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Hamilton says McLaren goodbyes

ESPN Staff
December 10, 2012 « Ricciardo pleased with progression | Six months until I can have an impact on Mercedes - Hamilton »
All of Lewis Hamilton's 110 race starts to date have been with McLaren © Sutton Images
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Lewis Hamilton has told McLaren he has "so much affection and love for this team" as he prepares to leave for Mercedes.

Although Hamilton's contract doesn't expire until December 31 he has been allowed to talk with Mercedes personnel prior to that date and made his last appearance in a McLaren during a demonstration run in Malta on Sunday. Ahead of that run, Hamilton addressed staff at the team's headquarters in Woking and thanked the team for their six Formula One seasons together.

"My time at McLaren has been fantastic," Hamilton told staff at the McLaren Technology Centre. "When I arrived in Formula One in 2007, I now realise I never really grasped what I was taking on. Ron [Dennis] had told me: 'Don't be surprised if you're 0.5sec slower than Fernando [Alonso]', and I just smiled because I knew it wouldn't be the case. But, even so, that year was very hard, for many reasons.

"The following year, 2008, as a result of so much hard work from all of you, we won the Championship. Thanks so much. You were brilliant - you still are. I have so much affection and love for this team. And that's why McLaren has always felt like home."

Having received a three-foot model of his title-winning MP4-23 Hamilton reiterated that the door was not closed on a return.

"Maybe I'll come back one day...if you'll have me."