Lewis Hamilton in publicity storm over ‘McLaren quit’ remarks

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton has suggested he might leave McLaren
Lewis Hamilton has suggested he might leave McLaren

Several British newspapers are running stories this morning claiming Lewis Hamilton has said he might leave McLaren.

Hamilton has a contract with the team up to 2012 and has previously said he wants to spend his whole career with the team.

He is quoted in The Guardian saying:

I haven’t had offers from other teams and I am not talking to anyone but I would listen to an offer if someone asked. It would be a compliment and it would be silly if I did not.

Thanks to Jay Menon for the tip. The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail and others have all picked up the story.

The Press Association is now quoting Hamilton playing down the remarks:

I’m happy where I am. It doesn’t really have any grounds. All I said was that it’s quite cool if you find out other teams are interested in you. It’s good to know you are wanted. I honestly want to see out my career with McLaren. I do feel it’s my family, it’s where I am right now and it’s where I’m happy

On the face of it Hamilton’s original quote seems innocent enough – but it is a departure from what he has said before and I can understand why it’s been spun into a story.

Last week we were discussing how cautious and PR-sensitive Hamilton usually is, but it seems he has failed to exercise the same care with his words this time. These are not the kind of headlines McLaren needs as it heads into a tough weekend, and Hamilton has inadvertently invited a year’s worth of questions about whether he’s going to jump ship.

Is Hamilton really thinking about leaving McLaren on the even of what looks to be a difficult race for the team? Or is this the press giving him a hard time and spinning a spurious story out of a few innocuous quotes? Have your say in the comments.

More on Hamilton and the media

85 comments on “Lewis Hamilton in publicity storm over ‘McLaren quit’ remarks”

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  1. I think Lewis is right – if someone else has a good offer, any half-decent F1 driver would at least listen to it. But the thing is, he said more than what needed to be said.

    But I want to know what he was asked first, so that I can better understand the context of his answer.

  2. I’d say he’s not at all interested in leaving the team, just typical media hype, there’s really very little news that’s news worthy so most of it’s made up.

    i’d also agree his original quote was true, i’d listen to offers too, it would be flattering and also give you insight to what other teams think and what you could use in future negotiations.

    highly doubt he will jump ship, he’ll do a button, stick with the team through good and bad.

  3. schumi the greatest
    26th March 2009, 8:32

    Hmmmm….maybe hamin is just sounding out the fact that if the mclaren is as bad as many fear this year that he would be willing to jump ship. He does often say how he would like to become one of the best of all time and spending a few years struggling in midfield wont help him achieve that. i think this is a sign that hamilton, like all great drivers, will do anything to win.

    personally i think that mclaren are off the pace and hamilton knows it but if one team can turn it around it would be mclaren. also given the fact that hamilton has now won a world championship the pressure is off to some extent, i thought this year we would see hamilton emerge as the best driver on the grid, ctting out the immature mistakes of the last 2 seasons and see much more commanding drives from him. However with the mclaren off the pace we can see hamilton get the absolute maximum out of the car without the pressure of a championship fight, like alonso last year. this 1 season of struggling could really help his career in the long run.

  4. Yes, we need the full context for these remarks. It would be interesting to compare his answers to say Alonso and Old Schuey being asked similar questions in the past….

  5. Martin Bell
    26th March 2009, 8:33

    Hilarious stuff, the usual quote-out-of-context,-that’s not-what-I-meant, kind of thing. Can’t wait for the hundreds of posts from Hamilton fans in a the-press-are-always-out-to-get-him, poor-old-Lewis kind of thing. Tedious, but hilarious. Come on LH fans!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I’ve obliged below. He needs someone fighting his corner dontcha think?

  6. I’m guessing McLaren will be better than we expect this weekend…anyone else spotted the new diffuser they have on the car…??

    1. Nope – got a picture?

    2. Nope. Here is what one of my friend says:

      Kovalainen told Finnish media that McLaren hasn’t been sandbagging. They believe they can recover in time, but at the moment they’re lagging behind and are not expecting much from this weekend.

    3. Nope that picture is an “old” diffuser.

      Tested March 19th at Jerez:

      Go to the bottom of the page. The diffuser slightly higher is from March 18th.

  7. Them’s negotiating words

  8. It’s the bloody press that are tedious…. !

    They’re most of ’em not even on nodding aquaintance
    with reality…or truth !

    The sooner this recession kills off most of the c**p
    the better for all of us !

    1. Well said leon

  9. Wow, Hamilton is already subtly setting expectations that he won’t stick around at the back of the pack with McLaren like Button did with Honda all these years…

    I’m sure the quote is being overblown by the media but I’m also sure that the tone if this remark is quite different than any other he has made on the topic in the past. Before it was always, “Why would I consider leaving McLaren? No, never” (to paraphrase).

  10. He immediately backtracked what he said:

    Just hours after admitting that he would “listen to an offer from another team if someone asked me”, the 24-year-old has performed a u-turn, saying he has no intension of leaving McLaren.

    “I’m happy where I am,” the defending world champion said. “It doesn’t really have any grounds. All I said was that it’s quite cool if you find out other teams are interested in you. It’s good to know you are wanted.


