endured a brake issue
in final practice that kept him consigned to the garage for all but two
early installation laps and the final four minutes of the hour, rarely
looked comfortable during qualifying.

However, in leading Ferrari's
Fernando Alonso by 13 points in the championship standings, there are
four places between the German and the Spaniard who starts seventh.

Vettel,
however, failed to make it back to the pits, pulling his car over on
track at turn 18 after qualifying had concluded, which will be cause for
the stewards to investigate.

The three amigos: Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton and Webber pose for the media after qualifiying

The three amigos: Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton and Webber pose for the media after qualifiying

Grid positions

1 L Hamilton McLaren
2 M Webber Red Bull
3 S Vettel Red Bull
4 P Maldonado Williams
5 K Raikkonen Lotus
6 J Button McLaren
7 F Alonso Ferrari
8 N Rosberg Mercedes
9 F Massa Ferrari
10 R Grosjean Lotus

Vettel, who was ordered by engine suppliers Renault to stop the car, was unable to throw any light on the reason why.

The German's car has suffered two
alternator failures in races this season, and if an engine change is
required it will mean a 10-place grid penalty.

'I don't know why I had to stop, I was asked to stop,' said Vettel.

'It's
probably some problem, but it shouldn't be something major. It was not
ideal this morning (with the brake issue), but we were settling in this
afternoon and the pace was there.

'Overall
I wasn't entirely happy with qualifying. I should have been quicker,
but whether I had enough to beat Mark is on another sheet of paper.'

In the dark: Vettel stopped on his in-lap and could face a grid penalty

In the dark: Vettel stopped on his in-lap and could face a grid penalty

With
Vettel four places ahead of Alonso on the grid, he added: 'We have seen
so many up and down races this year. From where we start is quite good,
we're close to the front and we go from there.

'Strategy
wise we're still not 100 per cent clear, but we have to look after
ourselves, and race this guy (referring to Hamilton).'

As for Hamilton, he was unable to
explain either where his speed had come from, even though this has long
been one of his better tracks.

'I
don't know,' said Hamilton when asked. 'The car has been feeling
fantastic, great from the get go, but we've no upgrade package so I
don't know. It was just great.'

Thumbs up: Hamilton was at his uncompromising best on the track

Thumbs up: Hamilton was at his uncompromising best on the track

Behind Alonso will be Mercedes' Nico Rosberg along with Romain Grosjean in his Lotus who will start 10th.

In between Vettel and Alonso will be
Williams' Pastor Maldonado, Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus and the second
McLaren of Jenson Button.

After the middle 15-minute session
neither Force India failed to make it into Q3 for the second straight
race as Nico Hulkenberg qualified 11th and Paul di Resta 13th, the duo
split by two tenths of a second.

Pole position: Hamilton in action

Pole position: Hamilton in action

Sandwiched
in between is Sauber's Sergio Perez, who was baulked by Williams' Bruno
Senna in Q1, leaving the Brazilian who starts 15th vulnerable to a
penalty as he faces a stewards' investigation.

A
fading Michael Schumacher, heading into retirement for a second time at
the end of the year, starts 14th for the second successive race in his
Mercedes.

Behind Senna, at present, will be
Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Toro Rossos of Daniel Ricciardo and
Jean-Eric Vergne, the latter failing to make it out of Q1 for the eighth
time in 18 races this season.

Hot stuff: Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen goes out for qualifying

Hot stuff: Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen goes out for qualifying

The
Frenchman, who will enjoy a second season at Toro Rosso next year along
with Ricciardo following confirmation of the drive on Thursday by the
Faenza-based squad, spun late on his final flying lap to leave him 18th.

Marussia's Charles Pic, who has been
linked with a move to Caterham, will have impressed his potential new
employers by splitting Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov.

Pic will start 20th, with
Kovalainen and Petrov 19th and 21st, with the second Marussia of Timo
Glock 22nd, whilst the HRTs of Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan
occupy the back row.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton finish top two after first practice session

Vettel and Hamilton set to do battle for Abu Dhabi pole as Button reveals regret at team-mate's exit

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UPDATED:

15:28 GMT, 2 November 2012

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton again appear poised to slug it out for pole position ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Vettel edged Hamilton in the second 90-minute practice session at the Yas Marina track that replicated race conditions as it began under a setting sun and ended in darkness.

The duo have now been quickest in eight of the 11 practice outings overall over the past four years of this event – a remarkable record, with no-one seemingly able to hold a candle to them.

Out in front: Lewis Hamilton drives during the first practice session at the Yas Marina circuit

Out in front: Lewis Hamilton drives during the first practice session at the Yas Marina circuit

Setting the pace: Lewis Hamilton was fastest after first practice

Setting the pace: Lewis Hamilton was fastest after first practice

RESULTS AFTER FIRST PRACTICE

1. Hamilton
2. Button
3. Vettel
4. Alonso
5. Webber
6. Schumacher
7. Maldonado
8. Rosberg
9. Bottas
10. Raikkonen

Certainly Alonso has to avoid a
six-place gap between himself and Vettel as other than Button, Red
Bull's Mark Webber and the Lotus duo of Romain Grosjean and Kimi
Raikkonen were all in between.

Alonso was the last of those within a
second of Vettel, with Felipe Massa eighth on the timesheet, but
1.072secs adrift of the 25-year-old, who is aiming for his fifth
consecutive win on Sunday.

Williams duo Pastor Maldonado and
Bruno Senna were within two tenths of a second of one another in ninth
and 11th, sandwiching McLaren-bound Sergio Perez in his Sauber, with the
Mexican 1.355secs down.

There followed a trio of Germans in
Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, 12th and 14th, who
sat either side of Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India, with all around
1.5secs off the pace.

Paul di Resta, forced to sit out
first practice as Jules Bianchi was given another outing, finished a
third of a second behind Hulkenberg in 15th.

Setting the pace: Hamilton leaves the pits during the first practice session

Setting the pace: Hamilton leaves the pits during the first practice session

Like Di Resta, HRT's Narain
Karthikeyan also missed FP1 in favour of reserve Ma Qing Hua, and
finished last on the timesheet, 5.655secs behind Vettel.

Earlier in the day, 21-year-old
Briton Max Chilton was given his first taste of a F1 weekend as he drove
for Marussia, acquitting himself well with 22 laps and finishing a
second off team-mate Timo Glock come the conclusion.

Meanwhile, Button believes Hamilton's impending exit from McLaren will be 'a big loss' to the team.

Big loss: Jenson Button says McLaren will miss Hamilton next season

Big loss: Jenson Button says McLaren will miss Hamilton next season

Grosjean confident he'll be at Lotus next season

Romain Grosjean sees no reason why he will not be partnering Kimi Raikkonen for a second season at Lotus next year.

Earlier this week Lotus confirmed Raikkonen had signed a new one-year deal following a successful return to Formula One after two years competing in rallies and NASCAR.

Lotus, however, made no mention of French driver Grosjean, perhaps unsurprising given the errors he has made this year and penalties incurred.

After two races without incident, it may be Lotus are waiting until the end of the campaign to ensure Grosjean has learned lessons and they can again trust him for the future.

Grosjean, 26, is confident of his seat for 2013 as he said: “With the team we're happy together, they've put a lot of confidence and faith in me during a hard time.

'I'm showing them I'm working and improving and trying to sort out all the problems, whilst keeping my speed.

'But there is no reason that it goes bad for the future.'
Grosjean has confirmed Lotus kept him informed of Raikkonen's deal, and that it 'didn't come as a surprise'.

When Lotus will make an announcement with regard to his own position is open to question, with Grosjean adding: 'I've no idea, to be honest.

'(Team principal) Eric Boullier is better placed than me to answer that.'

Button has previously made it clear
he has enjoyed pitting his wits against a fellow world champion in
Hamilton these past three years, helping to make him a better driver.

Although there will be no second crown
for either man this season, a 24-point gap between the British duo
means Hamilton is set to leave for Mercedes with a 2-1 victory in their
inter-team rivalry based on total points at the end of the season.

Rising star Sergio Perez may have been
recruited as replacement, but the 32-year-old Button cannot help but
feel Hamilton's departure will be felt by the team.

'With Lewis leaving, obviously the team loses a very fast driver,' said Button.

'He's
a guy that's achieved a lot with the team, wins and obviously a world
championship – the last guy to win a world championship for the team.

'It is a big loss, but things change and you learn to move on and adapt. It's definitely not the end of two strong drivers at McLaren.'

Although Perez has acquitted himself well at Sauber over the last two years, the 22-year-old Mexican still remains an unknown quantity.

