Dennis admits McLaren could have kept Hamilton

2013 F1 season

Lewis Hamilton, Ron Dennis, Spa-Francorchamps, 2010Ron Dennis says McLaren could have kept Lewis Hamilton in its team for 2013.

Hamilton left McLaren to join Mercedes for the 2013 season.

Speaking to the magazine of the Confederation of British Industry in December, Dennis said: “Did we have the ability to create a situation where we could have stayed together? Categorically, yes.”

“Would that have been the right thing to do? We didn?t think so.”

Dennis added: “Whatever people choose to do at the end of a contractual period, the professional thing to do is to be supportive of the other side.

“We don?t wish him every success at Mercedes ?ǣ that?s understandable, as he?s obviously going to be a competitor ?ǣ but we don?t wish him anything negative.”

“I think it?s wrong to portray that Lewis left this team. At the end of the day, you end up with a situation where you?re going to separate if the circumstances aren?t right.”

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94 comments on Dennis admits McLaren could have kept Hamilton

  1. Jim Baahr said on 4th January 2013, 13:32

    For me it was like this: Witmarsch did not care for Hamilton’s wins, he was out to prove that Jenson Button was the better driver. It did not quite work but if you notice – evebn when Lewis won, Whitmarsch would speak about Jenson first and make very limited comments on Lewis’ achievement. Now that Lewis is gone, I think Whitmarsh cannot escape scrutny. I believe he will NOT be with MacLaren next season if he is not gone before that. Jenson will not perform well in 2013. Perez will be carrying a heavy load of having to fill Hamilton’s shoes. He may crumble under that pressure. This will be good for Jenson as he will then be able to get away with underperforming.

    The most interesting thing last season was the growint respect or ‘love affair’ between Alonso and Hamilton. It’s a beautiful thing as the drivers each realise what a privilege it is to drive in the same epoch. I would not be surprised if that bond grows stronger now. I certainly expect Mercerdes to dominate from here on and Lewis will surprise a lot of people. Rossberg will also surprise in that he will be on the podium with Lewis more often that his whole career so far. It’s going to be an interesting season in which Mercedes will face complaints from other teams who will accuse them of bending the rules after Lewis makes a clean haul in the first 6 races. Buttun will slide and may be equaled by Perez even. Besides Hamilton, Vettel will be one of the top drivers in 2013 together with Alonso. By the end of the season Nico will become one of the most stable drivers and he deserves that title already – I think.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th January 2013, 13:55

      Whitmarsh did not care for Hamilton’s wins, he was out to prove that Jenson Button was the better driver. It did not quite work but if you notice – even when Lewis won, Whitmarsh would speak about Jenson first and make very limited comments on Lewis’ achievement.

      No he wasn’t. Here’s Whitmarsh’s press quotes from three of Hamilton’s wins, chosen at random, one from each of the last three years. There is nothing in this that supports what you’ve said:

      There’s no doubt about it: today we saw a truly fantastic race and an utterly brilliant victory. Apart from one heart-stopping excursion, Lewis was in command of things from lights to flag, and drove prodigiously well all afternoon – all weekend, in fact. From the moment he went out on Friday morning, he was palpably excited about being here at Spa, and it was clear that he always felt confident that a win was on the cards. He really is at the top of his game at the moment. He’s back at the head of the drivers’ world championship standings too – and, but for Sebastian, we’d be leading the constructors’ world championship as well.

      Clearly, had Jenson’s race not been ended by Sebastian’s error, Jenson would have scored a hatful of world championship points – and today is therefore a deeply frustrating day for him. He drove superbly – he’s so good in changeable conditions such as we saw today – but he’s very mature and I know he won’t let this setback get to him.

      Finally, I want to say a big ‘well done’ to everyone at McLaren Racing in Woking and at
      Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines in Brixworth, without whose relentless efforts we wouldn’t be back where Vodafone McLaren Mercedes belongs: at the front of the field, on the top step of the podium, in rocket-red victory T-shirts, spraying champagne.

      Monza? Bring it on!
      Martin Whitmarsh, 2010 Belgian Grand Prix

      “What can I say? Lewis was perfect in qualifying, and perfect in the race, and the result was perfect too.

      “He made a brilliant start from the front row, storming past Mark [Webber] into the lead, and then nailed the first few laps.

      “After that, the team made all the right strategy calls, and the pitcrew executed the pitstops faultlessly, under extreme pressure.

