'No driver is bigger than McLaren'

Martin Whitmarsh insists life will continue at McLaren after Hamilton

By William Esler.   Last Updated: 29/09/12 10:39am

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A defiant Martin Whitmarsh has vowed that "no-one is bigger than the team" as McLaren turn their attention to a future without the departing Lewis Hamilton.

One of the longest running transfer sagas in Formula 1 history finally came to an end on Friday when it was confirmed that Hamilton would join Mercedes.

Whitmarsh, however, remains adamant that McLaren can still prosper without the 2008 World Champion.

"Since 1966 we have won over 25% of all those Grands Prix, whatever the driver line-up. We are a great team, no-one is bigger than this team and I think we look forward to a great line-up," the McLaren chief told The F1 Show.

Asked how it was that McLaren had lost their star asset to a team which has won just a single race in the last three years, Whitmarsh explained: "We had lots of talks, went into lots of details and drew up lots of complex contracts. We negotiated lots of details and lots of freedom - it was a very good commercial offer that we made."

Hamilton's place will be taken by Sergio Perez. The highly-rated Mexican has signed a multi-year deal with the British team and Whitmarsh believes there is no reason why Perez can rise to the considerable challenge of replacing the driver who Sky F1's Martin Brundle believes is currently the quickest on the grid.

"He is the most exciting young talent in Formula 1 today," Whitmarsh enthused.

"We consider ourselves very fortunate to pull in someone of that talent. I think we have proven we can take young talent and develop them into World Champions and that is our mission now with Sergio."

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2009 World Champion Jenson Button will remain with McLaren and will lead the team as it embarks on a new era. And Whitmarsh expects the experienced 32-year-old, who will race in his 14th season in F1 next season, to help nurture Perez, ten years Jenson's junior.

"Jenson has great experience, he is someone who is a real asset to this team," Whitmarsh continued.

"I spoke to Jenson yesterday and he confirmed to me that we made a great choice in Sergio and he is looking forward to working with him.

"Jenson will be able to help us nurture and develop Sergio; he has got that spirit, he's that sort of personality. But, he will want to beat Sergio and Sergio will want to beat him."

It is well known that Perez brings substantial backing from his native Mexico to his current Sauber team, but Whitmarsh was quick to dismiss any thoughts that this was a factor in his capture.

"He is not a pay driver, he is being paid a lot of money," he stressed.

"Sponsorship was not a factor - we picked Sergio because he is the most exciting young talent in Formula 1. Do I believe there will be some exciting commercial opportunities in the future? Yes. Have we looked at them yet? No. We concentrated on getting the best driver line-up we can have for next year."

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