    1. Ali, that same quote is already in the article.

    2. Oops, sorry for that, you can delete it.

  11. Keith, disingenuous questions there I think. You should know by now that Lewis just has to sneeze and a million newspapers run a story twisting it and turning it into whatever spin they want. Please don’t act like you don’t know this. He tries to be careful with his words because he knows the consequences of saying ONE thing that could be construed as controversial. But then when he doesn’t make a comment, he is also flayed by the media, forums, fans, commentators, bloggers etcetera etcetera. It must be really tiresome for him, and he’ll probably never get used to it because he’s only human. No other driver has to endure this kind of media scrutiny – it’s probably because he is the only black driver, the most popular worldwide and the champion, and the fact that the media are all over him because he is the most charismatic.

    As for his comments, if you asked any driver if they would be open to offers, if they were honest they would say what he said, which is that he would listen to them and be complimented by the interest, but that they are probably happy where they are for the moment. God, I can see what sort of season it’s going to be AGAIN.

    1. Please don’t act like you don’t know this.

      I didn’t.

      No other driver has to endure this kind of media scrutiny

      Rubbish. How many times did Alonso get asked if he was leaving Renault last year?

    2. Alonso may have been asked, but there was never the same level of media storm as has surrounded this “story”.

    3. Huges, maybe not in the UK, but the alonso media storm is big, just as big as the massa media storm in brazil… but you’d know about that because you live in brazil and no the UK.

      he is the most charismatic, his ‘no comment’ last week was riveting, aside from all that, the media storm behind him – and most people in f1 is big, that take 2 words in one context and throw it into another context.

      end of the day, the media is the problem!

    4. No offense Hughes, but unless you know Hamilton personally you can’t act like an expert yourself – you have probably learnt all you have about him from the media itself. If you’re going to look at every single article about him (which I think you’ve said before you do) then it’s not going to be all rosy, especially when sensationalist tabloids are concerned. For other media, like this site, all that is done is conveying what others have said, without the perceived venom.

    5. Cry baby. Move on.

  12. A non-story. Sensible enough comment to have made in private, bit silly to have told a journalist on the record. A better line would have been “I’d be flattered but I’m spoken for” – but always easier to see that in hindsight.

  13. I think ‘publicity storm’ is a bit of a stretch. He says something just before the season starts, the press report it in their own way, he clarifies his words, the press report that too.

    Having watched the news on four different channels this morning, this story wasn’t mentioned once. What was mentioned, however, was the fact that the Brawn diffusers passed scrutiny and the threatened appeals have been made… which seems considerably more newsworthy to me.

    1. My apologies – Sky News are carrying the story on their interactive text, but not on their news round-up.

    2. Obviously there’s a distance between what Hamilton’s said and the way it has been reported – e.g. from “I would listen to an offer” to “sensationally admitted he could quit McLaren“. But that kind of reportage is going to have a significant effect on popular perception of Hamilton. I wouldn’t take what the press are saying at face value and nor would most readers of this site.

      Equally, I don’t think many people are surprised to see the cars have passed scrutineering and the appeal is going ahead. There’s already lots of discussion going on about the diffuser story:

      Red Bull will protest Brawn GP diffuser

      F1 2009 Technology: Rear wings, diffusers – and the inevitable controversy

      Diffuser issues set to overshadow Melbourne (forum)

    3. You’d expect that kind of thing from the Sun though, reputable redhead tabloid toilet paper that it is.

  14. He just wants some love or even some appreciation for someone.

    1. haha, don’t you think he gets enough of that from Ron and the McLaren fraternity, not to mention Nicole and all his female admirers? :)

  15. Just seems they’ve put a big spin on what he said to write a story. I think he’ll stay at McLaren as long as they are strong. But he don’t take losing well, no world champ ever does. If McLaren go bad I could imagine him moving just to stay on top.

  16. Hehe, I find it rather amsuing that the media took that quote to mean ‘he might leave Mclaren’ – I have now read that quote several times, and I still dont think it suggests anything of the sort. Completely taken out of context.

    I cant see him ever leaving Mclaren personally, but its a fact of the game that he will get other offers – of course he will – and like he said, its a compliment – cant see him acting on it though, he is very much a Mclaren man!

    1. Same here- he’s a product of the McLaren system, and as long as he keeps in top form, I can’t see McLaren letting him walk out the door.

  17. I dont think if Mclaren have a poor start to the season that it means they will be a midfield team for several seasons. I can see them starting poorly and then improving. they have not got things right yet but importantly, they have a strong and focussed team. so whatever happens in the long run they will right up there with the leading teams.
    whatever the question asked was, Hamilton should really have been more careful with his words. I guess its a sign of his frustration and clearly he knows that he does not have a winning car at this moment in time.

  18. Good to see he’s now joined the GPDA:


    Which other F1 drivers aren’t in it? I think Raikkonen isn’t.

    1. i don’t think massa is in it either.

    2. actually dont think sutil is either… really should check the googles.

    3. Raikkonen spilt beer on the application form…

    4. Anthony Davidson wasn’t a member either, Kimi and Massa aren’t. Massa left last year because he didn’t like the way it was run.

  19. To be honest I would be surprised if he didn’t have a performance clause in his contract, governing the teams performance.

  20. There’s a possibility Hamilton may be making a comment like this out of frustration with McLaren’s current form, or possibly even to put pressure on McLaren to improve.

    More likely, Hamilton was just making an honest and innocent comment that is being overblown by the media.

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