      “It was a gripping race, real edge-of-the-seat stuff, with all three teams involved operating at the top of their form. When that happens, the victory is particularly hard-won – and mighty satisfying too.

      Believe me, this success will be celebrated loud and long in Nürburgring and Woking tonight – and in Brixworth and Stuttgart too, homes of Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines, whose home Grand Prix this is. As always, their engine was superb today.

      “Jenson had a difficult weekend, however, and his race ended prematurely today as a result of a hydraulic failure. He’ll be disappointed, inevitably, but he’s a magnificent team player, and a fabulous driver, and I’m sure he’ll bounce back in Budapest next weekend.

      “As for Lewis, well, I reckon his 16th Grand Prix victory was one of his very best: a scintillatingly authoritative performance that all too clearly underlines what a fearsomely competitive individual he is.”
      Martin Whitmarsh, 2011 German Grand Prix

      “Lewis drove a perfect race here at Monza today, and duly took a well-deserved victory – his 20th grand prix win and McLaren’s 180th.

      “In truth, he was in total control throughout all 53 laps, and was never really threatened.

      “We should have scored a one-two finish, but Jenson was deprived of an easy second place by a fuel system problem. That’s frustrating for him and frustrating for us, but the important thing is that our car is a winner. We’ve now won three grands prix in a row, and both our drivers are on top form.

      “Lewis has now closed up to second place in the drivers’ world championship, with seven grands prix still to run. It was his third victory of the season, and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ fifth. The momentum is with us, and the drivers’ world championship crown is well within Lewis’s grasp. In the constructors’ championship, too, we’re in good shape.

      “Winning is what Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is all about. In Singapore in two weeks’ time, we’re planning to do some more of it.”
      Martin Whitmarsh, 2012 Italian Grand Prix

      • Oople said on 4th January 2013, 14:01

        Love how in all three, Button’s race had ended due to some external influence/car failure :P

      • William Brierty said on 4th January 2013, 15:47

        So Keith, you’re saying that Whitmarsh is not bringing praise back to Jenson by saying…

        He drove superbly – he’s so good in changeable conditions such as we saw today – but he’s very mature and I know he won’t let this setback get to him.

        he’s a magnificent team player, and a fabulous driver, and I’m sure he’ll bounce back

        Jenson was deprived of an easy second place (ignoring the fact that Perez almost certainly would’ve passed him)

        You’ve made a bit of a fool of yourself here Keith, because the way Whitmarsh seems to overestimate Jenson’s potential result had he not been taken out is a fantastic illustration of favoritism. I would estimate that post race press releases after Jenson had won and Hamilton retired would a) not describe Hamilton’s efforts so favorably and b) be much more upbeat in tone.

        • sonia luff (@sonia54) said on 4th January 2013, 16:40

          So Whitmarsh was over estimating where Jenson would finish, seems to me the same as Lewis fans over estimating where he would have finished in races.A case of a lot of people having crystal balls

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 4th January 2013, 17:09

          Did you miss the terms like “utterly brilliant”, “prodigious”, “perfect”, “storming” to describe your driver? Can you show me where Whitmarsh referred to Button first in any of those instances, as “Jim Baahr” suggested? Or how saying that Hamilton “was never really threatened” suggests that Button is the better driver?

          What do you expect from Whitmarsh when LH wins, a frikkin’ parade?

          • Oople said on 4th January 2013, 17:47

            Well put.

            Whimarsh has to mention Button as, you know, he is part of the team.
            TBH, he probably had to mention Button more than in other races, perhaps, as Button DNFed, and had to respond directly to that.

            You’ll find the exact same type of response in reverse. If Button wins, it’s “Tremendous drive by Button.” + “Shame for Hamilton/ Also drove a superb race.”
            Which is exactly like what Keith posted above, but with the names swapped around.

      • Jim Baahr said on 4th January 2013, 17:39

        Can’t argue against facts but I always felt the bias of Whitmarsh towards Button shining through. I will be watching the MacLaren team with keen interest.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 4th January 2013, 16:25

      This man has a huge set of crystal balls.

