Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone feels Lewis Hamilton may be on his way out of McLaren at the end of this season if he and the team fail to rediscover the winning title formula.
Hamilton has endured three barren seasons since becoming champion in 2008, and crucially he now heads into the final year of a multi-million pound contract with the Woking-based team.
Ahead of the forthcoming campaign, the early suggestion from four days of testing so far in the new McLaren is that the car will be able to fight with Red Bull and reigning king Sebastian Vettel.
Anything other than competing in a title contender and Ecclestone wonders whether Hamilton will opt to remain at McLaren, or indeed if the team itself will want to stay in partnership with him. With seats potentially available at Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes next year, Hamilton seemingly has options available should another lean season ensue.
“I think if he doesn’t perform this year he’ll be looking maybe to move on, and the team may also be looking for him to move on.,” said Ecclestone, who believes Hamilton is in a more positive frame of mind in contrast to the end of last year when on-and-off-track issues clouded his state of mind and hindered his performances.
The 81-year-old again cast doubt on the people behind Hamilton in XIX Entertainment, who earlier this month employed the services of Didier Coton, who once managed Mika Hakkinen.
“I spoke to him (Hamilton) the other day and I think he’s a bit more focused,” said Ecclestone.
“But I don’t agree with the people he’s got surrounding him and so-called managing him. I think he doesn’t need that sort of management.”