Whitmarsh shrugs off Hamilton speculation

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McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh yesterday laughed his way through the latest barrage of questions regarding Lewis Hamilton’s future.

Whitmarsh insisted he was not putting on a brave face, however at no stage did he deny Hamilton would be leaving the team at the end of the year.

Instead, Whitmarsh maintains the focus from the team and Hamilton is on winning this year’s drivers’ and constructors’ titles, suggesting the debate over whether Hamilton stays or goes to Mercedes is merely a sideshow.

Hamilton has two contract offers on the table from McLaren and Mercedes, with the ball in his court as to where he decides to go.

Asked whether he accepted Mercedes had offered Hamilton a deal, and with reference to Caterham owner Tony Fernandes sat alongside him, Whitmarsh smiled and said: “I suspect Tony has made him an offer as well. He is a very good racing driver.”

A non-plussed Fernandes simply replied: “I haven’t.”

Whitmarsh conceded after Hamilton’s win in the Italian Grand Prix 12 days ago there was “no plan B” in terms of finding a replacement.

Although Sauber’s Sergio Perez has been linked of late, Whitmarsh again denied there had been any consideration towards a replacement.

“No,” said Whitmarsh. “We’re focused on trying to do a very good job here.

“The speculation is not a distraction.

“The last three races we have got stronger and more focused.

“Anyone who knows Lewis has witnessed, in Italy and here in Singapore so far, he is very focused on doing a job.

“He realises this year we have a strong opportunity to win a world championship, with our focus to improve the car, not to make mistakes and maximise the points we get from each race.

“I know there are stories and speculation swirling around, but that’s Formula 1, and we’re content to get on with our job quietly.”

On the track, Sebastian Vettel doubled up in practice to post the fastest times in both sessions for the Singapore Grand Prix.

In the initial 90-minute run reigning champion Vettel edged Hamilton by just 0.049 seconds around the five kilometres of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

The duo were in a class of two as their rivals were left trailing.

In session two it was a slightly different story as Red Bull’s Vettel was comfortably out in front by 0.311secs, closing with a lap of 1:48.340, over two seconds faster than in FP1.