  2. William Brierty said on 4th January 2013, 13:33

    This is utter codswallup. In May last year Santander withdrew 40% of their sponsorship, condemning McLaren to 4th position on the F1 teams rich list. This meant, as Ron said after the Canadian GP, McLaren were not able to match salaries paid out in “economically easier times”; such as Hamilton’s previous contracts and Button’s CURRENT contract. Put plainly, McLaren were not able to match Button’s salary without infringing on their already dwindling technical budget. The cold, hard truth is that Hamilton left McLaren, quite sensibly, for the sake of a no. 1 status, the perks of being a “works team” in 2014, commercial freedoms and the larger technical budget of Mercedes; and to avoid becoming Ron’s whipping boy. There is no romantic flight of the nest, because Hamilton has quite rightly noted the fact that McLaren wasted the MP4-27 this year, is struggling financially (hence Perez, not Hulkenberg) and hasn’t won the WCC since 1999, and concluded that he has a better chance of success with Mercedes. I agree.

    So what are you saying Ron? That you consciously chose Perez over Hamilton? That you got rid of the fastest driver in the world (not the most complete) for the sake of a 9 year old with a big piggy-bank? No Ron, not even you are that conceited. No, you couldn’t afford to keep him because you are currently experiencing the most financially austere winter since 2002, when you were only left with a shoe-sting to build the MP4-18 with. McLaren are on the downturn, just wait and see.

    • Jim Baahr said on 4th January 2013, 13:43

      Even if they are on a downturn (and I agree), I bet you they will be back in 2016 with Perez as the lead driver and Button gone.I also think Whitmarsh will also be long gone.

  3. celeste (@celeste) said on 4th January 2013, 13:41

    Well I don´t think that Mclarean idea to let go on Hamilton is that, maybe Dennis should get and spoker person to not come as dumped girlfriend, but in all I think it was a good administrative decision.

    Is obvious that Hamilton´s behavior wasn´t helping the team. And more than one time this subject have been debated in this site, because for every bit of talent that Hamilton has there is actitude problems that hasn´t help him get tittles (and yes I do know that Mclarean have made mistakes too in the past 2 years).

    Sometimes a work relationship just go sour and is better to “break up”, so if Dennis and Mclarean decided not to offer more money for Hamilton, I respect their decision.

  4. The Limit said on 4th January 2013, 13:52

    Reading this I wonder if Ron Dennis secretly regrets supporting Hamilton back in 2007 instead of Alonso, and losing the Spaniard in the process. Back then that seemed impossible, but the way Hamilton and McLaren have fallen out begs the question. How and why is it that McLaren go through so many world class drivers more so than say Red Bull or indeed Ferrari?
    McLaren and Dennis especially have always modelled themselves as the team that supports both their drivers equally, but something obviously does not work. Raikkonen and Alonso both tired of McLaren’s ‘way’ of doing things, Juan Montoya only lasted one and a half season’s with them. These are all much respected and sought after drivers, anyone would want them in the team.
    Dennis, at some stage, has to look in the mirror and admit that it is his fault and McLaren’s fault that they lost Hamilton. Lewis is not innocent, he has reacted at times with extreme petulence and arrogance. He was put on a pedastal and you have to look at who put him there. Fernando Alonso as we know is no angel either, but McLaren like it or not lost one of the greatest drivers ever when the backed Hamilton and that was a mistake.
    There second blunder was to put Martin Whitmarsh incharge and last but not least to have not produced a consistently fast car since 2008, and even then, they nearly threw that season away. Hamilton basically tired of McLaren and they of him, but I find it equally interesting that Dennis seems more focused on the past and not 2013. Does he behind closed doors look at his current driver line up and go ‘oh s##t what did we do’? He doesn’t mention Sergio Perez, he doesn’t mention how Jenson Button will do as the team’s #1 driver and team leader. And they think they can beat Vettel or even Alonso, their old ‘associate’. I don’t think so, as long as there is clouds in the sky . There is more chance of the world’s economy coming out of recession and going into another boom than there is of McLaren becoming champions in 2013.

    • Brace (@brace) said on 4th January 2013, 14:25

      From Alonso-Hamilton pairing, which is without exaggeration one of the strongest lineups ever (imagine having both of them on your team in 2012!!!), they go into 2013 with Button-Perez…

    • I’ve always felt that McLaren is where some of the great’s are made and then they proceed to further pastures to cement their greatness or flounder. Perhaps the greatest driver of all time, Ayrton Senna, won his first (and indeed all) of his titles in a McLaren. Alain Prost won his first driving for the Woking team (and went on to enjoy success at Williams). Hamilton obviously won a title with them too, so that begs the question will he win another (or several) at Mercedes?

