Sky F1 Exclusive: Whitmarsh Q&A

Martin Brundle asks the questions after a busy two weeks at McLaren

Last Updated: 05/10/12 11:24am

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A full transcript of Martin Brundle's interview with Martin Whitmarsh during Sky Sports F1's coverage of Practice Two at Suzuka in which the McLaren boss discussed Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and the team's ongoing World Championship push...

Martin Brundle: I couldn't help but feel in Singapore that you thought Lewis was staying with you. I've know you a long time, you really thought he was staying with you didn't you?
Martin Whitmarsh: "At times I did, but clearly I am not right all the time."

MB: When was the first time you found out he was leaving?
MW: "Lewis called me on the Wednesday after Singapore and that was the definitive. I spoke to him on Wednesday and on Thursday but the decision had been made."

MB: So you then quickly moved for Sergio Perez. Clearly you had been talking to him for a while just in case Lewis jumped ship. Why Perez?
MW: "He is very young. I have met him. He is very bright and I think he is acknowledged as the rising star of Formula 1. If we look back at last year, he set the fastest lap at Monaco as a rookie, and this year of course he has done some great giant-slaying and [scored] podium finishes as well. What we see is someone enormously talented, very young, who has potential, and we will see if he can become even better."

MB: He was part of the Ferrari driver academy. Is there still a piece of elastic there? Can they get him back in future years?
MW: "Not for a few years anyway - we have strong elastic! No, there is no elastic, it was very amicable with Ferrari - frankly, I didn't talk to them until after the event, but they congratulated us on signing him."

MB: Who did he beat to get the drive? It is a plumb drive, obviously Lewis decided he would rather be somewhere else, but who did Perez beat to get that?
MW: "Well I think Paul Di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg - there are no real surprises there. They are both under contract, but both are undoubtedly available to us and I think they are both are very good drivers. I think what we have with Sergio is someone who is perhaps less developed but has masses of talent, who doesn't make mistakes and is a very good racer. He is now at the same age as when we brought Lewis to Formula 1, so a little bit more experienced than Lewis had at that point. But I hope we can really polish him into a real gem and he can start winning races."

MB: So was it a close call? Why Perez over Hulkenberg and Di Resta?
MW: "I think it was a very close decision, because I think they are two very good drivers. But we were looking at potential and I think what we were trying to do was pick someone who was going to progress beyond where they are now. We think he will, but we don't know. Obviously we believe that and a lot of other people do as well."

MB: If Lewis Hamilton wins the World Championship in your car and takes the number one to Mercedes next year, how will that make you feel?
MW: "If he wins the World Championship I will be jumping around and at that moment I won't be thinking about next year. I'm not worried about the number one. We have six races to focus on and if we can win those six races then, who knows, we might be able to win one or two Championships along the way. So that is the focus and we are certainly not going to hold back thinking 'he is going to take number one next year'. We'd like to finish this year winning six races, winning two World Championships and I will be quite happy for three or four hours after the last race if we do that."

MB: But you would rather Jenson won the race this weekend rather than Lewis now surely?
MW: "No, we are going to give both our drivers equal opportunity as always. Lewis is in a slightly better position with Jenson handicapped a bit [by a five-place grid penalty], but he is awesome around here. He did an incredible job in the race last year and will be looking to again. If we can get a one, two on Sunday, I don't care in what order."

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