Perez has conjured three superb podiums this season but his results have otherwise been sporadic, and notably since he was announced as Hamilton's replacement he has failed to score a point in three races.

Assessing Perez's potential, Button added: 'I think Sergio will be fast, but I really don't know.

'He's obviously unknown in a McLaren because he's not there yet. But it's a great opportunity for Checo, and I'm sure he will take it with both hands.'

Hamilton, meanwhile, insists he has no regrets about joining Mercedes, who are currently on their worst run since returning to the sport at the start of 2010.

Like Perez, since Hamilton announced he was moving to the Brackley-based team on a three-year contract, they have also failed to pick up a point in the last three races.

When you consider that in the previous 52 races Mercedes had not scored in only four, it highlights just how much they have plumbed the depths.

Asked by Press Association Sport about Mercedes' run, Hamilton said: “I've been told about it.

'It makes me even more driven to help them score points, and no, I'm not thinking 'have I made right decision'

'I'm very happy with the decision I made. What is happening to them doesn't have any impact on that.

'People do sometimes lose their way. Even we (McLaren) have struggled in the past and not scored points.'

Appreciating the size of the task awaiting him at Mercedes when he officially joins on January 1, Hamilton said: 'I already knew how big it was going to be.

'I really thought about it long and hard, and I could see how big it was. Perhaps it's now growing.

'But as a task I'm really excited about it, excited to meet new people and to being in a different environment, and to mould myself into that environment.'

Lewis Hamilton moved to Mercedes for new challenge – Niki Lauda

Hamilton's Mercedes switch was not motivated by money, insists Lauda

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UPDATED:

11:26 GMT, 30 September 2012

Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has revealed the role he played in luring Lewis Hamilton to make the switch from McLaren, reiterating the move was all about providing the British driver with a new challenge.

Mercedes announced on Thursday morning that Hamilton would be joining them on a three-year deal from the start of the 2013 Formula One season, ending a 14-year association with McLaren.

Hamilton will replace Michael Schumacher at the German team, with Mexican Sergio Perez – currently with Sauber – stepping in for the Briton at McLaren.

Thumbs up: Lewis Hamilton will leave McLaren to join Mercedes for next season

Thumbs up: Lewis Hamilton will leave McLaren to join Mercedes for next season

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh warned Hamilton that leaving for Mercedes will prove to be a mistake, but three-time former world champion Lauda – who held talks with a pragmatic and apparently emotionless Hamilton last week – said the 27-year-old was eager to start a new chapter.

'I spoke to him a couple of times, but I didn't have to convince him much,' the 63-year-old told BBC Radio Five's Sportsweek programme. 'He had a clear plan and I didn't have to convince him of anything.

'I can honestly say I was impressed with his approach to things – very pragmatic, no emotions whatsoever. The real discussion was, 'why should I leave a competitive car where my life is easier in the future'

Teaming up: Hamilton (right) will race with Nico Rosberg at Mercedes

Teaming up: Hamilton (right) will race with Nico Rosberg at Mercedes

'My argument was, 'if you're looking for a new challenge then frankly the Mercedes team is one'. Thinking the other way round, if Michael Schumacher could not get the Mercedes team – for three years running – up front and you next year are doing much better, this makes a huge impact on your personality and people will rate you much higher than you are rated now.'

He continued: 'The money discussion I was not really involved in. The money was not really the case. The offer was very close to the one of McLaren. In the end it was that he looks for a new challenge.

'I understand him because if you drive six years for same the team and for the same people you get used to each other. It works for him because he won one championship and he is winning races, but nevertheless a new challenge with new people… you learn different things and different approaches – it's something that for a competitive guy like Lewis was very interesting.'

Big move: Sergio Perez will replace Hamilton at McLaren next season

Big move: Sergio Perez will replace Hamilton at McLaren next season

Lauda has no doubt about the 27-year-old's speed and quality, but insisted there was no No 1 driver in the Mercedes team.

'I think he is, (even) in a bad car, the best driver in the world because he's unbelievably quick,' Lauda said. 'He makes no compromise. So if Hamilton would join the team next year, which he is, I can tell you he will make a big move forward on speed.'

He added: 'There's no No 1 and No 2. There's enough money for Mercedes that they can prepare two cars exactly the same way.

'And what I really look forward to is that Hamilton will push Nico Rosberg to go quicker and Nico will push Hamilton to go quicker – and this is really all you need in a team.'