    • Guccio (@concalvez00) said on 4th January 2013, 16:13

      @The Limit said I’m sorry but Alonso is simply not that good as the press and his fans trying to make him, i mean why does Alonso need No1 status if he is ”so called” the most complete driver, team mate to move over for him, team mate to be penaltylised so he can benefit from ?

      • Dizzy said on 5th January 2013, 18:23

        Alonso is simply not that good as the press and his fans trying to make him

        So why do other F1 teams, Drivers & engineer’s also praise Alonso as been the best?

        You can ignore some bias in fans & certain segments of the media can also show bias, However when you have people from other teams praising Alonso based solely off there data & when you have other drivers doing the same then its clearly not just fan/media spin or bias.

    • ” There is more chance of the world’s economy coming out of recession and going into another boom than there is of McLaren becoming champions in 2013. ”

      I somehow despite being a ” former ” Mclaren fan , seem too glad to hear that statement . Maybe , I am more of a lewis fan .

  5. I actually would quite like to see Hamilton being successful at Mercedes (even though he isn’t my favourite driver to say the least)! I would pay to see Ron Dennis’ face if Hamilton won a title in 2014 (as I don’t see it likely he can win next year)!

  6. tmax (@tmax) said on 4th January 2013, 16:42

    Seems like the case of Sour Grapes for Ron Dennis …..

    It was obvious that Martin Whitmarsh badly wanted to keep Hamilton in the team. Ron’s Remark contradict that as if it was just another driver who left the team. It does not seem to be the true situation. He is trying to make it look like there is no difference between Heikki and Lewis moving out of Mclaren.

    No wonder of-late the best talents had huge issues with Ron at Mclaren that includes Montayo, Kimi, Alonso and Lewis. !!!!

    I Wish Lewis really turns around Mercedes and Be the WDC for 2013.

    • tmax (@tmax) said on 4th January 2013, 17:21

      Needless to say Greats like Prost, Senna and Adrian Newey who could not survive at MclAren for long. I mean Newey too had a bad experience. He wanted to leave the team early but the was held back contractually for one or 2 more year if I am not wrong by legal means.

      All this begs a question – Is Ron Dennis really making McLaren a bad place for the the talents or IS Mclaren really worth the hype that they get ? . Apart from the Senna / Prost Years of late 80s we are yet to see a domination from them. Even with having Newey with them for almost 10 years.

      Who knows Newey might be secretly regretting his years at McLaren as time wasted !!!!!

    • It`s plain wrong to portray McLaren as a team that is hard on their drivers, McLaren demand a lot from their drivers but has also given a lot of talented drivers a chance they would not have been given by other big teams.

      There is a lot of talk here about drivers and Newey leaving McLaren, and that is true, they have all left. What people tend to forget is why they left. Let me sum it up:

      Prost left because of the war with Senna. there was no going back, either Prost had to go or Senna had to go. There was nothing McLaren could do under the circumstances, they had given both drivers equal opportunities.

      Senna left Mclaren because his main priority was to win at all cost. McLaren (as the rest of the teams on the gris except Williams) were on the back-foot technically, Senna concluded that he wouldn`t have a chance unless he got into that Williams. Sadly we know what happened..

      Mika Hakkinen was indeed Ron Dennis favourite driver. He was fast, reliable, not demanding and extremely loyal to his employer. Do not forget that Hakkinen outqualified Senna in his first outing for McLaren.

      Newey is a special person, almost an artist. He wants and needs the freedom to express himself and does not respond well to very strict systems. Mclaren is very well organized with different people responsible for different parts of their organization. That didn`t suit Newey. Ironically it`s probably this structure that has enabled McLaren to be among the top teams for almost 50 years. The team does not depend on 1 or 2 guys`and is able to come back when key-personell move on. That`s part of McLarens philosofy.

      Montoya was also a free spirit that didn`t respond well to systems and dicipline. Brilliant when he was on his game but less so when he was not. He left F1 alltogether as he had a problem with F1-life in general.

      Raikkonen left McLaren for Ferrari, and most top drivers in the world will take a seat at Ferari if they get a chance. Back in 200672007 this must have been very tempting as the Ferrari was the fastest car in the latter part of the 2006-season. I`ve never heard Raikkonen say anything bad about Mclaren or critizise them in any way. of course he was gutted by the reliability in 2003 and 2005 but still there`s mutual respect between McLaren and Raikkonen. If Perez doesn`t succeed and Lotus struggle in 2013 I wouldn`t be surprized if Raikkonen was offered a seat at Mclaren and accepted a drive.

