Martin Whitmarsh spoke today of his feelings on losing Lewis Hamilton, his lack of regrets about the situation and denied that the McLaren’s wings were being protested by Ferrari. He also said that he thinks new recruit Sergio Perez can win his first Grand Prix for McLaren in Melbourne, next March.
Speaking in a Vodafone phone in for leading F1 websites, Whitmarsh said that the offer McLaren made to Hamilton exceeded the pay of any F1 driver, “The offer that we made was higher I believe than any driver in Formula 1 is currently receiving or will receive next year, ” he said.
He added: “I think Lewis is a top-flight driver. We didn’t underestimate his attractiveness to others in Formula 1. We knew Lewis would be in demand, that’s why we made him an offer.
“I think it was a good offer but there clearly we had to look at the alternatives because we recognised that there was a serious threat.”
“We put a lot of effort into trying to keep Lewis. He’s clearly a great asset to any race team. So we made a big effort. I think ultimately Lewis had to make a decision, he made one, and we must now look forward.”
Asked whether his feeling was one of sadness or relief situation is over, Whitmarsh replied,
“Neither. I think actually it goes down the middle. We’ve got six races to go, we’ve got a competitive car, two competitive race drivers and two championships that are still in our sights.
“So we haven’t reached that point. I think we’re all hoping, Lewis and the team, that we actually really focus now. So in one sense there is some clarity. We are committed to working as hard as we can to allow Lewis every opportunity to try and achieve the drivers’ World Championship and at the same time I believe Lewis is totally committed to the team to contribute to our assault of the Constructors’ Championship.”
On Perez, Whitmarsh denied that the Mexican had any further apprenticeship period to serve, “I don’t see why – if we give him a good enough car – he can’t turn up at the first race in Australia vying for a win,” Whitmarsh said.
“I don’t think he will consider himself an apprentice. I think he will be a quick learner. Time will tell on this, but we’re optimistic and ambitious for him next year.
The final question concerned a report that Ferrari had raised a question about the flexibility of McLaren’s front wing. Whitmarsh batted it away,
“I don’t envisage any particular problems for McLaren in that regard in the near term and consequently I don’t think it is anything that will harm us,” he said. “Also I’m not aware of anything with Red Bull.
“I think the FIA technical department have to remain vigilant and be testing front wings, rear wings and attachment systems all the time, and making sure they comply with the testing requirements of the regulations but also that the teams don’t find other ingenious or creative ways to circumvent the intention. I think from time to time many teams get spoken to by the FIA and are expected to correct a situation. We’re not in such a situation ourselves and I am not aware and do not think it will be an issue that will affect the championship.”