x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Red Bull deny Lewis Hamilton link

Christian Horner claims he is happy with current driver pairing at the Austrian team.

Lewis Hamilton, right, had a meeting with Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing’s team principal in Canada, but both parties denied the Briton could be heading to the Austrian team.
Lewis Hamilton, right, had a meeting with Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing’s team principal in Canada, but both parties denied the Briton could be heading to the Austrian team.

VALENCIA // The cover of Sport Woche is as close as Lewis Hamilton is going to get to wearing Red Bull's famous blue-and-red overalls, according to Christian Horner, the team principal of the constructors champions.

Following increased speculation that the English driver is destined for a move away from McLaren-Mercedes in search of a second world championship title, the Austrian weekly magazine printed a mocked-up image of Hamilton wearing the Red Bull kit.

Horner referred to Hamilton as a "uniquely, supremely gifted driver", but he dismissed the speculation yesterday and said he was unwilling to risk upsetting a harmonious team by recruiting the 26-year-old to replace Mark Webber, 34, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

"Lewis is a great driver," Horner said. "He's a McLaren driver, so it's not even something we're thinking about. We're happy with the two drivers we've got."

Speculation grew after Hamilton visited the Red Bull motor home at the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago and spent 20 minutes speaking with Horner.

Both parties dismissed the rumours and said the meeting was purely social, and Horner warned that the idea of pairing the 2008 world champion with Sebastian Vettel, who became the youngest winner of the drivers' title in Abu Dhabi last year, would not necessary be a wise move.

"It would be interesting," he said. "They're two of the best guys in the world, but sometimes, as a team, you've got to look beyond what looks most attractive on paper. It's all about harmony and about the team at the end of the day."

Hamilton's contract with the Woking-based McLaren expires at the end of next season, but he has continually stressed he is not angling for a move from the team he has been with since his 2007 debut, and for whom he has won 15 races.

So long as his team can provide him with a competitive car, he says, he is happy to extend his stay with the marque that nurtured him from childhood, adding that he expects to have "something in place by the end of the year".

So was his meeting with Horner an aggressive manoeuvre to bolster his position in contract negotiations?

Hamilton said no.

"Of course, there are always positives and strengths you can have to help you in negotiations with your team, but that wasn't the aim," he said.

"The team are massively committed to me, as I am to them. I've been with them since I was 13 and I've known them for a long, long time.

"We are the only team to have won a race other than Red Bull, and we are the only other team to compete with Red Bull. What more can you ask for?"

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae