Motor racing-McLaren say new Hamilton deal must strike a balance

LONDON, June 11 Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:35pm BST

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LONDON, June 11 (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton's contract will need to reflect changes in the global economy if he stays at McLaren after this year, according to McLaren chairman Ron Dennis.

The 2008 Formula One world champion, winner of the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, is one of the hottest properties on the starting grid and will be out of contract at the end of the season.

"It's a complex situation. He's on the end of a contract which was signed at a time when the economy was somewhat different and now there has to be a balance between that," Dennis told Sky television in Montreal.

Asked whether that might mean taking a pay cut, Dennis swerved and replied: "He's very highly paid. He's certainly paid more than I am."

Some British media reports have suggested Hamilton could be in line for a five-year contract worth 20 million pounds ($30.84 million) a year, although others have said the team want to reduce his wages.

McLaren do not divulge driver salaries but reports have put his current deal at some 15 million a year.

Dennis, the former team principal who has known and backed Hamilton since the driver was a 13-year-old go-karter, hoped the 27-year-old would stay.

"You're obviously going to look at what's available; where can he go, he's going to look at that. We're going to look at who's available," said Dennis.

"Hopefully, the fact that he's been part of this team from the beginning of his career will play a significant role in whatever decisions both sides make. But it's a little early to be talking about it."

Hamilton's win in Montreal was the 18th of his career and first of the season. He leads the championship after seven races, two points clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

The Briton is managed by Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment, who also manage former England captain David Beckham and tennis player Andy Murray.

Top teams with potential vacancies are Ferrari, although that would mean linking up with Alonso again after a fraught time at McLaren together in 2007, and Mercedes if Michael Schumacher retires again.

Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber is also out of contract at the end of the year. ($1 = 0.6486 British pounds) (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by John Mehaffey)

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