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Whitmarsh suspects Hamilton regrets leaving

ESPN Staff
November 9, 2012 « Van der Garde hopes for Caterham deal 'soon' | Mercedes pair looking forward to US Grand Prix »
Lewis Hamilton will leave McLaren at the end of the year © Sutton Images

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes Lewis Hamilton is still torn over his decision to join Mercedes in 2013.

Hamilton will leave McLaren at the end of the year after agreeing to a three-year deal with Mercedes from 2013 onwards. He said he needed a fresh challenge after spending his entire career at McLaren to date, but Whitmarsh believes there may already be some regrets creeping in with Mercedes currently struggling for form.

"I hope he thinks today that he's made an awful mistake and I hope he thinks that next year," Whitmarsh told Formula One's official website. "He's made that decision and he has to live with that decision. I have known him since he was 11 and worked with him since his teens and I know we will both be very emotional after Brazil. We have had one or two emotional moments since the decision was taken and I believe, but you must ask him, that we have a very good relationship."

Whitmarsh said the decision was not a complete surprise, but believes Hamilton would have been better off with McLaren next year.

"I was surprised, but I was not shocked. He told me right after Singapore and I am pretty sure he hadn't made up his mind until after Singapore - the Monday or Tuesday after Singapore. I think it is always bad to make a decision in the aftermath of a bad race. He was pretty sure that he was going to win that race and it was a disappointment and as I just said it is never good to make a decision in such a situation. I respect his decision, but I believe that he would be better off with us - we are the stronger team - and we intend to beat him next year!"

Whitmarsh said he suspects the financial terms McLaren put forward were bettered by Mercedes.

"The simple answer is that I don't know. Lewis would be able to answer that question much better than me. If I were speculating there are a number of factors and the prime one, I think, is that there comes a time when a man feels he has to flee the nest. I think it was a bit of that and a range of different emotions. He has been with us for so many years that I do not fully understand it."

He added: "You have to justify your decision. He is not going to say 'hey, they offered me more money'. He is also not going to say that he's made an awful mistake."