According to reports last week, Hamilton has been offered just two-thirds of his current £15m-a-year deal by McLaren, while Mercedes are believed to have offered more than £20m. Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren's team principal, admitted on Friday night: "I am sure he will want more money and I am sure we will want to pay him less. That is how business normally works."
Whitmarsh also seemed to suggest that the signing of Hamilton was not one of McLaren's top priorities, saying: "It seems a long time because of the speculation that people have made but when you sit down and seriously put your mind to entering into a new contract it doesn't take too long. I think it is a question of priorities and other things we have been doing."
Hamilton's immediate future has once again dominated the agenda in Singapore before Sunday's race, with the driver apparently undecided over whether he should leave the team that have guided him for more than half his life. A decision is expected in the next fortnight.
Meanwhile, Jenson Button has spoken up for the eye-catching abilities of Sergio Pérez, one of Hamilton's potential replacements. Pérez says he is ready to drive for a leading team and Button, who has already championed the cause of another potential team-mate, Paul Di Resta, spoke up for Pérez when he said: "I think he is a quick learner. A guy who can look after his tyres as well as he does is not stupid. He learns well. I don't know what he is like setting up a car but he can't be bad if he's doing as well he is."
Button, who is professionally but not socially close to Hamilton, is not reticent about speculating over who may replace Hamilton. At one point he appeared to nominate Di Resta's Force India team-mate, Nico Hülkenberg. "I would like as my team-mate the Incredible Hulk, he's amazing!" he said, but he was referring to the comic character. He added: "I just love the speculation when it is not about me. I had so much of it in my career, especially back in 2004-05."
Button has said that he has not often been friendly with his co-driver and he commented: "It is not important if you are friendly with them. You want someone who is quick and experienced. You don't want a newcomer stepping into the car next year."
Despite all the talk of a transfer – and some of it has clearly turned Hamilton's head – it is still very possible that he will decide to remain where he is.
That would be the sensible outcome, from a purely racing point of view. In fact it's a no-brainer. But Hamilton can hardly have been encouraged from the noises he heard coming from his employers yesterday evening.
Sebastian Vettel topped both practice sessions here on Friday after heavy rain had fallen on the Marina Bay street circuit. For a double world champion and the man who won here last time out it is remarkable how Vettel has been under the radar for most of this week, as attention has focused on the current leader, Fernando Alonso, and Hamilton, his closest pursuer.
In the first session Vettel and Hamilton were separated by less than a tenth of a second, and they finished ahead of Button and Alonso. In the second, drier session Vettel was again dominant, this time finishing ahead of Button, Alonso and Mark Webber. The Red Bulls should be stronger here than they have been of late.
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