Champ Button was my choice, says Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton has countered suggestions he did not want Jenson Button as his McLaren team mate by saying he proposed the Formula One champion in the first place. “Something you will not know is that I actually called (McLaren team principal) Martin (Whitmarsh) and said “What about Jenson?”, which was before thay had negotiations,” the 2008 champion told reporters after the launch of the new MP4-25 car. “I was calling them and asking them, “What is going on? I keep reading all these different stories about different drivers. What is happening?”

Button won the title with Brawn GP, now Mercedes, at the Brazilian Grand Prix in October and will have the number one on his car for the first time in his motor racing career. He was announced as a McLaren driver on November 18, five days after visiting the team’s factory for the first time and a month after winning the title in Sao Paulo. Button said he started quizzing Hamilton about the team at the Brazilian Grand Prix. “We spoke a little bit in the Abu Dhabi (the November 1 seasonender) and Brazil but not about me coming here,” said Button when asked whether he had discussed a possible move with Hamilton.

“I asked questions about McLaren, he did not know why I was asking the questions. I was just interested, just being nosey really. You are always going to ask people what experiences are like in other teams. I did not think for one second before Brazil that I would be changing teams,” added Button. “I did not think the option was there, to start with, and just never thought about it. But obviously your mindset changes when you achieve something you have worked so hard for and you look for new challenges.”

Whitmarsh added: “As we evaluated the driver market, which we did over a number of weeks, Lewis was consistently positive about Jenson. “As I think was clear today, they have a high regard for each other and are already getting on well.” Hamilton has been backed by McLaren for more than a decade and some have queried the wisdom of Button stepping in to the “Lions’ Den” when he might have remained Top Dog at Mercedes. Others, such as ex-Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine, have suggested Button will be well beaten on the track by Hamilton, who has never been defeated by a team-mate over the season.

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Schumacher wants to race beyond 2012

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher said on Wednesday he plans to race with Mercedes GP until past his three-year contract which expires in 2012. The 41-year old signed a contract to race for the German Formula One team last December, but with an eighth world title now in his sights, Schumacher says he has no intention of limiting his racing. “The great thing about Mercedes is that they have given me the possibility to attempt further success, but that does not have to be it after the three years,” Schumacher told Bild, the German daily newspaper.

“The current contract was not my idea, as it came from the team and I see it as a mark of confidence in me.” Schumacher admitted it was the influence of Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn which finally persuaded him to join the German team. “Ross called me and we were immediately united, I was not really interested in making money, but more about having fun again,” said Schumacher, who had Brawn in his pits for each of his seven world title victories. “I just wanted to sit in a Formula Once car again.

Schumacher said Brawn had tried to tempt him back several times since his retirement from racing in 2006 after the pair worked together at first Benetton and then later at Ferrari. “He (Brawn) asked me two years ago to get involved and again a year ago, but I was not ready to return,” said Schumacher. Alongside his Mercedes team-mate Nico Roseberg, Schumacher says he does not expect immediate success, but a eight title is in his sights. “I won’t just be driving behind him (Roseberg), that is for sure,” grinned Schumacher. Having won five of his world titles with Ferrari, Schumacher said he will have no divided loyalties to his old team when the Formula One season begins at Bahrain on March 14th this year. “A part of my heart will always remains red,” said Schumacher. “I cannot forget Ferrari overnight and I do not plan it to be like this.”

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