x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Lewis Hamilton fastest in Hungarian GP practice

The McLaren driver lets his pace do the talking even as his boss talks tough on his future.

Lewis Hamilton was fastest in opening practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton was fastest in opening practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton topped the times for McLaren in Friday's opening practice for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix and brushed off comments made by former McLaren team chief Ron Dennis.

The 27-year-old Briton drove with all his familiar courage, finesse and speed in both the morning and rain-hit afternoon sessions to demonstrate he and his McLaren car are back on form and will be difficult to beat this Sunday when there is chances of more rain.

The showers came less than an hour into the 90-minute practice and caused the Mercedes of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher to skid and crash into a tire wall.

Hamilton's time of 1 minute, 21.995 seconds, achieved before the rain, beat Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus by .185 seconds.

His hungry performance suggested he was determined to prove that he remains one of F1's hottest prospects after Dennis, the man who discovered and signed him as a 12-year-old karting sensation, hinted that McLaren might choose to walk away and sign someone else to replace him.

Dennis, who is now chairman of the McLaren Group, told BBC Radio, that he expected Hamilton to stay for 2013, but suggested that McLaren would ultimately decide the terms of any deal.

"There is no reason Lewis won't be driving our cars in the future," he said.

"I think people get a little wrong impression. When I last looked at the contract, I was paying him.

"So it is a question of whether we employ him – not the other way around. If things pan out the way I expect them to, I am pretty sure he will be sat in a McLaren next year."

Dennis's words have been widely intepreted as a reminder to their sometimes tempestuous driver that it is the team and not him who holds the key to their future together.

Hamilton has little option, but to recommit to McLaren for at least one more year because all of his alternatives – to move to other teams – appear to be drying up following Australian Mark Webber's decision to re-sign for Red Bull.

That decision weakened Hamilton's bargaining position in trying to secure a big-money deal, especially with McLaren openly admitting that the current worldwide financial situation means his new contract will not be as lucrative as the last one.

Hamilton made little reaction to Dennis' comments. He said he was happy to bide his time and that any talks he had would be with McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.

"I don't even know what Ron has been saying so I don't know what questions he has been asked," he told reporters.

"It's not really for me to comment on. It has nothing to do with me particularly what he says. Martin is my boss. I'm relaxed. At some stage we'll talk..."

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