Mercedes, Hamilton, push negative reports aside
(GMM) If the wilder reports are true, part-owner and engine partner Mercedes is pulling out while Lewis Hamilton scans the fine print of his contract to look for an escape to his five-year contract.
But, in the Bahrain paddock, the reigning world champion, and Mercedes' racing representative Norbert Haug, sang a different tune when asked about their commitment to the embattled team McLaren.
"Some people have suggested that Mercedes are pulling out," Haug told reporters at Sakhir. "Mercedes is not pulling out."
The German, however, admitted last week that parent group Daimler's commitment to F1 - as would be the case with all other carmakers amid the global recession - is not open-ended.
But as for 2009, "We have the confirmation ... for our activities," said Haug.
While outwardly business-as-usual, McLaren will be nervous ahead of the 'lie-gate' scandal hearing in front of the World Motor Sport Council next Wednesday.
Team boss Martin Whitmarsh's letter to Max Mosley has been interpreted as akin to the Woking team throwing itself at the mercy of the governing body, while moods were ragged a week ago in Shanghai when Hamilton addressed the media.
The 24-year-old Briton again did not face the press on traditional 'media day' Thursday in Bahrain, but his grim mood of China has at least improved.
"I'm here, I'm enjoying myself and my time (with) the team," said Hamilton, asked again about his future following his non-committal reply of Shanghai.
"I don't abandon my team when times get tough. We ride the bad and good times together, so I am happy where I am. We've a long way to go, and hopefully I've got a long, long time here with them, so I am looking forward to it," he added.
Less believable was his insistence that next week's looming Paris date is not a "distraction", but he admitted he has turned to the advice given to him personally last year by Nelson Mandela.
"He said at 90 years old he is still learning, so I know I am going to continue learning every day of my life," said Hamilton.
"I definitely feel stronger and far more experienced after what has happened over the past few weeks. I am growing all the time, learning."