Lewis Hamilton smiling at Vodafone McLaren event despite uncertain future

Hamilton all smiles at McLaren event despite uncertainty over mooted Mercedes move

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UPDATED:

16:37 GMT, 14 September 2012

Lewis Hamilton was out and about on Friday fulfilling part of his Vodafone McLaren obligations with a move to rivals Mercedes looking ever more likely.

The racing star handed out Vodafone VIP rewards along with Jenson Button at the N1 centre in London but there is only a 50-50 chance of him staying with McLaren.

Mercedes want to make the 27-year-old their No 1 driver and Hamilton would love the opportunity to work with team principal Ross Brawn.

On duty: Lewis Hamilton working for Vodafone

On duty: Lewis Hamilton working for Vodafone

He is expected to make a final decision on his future in the run-up to the Singapore Grand Prix next weekend.

McLaren’s latest offer to Hamilton to extend his contract, which expires at the end of the current campaign, is understood to be worth considerably less than his existing 15million-a-year terms.

/09/14/article-0-150422DB000005DC-332_634x418.jpg” width=”634″ height=”418″ alt=”For how long Hamilton with his team-mate Jensen Button” class=”blkBorder” />

For how long Hamilton with his team-mate Jensen Button

Hamilton’s representatives, XIX
Entertainment, are locked in negotiations with McLaren to try to broker a
deal which better represents their client’s status as one of the most
recognisable sporting stars on the planet.

However, XIX will leave the final decision in his hands.

Finances aside, Hamilton is understood to be excited by the prospect of working at Mercedes under Brawn, the man who helped guide Michael Schumacher to seven world titles at Benetton and Ferrari.

In addition, Jenson Button’s talent and Brawn’s ability to oversee the design of a world-beating car saw Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate capture the 2009 drivers’ title.

Mercedes’ driver line-up of Schumacher and Nico Rosberg has provided one victory in three seasons, secured by the latter in China this year.

Spectacle: The scene at the N1 centre

Spectacle: The scene at the N1 centre

But Hamilton is understood to be
satisfied that, with Brawn at the helm and the backing of one of the
planet’s biggest car manufacturers, Mercedes can provide him with a car
capable of realising his dream of emulating Ayrton Senna’s record of
three world titles.

Key to this belief is the fact that
Mercedes, along with Ferrari and Renault, are developing the new V6
turbo engine scheduled to be used in Formula One from 2014.

Brawn admitted that while McLaren will remain a Mercedes customer, the fact his is the ‘works team’ means they are privy to all of the research and development of the new engine and are therefore better placed to design their car around it.

Meanwhile, Brawn views Hamilton as the final piece of the jigsaw when it comes to putting Mercedes on the top step of the podium. The offer is to be their team leader and is irrespective of whether Schumacher decides to retire for a second time.

Although Mercedes’ focus may be on ensuring the 2014 car is a winner, there is no reason to assume that next season need be a write-off.

Smile: Hamilton poses with a fan

Smile: Hamilton poses with a fan

Even Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso said recently that Hamilton, with whom he shared a fractious year at McLaren, is ‘the only one of those at the top table who can win without having the best car’.

Alonso described his decision to quit McLaren as ‘the best of my career’, but there are many who would question the wisdom of the Briton doing the same.

After all, he is giving serious consideration to walking away from Ron Dennis, the McLaren supremo whom Hamilton approached as a 10-year-old saying: ‘Hi, I’m Lewis Hamilton. I won the British Karting Championship and one day I want to be racing your cars.’

Tussle: Hamilton has to fight button for the top spot but at Mercedes he'd be No 1

Tussle: Hamilton has to fight button for the top spot but at Mercedes he'd be No 1

Dennis told him to call back in nine years but was on the phone within three to offer Hamilton, then 13, a place in McLaren’s young driver programme and the chance of a Formula One contract. Such was his progress, it was only a matter of time before he was sat behind the wheel of a McLaren.

But Hamilton has since matured into a
man, much of his growing up done in the critical glare of the public
eye. And having already jettisoned his father Anthony as manager, he
will expect Dennis to release the remaining control he has over him,
with any new McLaren deal based on the premise of a better partnership
between driver and team.

