• McLaren have spoken to me about re-signing, says driver
• A positive year would mean winning the world title
Lewis Hamilton considers himself fortunate that he is still wanted by McLaren, he admitted on Monday, at the end of the most frustrating season in his Formula One career.
McLaren want to sign up Hamilton beyond the existing year on his contract and the driver said: “I feel fortunate to be in the position I am in. I still feel very, very fortunate about the opportunities I have ahead of me and I feel fortunate I have still got a year left on my contract.
“I have got a year to recover. I have got a winter to recover and a year to recover. I will look back on this year and, of course, it wasn’t the year that was wanted, but it was a year that was needed, that every athlete goes through. I just hope this is the end of it.”
Mark Webber won the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, his first victory of the season, and Jenson Button produced another fine drive to come third, his eighth podium position in nine races. Hamilton lasted 48 laps before he retired with gearbox issues. Yet, as so often has been the case this season, Hamilton was the talking point after a season which is more memorable for his many acts of self-destruction than those performances of aggressive virtuosity that make him the most compelling exponent of his dangerous craft.
He is expected to have a meeting with the team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, in the near future and said: “Martin has spoken to me about re-signing already. I know it is there. At some stage, when we have time, we will sit down and discuss it. Again, the most important thing is to focus on the season ahead.”
He added: “What is most important about next year is me getting back to where I should be, getting back to the good performances and getting back to winning. Getting back to enjoying life and enjoying the year.
“I think I am there now. It is getting better and I just want to continue on this path because I think it can be good. I am in no rush. I don’t think there is any real pressure about my commitment to the team so there is no rush to have to do anything. Just focus on the next stage.”
Hamilton apologised to the McLaren team for his many mishaps after his latest disappointment, for which he could not be blamed. “I didn’t finish the race but I came out with a smile and was professional about it. That is probably where I have grown the most, being professional. I’ve grown up a bit.”
When asked what would constitute a positive year, he said: “It is winning the title. It is competing at the top. It is also about performing in the best possible way for myself, regardless of whether the car is there or not. I want it to be a positive year in terms of my own performances.”
Hamilton has often made sensible noises before his mind has jumped out of its proper gear once again. But it would be surprising if he had not learned from an arduous year, in which his impetuosity on the track has reflected his unsettled personal life.
Whitmarsh knows him more than most: “I’ve known him since he was 11, 15 years ago, so I want to see him happy and contented,” he said. “By his extraordinarily high standards he has had a difficult year. He’s a great driver in this team but he is a still young man I’ve seen grow up from this high [he places his hand about three feet above the floor]. It sounds corny if you start calling them your children, but he is a man, a great asset, and he deserves to be happy, to be enjoying the enormous talents in his career.
“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.”
A lesser man than Button would resent the attention that is drawn to his more spectacular team-mate. After the podium place that confirmed his second place in the drivers’ championship he said: “To beat Webber in the championship, that’s a pretty big deal. He’s in the same car as Sebastian is, and he’s 120 points in front of me.”
Then, inevitably, he was asked about Hamilton. “To beat Lewis in qualifying or any race is good because he’s a very talented driver. He’s extremely quick and we both push each other very hard.” But Button does not see next year becoming a two-car race between Red Bull and McLaren. “Ferrari aren’t slow. They’re bloody quick. Fernando Alonso is an amazingly talented driver, who probably hasn’t had the best equipment all year. And if Massa gets his head right in the winter and comes out strong they’re definitely going to be a team to look out for in 2012.”