- Full name Martin Whitmarsh
- Birth date April 29, 1958
- Birthplace Lyndhurst, New Forest, Great Britain
- Current age 57 years 163 days
- Teams McLaren
- Other roles Principal
A man who wanted to be an aircraft engineer, Whitmarsh's motorsport career began in 1989 when he moved from British Aerospace to McLaren, by his own admission not knowing "one end of a racing car from another".
Considered to be Ron Dennis' second protégé after Lewis Hamilton, Whitmarsh became chief operating officer of McLaren F1 in 2004 and it was always a case of 'when' not 'if' he would take over from Dennis as team principal.
The day finally came in March 2009 on the back of Lewis Hamilton's first world championship, when Dennis stepped aside to allow his number two to take the reins. Whitmarsh's first race in charge was marred by controversy when McLaren were disqualified from the Melbourne Grand Prix after the team were accused of lying to race officials. Hamilton was initially promoted to third after Jarno Trulli was penalised for passing the world champion while the safety car was out, but following an investigation McLaren were stripped of all their points "for providing evidence deliberately misleading to the stewards".
After a rocky start which saw McLaren pick up just 14 points from the first nine races (the team picked up 14 points alone in the opening race of the 2008 season), it began to show the consistency which saw Hamilton take the 2008 world championship and on the penultimate race in Brazil overtook rivals Ferrari to finish third in the constructors' championship.
In 2010 McLaren got off to a good start by pioneering the F-duct, which allowed the car to shed drag on the straight and go faster. But it only thinly veiled the car's overall lack of downforce compared to rivals Red Bull. Nevertheless, consistency in the first half of the season meant that Lewis Hamilton was a genuine contender for the title until two mistakes at the Italian and Singapore Grands Prix dropped him out of the hunt. A number of improvements on the McLaren then backfired and Hamilton and Jenson Button finished fourth and fifth in the drivers' standings.
The team again failed to deliver a championship winning package in 2011 and suffered operational issues at the start of the 2012 season. Following the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix, Hamilton announced he was leaving the team for Mercedes after Whitmarsh failed to persuade his driver to renew his contract.
It marked the start of a downward spiral as a major overhaul in car concept for 2013 backfired and saw the team fail to score a podium for the first time since 1980. By the end of the year Sergio Perez, who had been appointed as a star of the future, was out and Whitmarsh soon followed, with his old mentor Dennis coming back to take over the top job. Whitmarsh should receive credit for coaxing Honda back to F1, but his "good citizen of the sport" approach to team management no longer matched McLaren's hard-nosed ambitions.