McLaren can point to a record that
has seen them win one in four of the grands prix they have contested,
and Hamilton has been in the hunt for the world title in four of his six
seasons in the sport. But only recently this season have they tinkered
with their car to the extent that it is regarded as the fastest in the
field.

Clearly, the
assertion of McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, that talk of a
move to Mercedes for Hamilton was nothing more than ‘fantasy’ is wide
of the mark.

Under the floodlights that line the Singapore streets, McLaren might find such fantasy has become reality.

Lewis Hamilton wins Italian Grand Prix at Monza

Lew beauty! Hamilton wins from pole in Monza to narrow gap on Alonso

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UPDATED:

14:17 GMT, 9 September 2012

Lewis Hamilton set aside speculation over his future to take victory in the Italian Grand Prix and refresh his hopes of Formula One world title glory.

After crashing out at the first corner of last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix along with championship leader Fernando Alonso, and amid the saga of his contract negotiations with McLaren, Hamilton conjured a superb drive at Monza to claim his third win of the season and 20th of his career.

The Briton finished 4.3 seconds ahead of Sauber's Sergio Perez in second place, with Alonso giving the Ferrari fans plenty to cheer with third to establish a 37-point gap in the standings ahead of new second-placed man Hamilton.

Thumbs up: Hamilton celebrates on the podium

Thumbs up: Hamilton celebrates on the podium

Plain sailing: Hamilton led from the front

Plain sailing: Hamilton led from the front

The start was routine enough for Hamilton, a straightforward getaway, with no drama alongside Button after McLaren on Saturday celebrated the 62nd front-row lockout, and a new F1 record.

Instead, it was Ferrari's Felipe Massa who proved to be the biggest thorn in Hamilton's side as the Brazilian attacked going into the first chicane, Rettifilo.

Hamilton, however, just did enough to keep his old rival at bay, the duo avoiding a collision after becoming entangled on numerous occasions last season.

Job done: Hamilton celebrates after winning the Italian Grand Prix

Plain sailing: Hamilton led from the front

Plain sailing: Hamilton led from the front

ITALIAN GRAND PRIX RESULT

1 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
2 Sergio Perez (Sauber)
3 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
4 Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
5 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
6 Michael Schumacher (Mercedes)
7 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
8 Paul Di Resta (Force India)
9 Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber)
10 Bruno Senna (Williams)

That allowed Hamilton to begin his
march to victory as he was rarely troubled en route, losing the lead
only momentarily when a one-stopping Perez managed to run through to lap
29.

Behind him was another masterclass of
a drive from Alonso, who had started 10th in the wake of a
disappointing qualifying when – with pole there for the taking – a rear
anti-roll bar broke in Q3.

Alonso, however, made up three places
on lap one, had moved past Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen on lap two, and soon
after was running fifth when he cut his way past Michael Schumacher in
his Mercedes.

Italian job: Ferrari fans flocked to Monza to support the home team

Italian job: Ferrari fans flocked to Monza to support the home team

Italian job: Ferrari fans flocked to Monza to support the home team

That left him with reigning champion Sebastian Vettel in his sights, and it was not long before the duo were going head to head.

A failed pass into Rettifilo was soon
followed by a brave move through the Curva Grande, one which Vettel
defended with too much aggression as he forced Alonso on to the grass.

The stewards took a dim view as they
handed the 25-year-old German a drive-through penalty, with his woes
compounded later on when he retired along the pit straight with wisps of
white smoke coming from his car.

Frustration: Button was set for second place before an engine failure

Frustration: Button was set for second place before an engine failure

Vettel was the second big-name
retirement as hopes of a dream one-two for McLaren were scuppered when
Button pulled off track on lap 33 complaining of a lack of drive.

Just a week after thrusting himself
back into title contention with his win in Belgium, now 78 points
adrift, the 32-year-old would again appear to be out of the reckoning.

Clear air: Alonso stretched his lead to 37 points

Clear air: Alonso stretched his lead to 37 points

Button's exit elevated Alonso to
third, which unsurprisingly became second soon after when he eased past
Massa, and at that stage two Ferrari drivers on the podium was on the
cards.

But Perez suddenly put in a number of
lightning laps. First he flashed by Massa – who went on to finish
fourth – and soon after Alonso, making no mistake in contrast to
Malaysia earlier this year when he threw away the prospect of a win with
an error and with the latter in his sights.

