Regrets? Martin Whitmarsh has a few as Lewis Hamilton prepares to leave McLaren
McLaren boss admits 'We are all at fault' for failure to add to 2008 title
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 04/11/12 4:09pm
Martin Whitmarsh has expressed his regret and frustration at the imminent prospect of Lewis Hamilton leaving McLaren with just a single World Championship to his name.
Hamilton's association with the team for whom he has driven for boyhood will come to an end at the end of the year following his decision to transfer to Mercedes for the 2013 campaign. Having been unable to keep pace with the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel and the relentless consistency of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso this year, Hamilton will depart as a one-time champion after failing to add to his 2008 title.
For most drivers, any title would be a crowning and sufficient achievement, but for a driver of Hamilton's speed and talent, a single championship represents a meagre haul - as Whitmarsh has now acknowledged.
"Yes," the McLaren team boss responded when asked by The Daily Mail whether he thought Hamilton should have added to his tally.
"All of us are at fault for that. We've still got an extraordinary record and have had some fantastic races, but between us, with Lewis and the team, we could have done a better job together than we did."
Speaking to Sky Sports News in the Abu Dhabi paddock in the wake of those comments being interpreted in some quarters as a suggestion that Hamilton has under-performed, Whitmarsh clarified that the McLaren team accepted collective responsibility for the shortfall of silverware.
"I know it's been cast this way this morning in the newspapers [that it was Hamilton's failure] but what I said is, yes, he should have won more championships and we could have done a better job as a team," the McLaren chief told Craig Slater.
"We could have been more reliable, we could all do [more]. Lewis is part of this team so we don't point fingers at anyone. I was very clear in what I said about taking that responsibility but clearly it's more entertaining in the newspapers to cast it as I was suggesting Lewis hasn't done a good enough job.
"He's done a great job, we haven't always done as good a job as we'd like to, but we both know rather ruefully we should have had one or two other World Championships in his time."
To compound Whitmarsh's sense of frustration, the McLaren team are without a Constructors' Championship this century and Whitmarsh himself has yet to win a title since replacing Ron Dennis five months after Hamilton's 2008 success.
"Arguably we have been too conservative and risk-averse in regulation interpretation," Whitmarsh conceded in a separate interview with The Guardian. "Given our brand and our position, I think we are more risk-averse.
"There are things that have happened which, had our engineers come to me and said we're going to do this, I'd have said forget it. I'd rather campaign for clearer, less ambiguous regulations.
"It's the old Benetton effect, isn't it? Benetton - and I'm trying to avoid [mentioning] the obvious one today - Benetton was a brand that enjoyed controversy for their particular consumer. And there are some major brands in this paddock which like a little bit of that, whereas our brands don't tolerate it. There are teams that appear to have racier interpretations on regulations and resource restrictions."
Asked about those remarks as he faced up to the cameras ahead of qualifying in Abu Dhabi, Whitmarsh reiterated his impression that his team had been more risk-averse than most.
"I think we have, given our brand, got to make sure we're within the spirit of the regulations," he said.
"So I think we're a little bit risk averse but I think the challenge is to do a better job and make sure we interpret fairly and reasonably the regulations. But there's a limit to how far you can go in pushing them - certainly in our case."