British Formula One ace Lewis Hamilton told Red Bull boss Christian Horner that he wants to leave McLaren — the team that gave him his big break, made him a multimillionaire and made the car he drove to the 2008 world championship.
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During an impromptu meeting at the Canadian Grand Prix weekend in June, the British driver told the Red Bull boss he wanted out of McLaren. "He is a very unhappy bunny at McLaren," an insider told The (London) Sunday Times, "and he’d be out of there tomorrow if he could."
The June meeting between Hamilton and Horner led to speculation about the driver’s dissatisfaction at McLaren.
His $123 million, five-year deal with McLaren ends next year, and he is clearly unhappy with a team that has been unable to provide him with a consistently fast car to rival championship leader Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull.
At the time of the meeting, a spokesman for Hamilton’s management team, XIX, denied that 26-year-old reached out to Red Bull.
"It would be ridiculous for Lewis to go and negotiate with Red Bull on the most gossipy piece of turf in Formula One," the spokesman said. “Everyone would see him so it would not be wise. It was just a chat. We can categorically say he is not discussing a new contract with anyone at the moment."
However, The (London) Sunday Times reported that Hamilton — after contacting Horner through a member of Red Bull’s catering staff — told the rival team boss in June he was keen to leave McLaren.
A group of photographers at the Montreal event saw a female member of the Red Bull staff, who knew Hamilton from her time at McLaren, talking on her mobile phone before approaching Horner and saying, "I’ve got Lewis here. He wants to see you."
"Lewis who?" asked Horner.
"Lewis Hamilton," she replied.
"What . . . does he want? OK, tell him to come down," Horner said.
Tensions between Hamilton and McLaren have simmered this season, with the driver publicly criticizing the team’s car, saying it cannot compete with the speed of the Red Bull machines.