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McLaren 'went a long way' for Hamilton - Whitmarsh

ESPN Staff
September 28, 2012 « Sauber will not rush driver decision | 'Mercedes offer him much greater freedom on the commercial side' »
Martin Whitmarsh: "I think any driver who wants to win in Formula One should be at McLaren" © Sutton Images

Martin Whitmarsh says McLaren "went a long way to make a good offer" to keep Lewis Hamilton and thinks it would have been the best place for him to continue winning races.

Hamilton has signed a contract to drive for Mercedes from 2013 onwards, with McLaren signing Sergio Perez as his replacement. With Hamilton's contract negotiations being handled by his management XIX Entertainment for the first time, questions have been raised whether his representatives were pushing for a move to Mercedes in order to increase income from personal endorsements. Although an area where McLaren is more restrictive, Whitmarsh said the team was willing to offer Hamilton a lot more freedom in order to keep him.

"If the question is 'do we blame XIX' we don't," Whitmarsh told Sky Sports News. "The fact is Lewis is a great racing driver, he's got to make decisions in his life. So we had lots of discussions with XIX, we went in to lots of details, we drew up very complex contracts, we negotiated lots of detail, lots of freedom within those and it was a very commercial offer that we made.

"We went a long way to make a good offer to Lewis. But ultimately it takes two to get a signature. We clearly didn't agree terms and we've moved in a different direction."

While Hamilton insists he needed a "fresh challenge", Whitmarsh warned that McLaren would have been the better place for him to win races.

"For Lewis, McLaren has been a great chapter in his life; he's been a great driver in this team. We now look forward to ensuring that after the interest of today that we get ourselves focused again on six races that we have ahead of us in this year's world championship; all of which that we can win, world championships that we can win. And then we look to an exciting future.

"I think it's for Lewis to make the decisions in his life. But I think McLaren's a winning team and whether you measure us over the last four races, the last four races or the last forty years, we're a great team. We've won with many drivers and we will win again with many drivers. We're a great team; I think any driver who wants to win in Formula One should be at McLaren. Perhaps I'm a little partisan but I think the statistics and our records support that view."

Whitmarsh also dismissed the notion that McLaren's driver line-up would be weaker next season until Perez fulfils his potential.

"Established quality; we've got a world champion in Jenson Button who's won 14 grands prix, he was utterly dominant two races ago at Spa with a fantastic drive. So we've got Jenson who has that experience. We've got this exciting young Latin who - when you meet him - is intelligent, he's charming, he's humble, but deeply hungry. He's coming here with the aim of winning the world championship next year."