Airborne: Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso crashes out in spectacular fashion

Airborne: Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso crashes out in spectacular fashion

Airborne: Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso crashes out in spectacular fashion

If Vettel's retirement was bad enough
for Red Bull, worse followed in the closing stages when team-mate Mark
Webber dropped three places from seventh to 10th with a spin on to the
grass, only to retire in the pits a lap from home.

The upshot leaves Hamilton as
Alonso's nearest challenger, with Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen a further point
down in third after the Finn finished fifth, whilst Vettel is a further
point adrift. Webber is now 47 points down overall.

Bad day at the office: Vettel had to stop his car towards the end of the race

Bad day at the office: Vettel had to stop his car towards the end of the race

A happy Hamilton said: 'It's a fantastic win in front of the best crowd. I'm happy for the team. It's been the best day.'

Perez was beaming from ear to ear as
he said: 'That was a great race for me for my team. It's unbelievable to
get a podium in Monza. It's really special.'

Storming race: Perez (right) finished in second place having started 12th

Storming race: Perez finished in second place having started 12th

Storming race: Perez (right) finished in second place having started 12th

Taking the bulk of the cheers from
the crowd, Alonso was content enough with third as he said: 'It was a
difficult race starting 10th, but we knew we had the quickest car, so to
recover the way we did was good.'

The Mercedes duo of Schumacher and
Nico Rosberg were sixth and seventh, followed by Paul Di Resta in his
Force India, the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and Williams of Bruno Senna.

Champagne moment: Hamilton and Alonso enjoy their moment on the podium

Champagne moment: Hamilton and Alonso enjoy their moment on the podium

Champagne moment: Hamilton and Alonso enjoy their moment on the podium

Lewis Hamilton finishes sixth fastest at first Monza practice

Would Lew believe it Mercedes fastest as Hamilton finishes sixth in Monza practice

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UPDATED:

11:11 GMT, 7 September 2012

Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg proved there is potentially life in Mercedes yet this season as the German duo finished top and third on the timesheet for first practice ahead of Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

The German manufacturing giant have suffered an alarming fall of late, with speculation mounting that McLaren's Lewis Hamilton will be brought into the team for next season in a 60million deal.

Rosberg has collected just two points from his last four races, whilst qualifying for both men recently has been awful, but with Monza unique on the Formula One calendar as it requires a specific package to assist with downforce, Mercedes at least produced a start to suggest they will not be so woeful on this occasion.

Leading the way: Schumacher (above) and Rosberg (below) showed promising signs on Friday

Leading the way: Schumacher (above) and Rosberg (below) showed promising signs on Friday

Leading the way: Schumacher (above) and Rosberg (below) showed promising signs on Friday

Seven-times champion Schumacher, whose future is the cause of considerable speculation, with Hamilton rumoured to be taking his seat from 2013, conjured a lap around the track situated in Monza's park of one minute 25.422secs.

Belgian GP race-winner just five days ago, and runner-up at this circuit for the last three races, Jenson Button was second in his McLaren, three tenths of a second adrift.

Rosberg was in close attendance to the Briton, just 0.039secs down ahead of Ferrari pair Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.

Off the pace: Hamilton finished down in sixth place

Off the pace: Hamilton finished down in sixth place

Off the pace: Hamilton finished down in sixth place

There was a moment of concern for the home fans, however, when championship leader Alonso ground to a halt late on at the first chicane, with the suggested issue a transmission problem.

Alonso and Massa were both within half a second of Schumacher and followed by Hamilton, who finished 0.522secs down, with Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen a further tenth of a second adrift in seventh.

Sergio Perez in his Sauber was the best of the rest but some way off the pace as the Mexican was 0.9secs behind Schumacher, with Red Bull's Mark Webber and Williams' Pastor Maldonado completing the top 10.

Kickaround: Rosberg plays football in the paddock

Kickaround: Rosberg plays football in the paddock

Kickaround: Rosberg plays football in the paddock

Venezuelan Maldonado, who will start Sunday's race with a 10-place grid penalty – picking up two separate five-place demotions for incidents at Spa – also pulled up late on but with wisps of smoke coming from his car.

Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel was 11th, a fraction over a second down, followed by Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Williams reserve Valtteri Bottas.

In 15th was Jerome D'Ambrosio, standing in for Romain Grosjean at Lotus this weekend, with the Frenchman the first driver to serve a race ban for 18 years after causing a first corner pile-up at Spa.

