Hamilton Not Moved By Red Bull Remarks, Horner Dismissive Of Driver Switch

For a man who seemed to have frustration in much of his driving last season, Lewis Hamilton answered calmly when he asked for his thoughts on Christian Horner’s recent verdict of who would be the Red Bull team’s closest challenger this year.

Horner said last week that Lewis and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso were among those who could push Red Bull all the way.

“Lewis is going to be pushing hard this year, Jenson had a great year last year, you can’t rule out Fernando because he is a world-class driver and it will be interesting to see how Kimi fares on his return.”

When it came to pick just one name as a main rival, it was of Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button.

“Probably Button.”

Jenson, originally from Somerset, finished last season as the first team-mate to finish ahead of Hamilton in the championship since the driver started in the sport five years ago. That is no easy task given that Lewis did share the McLaren team with two-time champion Fernando Alonso in the Englishman’s debut year in 2007.

Lewis was not bothered by Horner picking his team-mate over himself as Red Bull’s most-likely rival:

“It’s the first time I’ve heard of [the remarks] but they definitely don’t wind me up,” said Hamilton. “There are a lot of opinions, and everybody has their right to an opinion, but it doesn’t really affect me. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day when I go out and do the job.”

It is a year which could be the last for some drivers at the top teams, Hamilton prime amongst them. He is in the final year of his current contract and until a deal is done, there will be plenty talk of a move to Red Bull. Such discussions were rife when the Stevenage-born man was seen going into the Red Bull motor-home on the weekend of the Canadian GP last season, which Jenson Button won. Horner later dismissed it as a “social visit”, but it did not stop the chatter.

Red Bull celebrate victories at Monaco differently to others

Lewis would suit the Red Bull brand. They are young, energetic and feisty, all words which describe Hamilton quite well. It is in contrast to the cold, corporate style that his current team have been trying to shake in recent years.

Horner today stated that the McLaren driver would be an unlikely move as both he and Red Bull are happy within their current organisations. He also said that the Austrian drinks-company team prefer to bring their drivers in from their own programme, similar to how Hamilton himself got his McLaren drive after years of of being backed by the Woking squad.

“I think that it’s difficult to envisage Lewis in our team. I think he’s comfortable in the environment he is in and we’re certainly comfortable with the two drivers we have. Whether or not it could work, who knows? We also took a decision to invest in youth and we have two really exciting youngsters entering grand prix racing in Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo (both race drivers at Toro Rosso for 2012) – both really talented drivers and both deserve that opportunity.

Our preference would probably be to go with drivers in whom we have invested from a young age, give them the opportunity and see how they evolve rather than take something external.”

Webber could drive beyond this season

Red Bull’s second driver, 35 year-old Mark Webber, is also in the final year of his contract. This  feeds further the fire of rumours, but Christian Horner is confident that Webber can continue beyond a tenth season.

“I certainly don’t think Mark is going into this year thinking this is his last year. He is motivated, he is hungry, he sees a future beyond the end of 2012.

“I think that inevitably drivers get to a certain age – he is 36 this year – and it becomes logical to take things one step at a time which is what both Mark and the team agreed to do.”

It is a story which will continue on into the start of the season. Red Bull but be top dogs now, but McLaren have provided a competitive car more often than not. Whether the 2008 champion stays or goes, his talents would be desired by any team. Whether that team remains McLaren, time will tell.

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