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Lewis had made up mind to leave McLaren - Ecclestone

Caroline Reid
September 24, 2012 « Webber penalised 20 seconds for Kobayashi incident | 'Mercedes offer him much greater freedom on the commercial side' »
Bernie Ecclestone said Lewis Hamilton appears to have changed his mind over recent races © Sutton Images
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Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone believes Lewis Hamilton had made his mind up to leave McLaren before his recent winning streak with the team began at the Hungarian Grand Prix in July.

Hamilton went on to win the Italian Grand Prix and retired from the lead of Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix with a gearbox failure. Ecclestone says that this success may have changed his opinion about leaving.

"I don't think Hamilton knows what he will do," Ecclestone said. "These last couple or three races he has been doing very well. Before that, why he was upset I don't know, but he was definitely going to move no matter what. He had made up his mind that he was going. Whether he has changed now a little bit I don't know."

Hamilton is currently being paid around £13m and he reportedly has two contracts on the table. One is thought to be for £15m a year with Mercedes and another is said to be two-thirds of that to stay at McLaren. The team has been nurturing Hamilton since he was aged 13 and he has been racing with it since 2007 winning the world championship the following year. In contrast, since taking over its outfit over from team principal Ross Brawn, Mercedes has only won one race when Nico Rosberg claimed victory in this year's Chinese Grand Prix.

The talk of Hamilton moving to Mercedes was sparked by comments from Ecclestone to BBC pundit Eddie Jordan on the grid of the Belgian Grand Prix. Talking about Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher, Ecclestone said "I'm sorry that he's leaving us not being a winner, because he is a winner."

This led to the suggestion that Hamilton would replace Schumacher and Jordan later told the BBC that he believes "Hamilton and Mercedes have already agreed personal terms and a deal could be imminent...Some weeks ago I said on TV that I felt Lewis was on the move and I had an idea at the time he had been speaking to Ferrari, which we now know is true...Bernie Ecclestone made it clear to me live on television on Sunday that Schumacher was leaving, although Schumacher later played it down."

However, Ecclestone has now denied this is what he meant. "I said I would hate to lose Schumacher. The reason for this was that I was asked the question would I miss Schumacher and I said yes. He doesn't know if he is leaving. I spoke to him and he said honestly I have not decided and he would tell me."

Schumacher has been handed a 10 place grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks after crashing into the back of Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne following the first safety car period in Sunday's race. He has scored just 43 points, 50 less than his team-mate Rosberg but insists that he is still competitive.

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