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McLaren '100 per cent' behind Hamilton

updated 11:57 AM EDT, Wed October 12, 2011
Lewis Hamilton has been in Formula One with McLaren since 2007 and won the world title in 2008.
Lewis Hamilton has been in Formula One with McLaren since 2007 and won the world title in 2008.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • McLaren given "100 per cent" backing to driver Lewis Hamilton
  • The team's managing director calls the 2008 world champion a "phenomenal driver"
  • McLaren also want Hamilton to follow Jenson Button and sign a new deal with the team

(CNN) -- McLaren have given Lewis Hamilton their complete backing after a season which has seen the British driver struggle to match the pace of his Formula One rivals.

Hamilton is fifth in the drivers' standings, 146 points adrift of Red Bull's newly-crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel and 32 points behind compatriot and teammate Jenson Button in second place.

Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, has won just two races so far this season, in China and Germany, compared to three victories for Button and nine for German Vettel.

But McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale has given his full support to Hamilton, describing the 26-year-old as a "phenomenal driver."

"He desperately wants to win and he's understandably not happy when either his team mate beats him or someone else is winning the race or the championship," Neale said on Formula One's official website.

Lewis is a phenomenal driver ... and we love him for that
Jonathan Neale

"Lewis is a phenomenal driver. He's had 16 race wins, is constantly exciting on the circuit and is always in the action. And we love him for that."

Button, who claimed the world championship in 2009, recently signed a new long-term deal with English-based McLaren, a decision Neale hopes Hamilton will emulate.

"So certainly I'm concerned to make sure that he feels and understands that we are 100 per cent behind him ... We're delighted to have re-signed Jenson and we're confident Lewis wants to stay here and we want Lewis to stay here after next year."

At Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton could only finish fifth as 24-year-old Vettel secured a third-place finish to be crowned F1's youngest double world champion.

It was a performance by Hamilton which many suggested was devoid of the competitive spirit which has seen him involved in multiple incidents this season, and which has also seen him make a number of post-race visits to the steward's office.

"One reporter wrote that in sport winners are deified and losers are vilified," said Neale in response to criticism of Hamilton's showing in Suzuka. "So we can all turn and ask 'where's Lewis?' and 'what's he doing?'

"But the reality is that he is a really quick driver. He's a really nice guy and he puts all his heart into it ... Lewis is a force of nature and we love him for all of that."

Hamilton will be looking for a third race success of the season at the Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam on October 16.

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