Whitmarsh masterclass gives nothing away
Journalists struggle to find a way through McLaren boss' defence
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: September 22, 2012 8:36am
Martin Whitmarsh: Remains tight-lipped about Hamilton's McLaren future
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has successfully failed to shed any light on Lewis Hamilton's future by treating Friday's Team Principals' press conference to a masterclass of tight-lipped diplomacy.
Not only was Whitmarsh subject to the bulk of the questions asked of the assembled panel, but his interrogations were almost entirely devoted to the ongoing issue of Hamilton's plans for 2013.
Varying between good humour, polite incredulity, and old-fashioned straight batting, Whitmarsh's watertight defence successfully dodged each of the verbal hand grenades tossed his way to leave attendees - and viewers on Sky Sports F1 - none the wiser to what the future might hold for McLaren's star driver.
Though it hardly amounted to riveting copy, it was hard not to admire Whitmarsh's skill as he successfully navigated his way through the inquest...
Question: Martin, there's been a lot of speculation recently. How much of a distraction is that for the team and for the people in the team?
Martin Whitmarsh: "I don't think it is. In the last three races, I think we've got more stronger and focused. I assume the distraction you refer to is Lewis, but I think that anyone who knows Lewis and who witnessed him last weekend - and this weekend - will say he is very, very focused on doing the job.
"I think he realises that this season we've a strong opportunity to win a World Championship and we all realise that the right thing to do is focus, improve the car, don't make mistakes, and maximise the points we can get from every race. That's what we are very much focused upon. I know there are lots of other stories and speculation that swirls around but I guess that's F1 and we're content to get on with our job quietly."
Question: Martin, you described as 'fantasy' reports that Lewis might be joining Mercedes. Do you still regard them as 'fantasy'? Or did you seriously under-estimate them?
MW: "I don't remember that..."
Questioner: I do
MW: "Good! But I think if you had told me he had signed a deal then I would have told you that it was 'fantasy', so in answer to the same question I would give the same response today."
Question: Do you accept that Lewis has had an offer from Mercedes?
MW: "I suspect Tony [Fernandes, sitting alongside the McLaren boss] has made him offer, he's a very good racing driver."
Question: Martin, you risk losing a driver. Have you started thinking about a replacement yet?
MW: "No, as I said earlier, we're only very focused on doing a good job here."
Question: Martin, why has it taken so long to sort out this situation? Even by F1 standards, it seems to have taken an age?
MW: "I know it seems a long time because of the speculation that people have made. But it doesn't when you sit down, and seriously put your mind to entering into a new contract, take too long. I think it's a question of priorities and other things we've been doing."
Question: Are you trying to pay him less money?
MW: "I'm sure he'll want more money and we'll want to pay him less! That's how business normally works."
Question: I can understand why you are laughing through the questions and that you're putting on a brave face but is part of you seriously appreciating that there could be life without Lewis from 2013 onwards?
MW: "It's not a case of putting on a brave face, it's a question of focusing on doing our job - and we're concentrating on this year's championship. Speculation on next year is not something we need to entertain or respond to so we're focusing on the here and now."
Question: So does that mean that there won't be announcement until after the end of the season because you need to focus on all the races?
MW: "We might wait until then, you never know!"
So what question would you have asked the McLaren boss?