On the Button: Jenson was second fastest on Friday morning

On the Button: Jenson was second fastest on Friday morning

On the Button: Jenson was second fastest on Friday morning

D'Ambrosio, who drove for Virgin Racing last year – now Marussia, was 1.758secs off the pace, with Force India reserve Jules Bianchi right behind him as he stepped in for Paul di Resta for first practice only.

At the bottom of the timesheet, but making history as the first driver from China to compete in a F1 weekend was Ma Qing Hua.

Standing in for Narain Karthikeyan in first practice, Ma was 5.8secs behind Schumacher, but more comparatively just 1.9secs off team-mate Pedro de la Rosa.

Lewis Hamilton admits future is uncertain as Mercedes prowl – 2012 Italian Grand Prix

Hamilton admits future is uncertain as Mercedes ready 60m bid for British star

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UPDATED:

14:31 GMT, 6 September 2012

Lewis Hamilton refused to be drawn on speculation he could be set for a sensational switch to Mercedes next season.

Mercedes are prepared to offer the 27-year-old, who is out of contract with McLaren at the end of this term, a deal worth 60million over three years.

All eyes on Lew: Hamilton was the centre of attention at Thursday's press conference

All eyes on Lew: Hamilton was the centre of attention at Thursday's press conference

But when Hamilton was asked if he'd like to comment on the reports in Thursday's press conference ahead of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, the Briton said: 'Not really.' When asked if he knew who he'd be driving for in 2013, Hamilton said: 'No'.

'I don't have a deadline,' he added. 'Obviously before next season would be helpful. I'm in a great position.

Questioning: Hamilton refused to be drawn on speculation surrounding his future

Questioning: Hamilton refused to be drawn on speculation surrounding his future

'I drive for McLaren, we've won the last two grands prix, we've another big race coming up and that's what I need to focus on.'

The German team are so keen to sign the 27-year-old for the next campaign they are prepared to hand him a deal which would eclipse Michael Schumacher's 16.5m-a-season package.

Ham in the mirror: The British star is under intense scrutiny in Monza

Ham in the mirror: The British star is under intense scrutiny in Monza

Sportsmail understands the move is not dependent on Schumacher retiring for the second time at the end of this world championship, meaning the Briton could even replace his former karting team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton's management company and Mercedes are in talks and matching his 15m-a-year earnings at McLaren would not be an issue.

Talks: Hamilton speaks to Alonso at Thursday's Italian Grand Prix press conference

Talks: Hamilton speaks to Alonso at Thursday's Italian Grand Prix press conference

The 2008 world champion could boost his money further with bonuses based on results while it is understood he may be offered more freedom regarding personal sponsorship agreements.

Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes ready to offer 60m to replace Michael Schumacher or Nico Rosberg

60m Lewis bid: Mercedes ready to break bank for Hamilton to replace Schumacher… or Rosberg

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UPDATED:

23:08 GMT, 5 September 2012

Lewis Hamilton could leave McLaren and join Mercedes in a deal that would see him earn 60million over three years.

The
German team are so keen to sign the 27-year-old for the next campaign
they are prepared to hand him a deal which would eclipse Michael
Schumacher's 16.5m-a-season package.

Sportsmail understands the move is
not dependent on Schumacher retiring for the second time at the end of
this world championship, meaning the Briton could even replace his
former karting team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Moving on: Hamilton is set to join Mercedes next season, according to Jordan

Moving on: Hamilton is set to join Mercedes next season, according to Jordan

Hamilton's management company and
Mercedes are in talks and matching his 15m-a-year earnings at McLaren
would not be an issue.

The 2008 world champion could boost
his money further with bonuses based on results while it is understood
he may be offered more freedom regarding personal sponsorship
agreements.

Despite Mercedes' interest, the most
serious talks remain with McLaren, even though the Woking-based team
were eager to have matters concluded during the August break.

End of the road: Schumacher is set to announce his retirement for a second time

End of the road: Schumacher is set to announce his retirement for a second time

Their rivals' offer provides Hamilton
with a significant bargaining chip. Questions of team loyalty would
also need to be considered by the Briton, especially when it comes to
leaving a team he joined aged 13.

But Hamilton retains a strong bond
with Mercedes motorsport division chief Norbert Haug, whom he worked
with during his early years at McLaren.

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One in, one out Will Hamilton replace Michael Schumacher at Mercedes