Ron Dennis hints failure to agree on sponsor commitments led to Lewis Hamilton's exit

McLaren chief also tells Sky F1 he isn't hurting over Lewis' departure

By James Galloway.   Last Updated: 20/11/12 10:15am

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McLaren Chairman Ron Dennis has implied that disagreements over team sponsor commitments were a central factor in their failure to agree a new contract with Lewis Hamilton.

Despite offering their long-time driver what Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh has claimed on several occasions to have been the highest pay package of any driver currently in F1, Hamilton ultimately accepted what was believed to have been a superior rival financial offer from Mercedes and with it the challenge of helping take the Brackley team to the top of the sport over the next three years.

Prior to the opening of contract talks between McLaren and Hamilton's representatives, Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment, it had been strongly suggested that one of the changes to the existing agreement they would press for would be a reduction in the number of team sponsor engagements the driver was obliged to attend per season, along with further scope to source personal sponsors.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz in the aftermath of Hamilton's stunning victory for his soon-to-be-ex-team in Austin on Sunday, Dennis sought to put the record straight on the fall-out from the contract saga of the season.

While immediately denying media suggestions that his former protégé's decision to move to Mercedes had created any personal animosity between the pair, he strongly alluded to the sponsor issue as having proved a major sticking point in the talks.

"Obviously the media thinks there's some issue between Lewis and I - there's absolutely no issue between us. Sometimes the circumstances in a relationship don't balance, don't match," Dennis told Ted.

"We're a team that requires a lot out of a driver and if some other team is able to make a more attractive proposition in any shape or form then it's understandable that your driver's going to move.

"But if you look back on our history, our team is, without being too pretentious about our team, it is bigger than any driver. We've had Ayrton [Senna] of course and [Alain] Prost, Niki [Lauda], Mika [Hakkinen], Keke [Rosberg], we've had a hell of a lot of World Championships over the year and we're going to have World Champions in the future.

"It's important that everybody in the team is there for the right reasons, is focused, is determined to win and determined to make all sacrifices that are necessary to win. In our team that doesn't just extend to physical condition, medical condition, it also relates to how much work we have to do in and out of the car and not everybody has those sorts of issues."

Although Dennis did little to stop speculation that relations with XIX had however soured through the saga, wryly suggesting that "Simon only pops up when we win", he insisted that he hopes Hamilton continues to enjoy success in his career going forward and that he personally was "not upset".

Dennis also expressed complete confidence that McLaren would continue to win races and world titles even without their current star asset.

"I wish Lewis really, really well," the McLaren chief added.

"He's been nurtured well through his career and I feel none of the emotions that attribute to me. I am completely relaxed, I am not upset. Of course you think of the good times shared. We're a racing team that exists to win and that requires, as I said, a whole range of sacrifices and as I said some other teams don't have that requirement.

"But in the end we'll win races next year and into the future and, I hope, World Championships."

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