Martin Whitmarsh hopes Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes move proves 'just a gap year'
McLaren boss admits he would happily welcome Lewis back
By Pete Gill and James Galloway. Last Updated: 24/11/12 3:05pm
Martin Whitmarsh has paved the way for Lewis Hamilton to return to McLaren after completing a "gap year" at Mercedes.
Picking up on Hamilton's comments to Sky Sports News on Thursday in which the 2008 World Champion likened his 2013 switch as "almost like leaving home and going travelling for a bit", the McLaren team boss confirmed that he would happily welcome the team's soon-to-be-former-protege back into the fold.
"We'd have him back, yes," Whitmarsh told Rachel Brookes. "So let's hope it's just a gap year."
Since news of his three-year Mercedes deal was announced, Hamilton's relationship with McLaren, which had appeared fractured during the contract saga, has seemed significantly warmer in public.
Hamilton's embrace with Whitmarsh on the podium following his victory in Austin last weekend was noticeably affectionate and the 2008 World Champion has been at pains to stress the strength of his relationship with his team boss of the last four seasons and ensure that he leaves the team for whom he has driven since boyhood without slamming the door behind him.
"We have an incredible relationship and I don't feel as though I am going out of McLaren through the back door," Hamilton said in the week that followed the bombshell announcement over his future in late September.
"I am going out the front door happily. The way I look at it is that I am walking over that bridge and down a different path. If that path brings me back - then who knows?"
Indeed, such is the emotion being provoked by his imminent departure that Hamilton has turned photographer for what will be - at least for now - his final weekend for the team.
"I'm savouring every moment of this weekend," said Hamilton at Interlagos on Friday.
"I'll be taking photographs of my engineers and mechanics through each day."
In an exclusive interview with Martin Brundle to be screened during Sky Sports F1's coverage of Sunday's Brazilian GP, Hamilton also drops a heavy hint that Sunday's race may not necessarily be his last for the team.
"Coming across here, this finish line, for the last time with the team 'til who knows when, is sad in many ways but it's also a beautiful thing in many ways as well because I'm going to start a new chapter in my life," he said.