MUMBAI, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton made clear on Sunday that he will not let the rumours and “rubbish” swirling around his contract negotiations distract him from the main focus of winning a second Formula One title with McLaren.
Hamilton, whose deal with McLaren runs out at the end of the season, is at the centre of a storm of speculation that he is set to take Michael Schumacher’s place at Mercedes.
The 2008 world champion kept everyone guessing after he won last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix and on Sunday, on a promotional visit to Mumbai, he said he was yet to sign a contract with any team.
He also refused to set a timeline for a new deal to be struck.
“I don’t have a timeline. My focus is on trying to win this world championship,” Hamilton told reporters at an event for sponsors Vodafone ahead of next week’s Singapore Grand Prix.
”Of course I do have to have those things sorted out but I do have people in the background working on those contract negotiations.
“There’s a lot of speculation, there’s a lot of stories that aren’t true.”
The paddock has been awash with rumours since the August break, with the latest report in Britain on Sunday suggesting McLaren had sounded out Sauber’s Mexican Sergio Perez as a possible replacement.
Hamilton’s career has been backed by the Woking-based team since his mid-teens when the Briton raced go-karts and all his 20 Grand Prix wins have come at the wheel of a McLaren.
Following Hamilton’s win at Monza, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh dismissed much of the speculation as “fantasy” and said the contract talks could be speeded up before Singapore.
“I think we’re all wise enough to understand that people write things and that what is written is not necessarily what is true,” said Hamilton.
”I think the most important thing is that I‘m 100 percent focused on winning with this team and taking them forward.
“I’ve been with the team since I was 13 and we’ve worked so hard since 2009 to try and win this championship and hopefully, finally, we’re in the position where we can,” added the 27-year-old Briton.
“So the most important thing is that I do not get distracted by all the rubbish that’s been around.”
Hamilton has bounced back from a turbulent 2011 season when he had several run-ins with his rivals on track, most notably with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, and was criticised for being too impetuous and aggressive in his driving.
Having won all the classic races on the Formula One calendar, he said winning a second world championship was his top priority.
Hamilton is the only driver other than the ever-consistent Fernando Alonso at Ferrari to claim three victories in one of the closest and most hard fought seasons in the sport and McLaren have now won the last three races.
Operational errors, most notably during pitstops, have cost Hamilton and the team vital points, however.
“We lost a lot of points at the beginning. We were on the front row in the first seven or eight races where we should have won all of them,” he said.
“Barcelona, we really could have won that, we had the best car that weekend. But you know we learn from those experiences and that’s what life is about.”
Following two wins in the last three races, Hamilton is second overall and 37 points behind Alonso in the overall standings with seven races left.
With 25 points for a race win, Hamilton believes his campaign is back on track.
“We’re in a very, very strong position, we’re getting stronger and we will get stronger through the rest of this year,” he said, before driving through the streets of the financial capital of India.
Organisers estimated that over 60,000 fans turned out to see Hamilton burn rubber in his McLaren on a damp evening. (Editing by Alan Baldwin)