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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 23, 2012
When Lewis Hamilton laid his eyes on the Le Mans winning McLaren F1 GTR in the Woking based team's headquarters, he could not resist asking his boss Ron Dennis for one. Dennis agreed on the condition that Hamilton win at least three F1 titles for his team.
This was before the Briton made his F1debut with the team in 2007 and for winning the title in 2008, Dennis presented him with a scale-model of the much coveted racing car. Fast forward to an unpredictable 2012 season and Hamilton has not added to his title tally and thus has not upgraded to the real-life version of the F1 GTR.

With his contract due to run out at the end of the year, McLaren are reportedly offering Hamilton a three-year extension and an annual salary of 20 million pounds sterling. It's an increase from the 15 million Hamilton is currently getting but money may not be the biggest factor in deciding whether or not he will stick around.

Hamilton is currently in the championship lead but a series of errors from the McLaren team has meant that he has just a two point cushion to second placed Fernando Alonso, with defending world champion Sebastian Vettel just three points behind.

Despite pledging his permanent allegiance to McLaren in 2008, Hamilton has periodically stirred the pot by calling on his team to deliver a car that can allow him to win more titles.

A difficult 2011 season didn't help matters either and Hamilton set off something of a storm in a tea cup when he visited the then dominant Red Bull Racing team's motorhome in the Canadian GP.

Rumors started flying thick and fast about a defection but realistically there are not that many options for Hamilton outside of the team that supported him in junior formulae until F1.

Ferrari is not an option due to the presence of Alonso and while Hamilton doesn't shy away from going up against highly touted rivals, Red Bull looks unlikely as well as the Austrian team is more likely to use the sister Toro Rosso team as a scouting pool rather than try to match the high salary demands of an established star.

Mercedes is yet to agree to the terms of the new Concorde Agreement, so they are looking untenable as well while Lotus F1 is likely to wait for Robert Kubica's full recovery should they ever need to find a replacement for Romain Grosjean or Kimi Raikkonen.

Williams F1's recovery has not yet reached a point to make the team a target for F1's top drivers as yet and the other midfield teams are a step back from F1's current heavy hitters.

So while Hamilton has gone on record as stating that Dennis is tough when it comes to contract negotiations, there doesn't seem to be much for the 2008 champion to use as leverage against the man who can keep even F1's commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone guessing.

Pretty much the only option Hamilton has is to rise above McLaren's error-prone pit lane crew and claim the title in F1's most unpredictable season since the early 1980s.

Maybe Dennis will give him a slightly bigger version of the F1 GTR this time.