      Alonso`s departure is the only one for whom McLaren and Ron Dennis must take full responsibility. When Alonso arrived on a high he had been given promises by ron Dennis, Alonso was on top of the world and expected to continue his winning ways. At the start of the season he struggled with tyres that were new to him while Hamilton was shining. Ultimately Ron Dennis couldn`t resist the temptation of supporting Hamilton in the internal battle. It`s a business after all, and Ron Dennis is a businessman. In Hamilton he thought he had it all, young, talented, exotic, British and successful. This was a golden opportunity for McLaren, there were lots of money to be made. Alonso felt betrayed and we know what happened. There was no way back for either party.

      This brings us to Hamilton and his departure. He`s been at McLaren for 6 years and has only one title to show for it. He should have won the title in 2007 if not for his own mistakes and he should have been in contention for the 2010-title as well if not for his own mistakes. In 2012 he should have been in contention for the title again if nor for McLaren`s mistakes. There`s a lot of blame to go around here on both sides. I bet each party has felt the other has let them down on numerous occations and the wear eventually takes it toll. I actually believe Ron Dennis when he says it wouldn`t be right to press on at all cost. Furthermore I wouldn`t be surprized if McLaren puts up a stellar season in 2013.

  7. jimscreechy (@) said on 4th January 2013, 18:18

    So many seem to liken Ron’s comments to sour grapes, well I think he has every right to feel sour about the turn of events. He, Mclaren, and Lewis Hamilton had a special relationship you don’t often see in F1. It was built over many years with a lot of personal involement, mentoring and financial expenditure. The fact that he is bitterly dissapointed is expected and quite normal. More so because I also think he never really thought Hamilton would leave. Lets face it, Hamilton couldn’t have gone to Ferrari with Alonso’s veto (Massa unconfirmed at the time), the Red Bulls were contracted up and Mercedes (from a realistic point of view within the paddock) weren’t really a competitive option. I think Mclaren simply thought they could play hardball because Hamilton had nowwhere to go. I have abolutely no doubt Ron is full of regrets Hamilton has left particularly because the sticking points of the contract negotiations (if the reports are to believed) were not insurmountable. Is it even realistic to expect him to act as though he has no regard for the unfortunate turn of events? Acting nochalant and pragmatic is a skill people have had to learn because of media attention and intrusion, its a black art not everyone can master and personally I don’t always see the point. Additioally, I ultimately think Martin Whitmarsh is to blame for the failure of Mclaren to win both the WDC and the WCC. His mismanagement of the the team is beyond reproach and he should be SACKED!

    • Nice post mentioning everything .. and towards the end the bitter truth . The possibility success of Mclaren in 2013 revolves around the car and to certain extent the tyres . I Hope Merc steps it up a bit so that BUT and HAM can have a deja vu moment during the races.

    • Jim Baahr said on 5th January 2013, 5:43

      Hey buddy, saying “beyond reproach” is actually very, very positive but then “should be SACKED”? That seems contradictory, don’t you think?

      • jimscreechy (@) said on 5th January 2013, 6:43

        not if you know what ‘reproach’ means

        • Jim Baahr said on 8th January 2013, 16:57

          I have a feeling you don’t understand the meaning of “beyond reproach” so here is something to help you out. If this fails to convince you then YOU ARE RIGHT and STICK TO YOUR GUNS :-)

          beyond reproach : not to be criticized These were men of outstanding character who were beyond reproach.
          See also: beyond, reproach
          Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2003. Reproduced with permission.

  8. PhotoFinish said on 4th January 2013, 21:27

    Lewis is great driver and probably one of best 2 at the moment.
    In McLaren he was supported by more then 700 hard working people in order for him to be able to be competetive at the top notch.
    However he needs to realise that you win as a team and you loose as a team…….
    I feel that McLaren was supopose to do bit better job for Lewis, however the otherway around applies the same way if not even more. Bit more support to the team when things are going wrong was missing from his side.
    This might be indication that a time for a change was simply overdue.

  9. I said a while back McLaren should have kept Lewis as he was probably the best option for them, but now it seems not only SHOULD they have kept him, but they COULD have kept him.

  10. Sergio Perez (@sergio-perez) said on 5th January 2013, 3:10

    I think this is actually quite an emotional interview from Dennis. He’s a man not known for his emotional outbursts, but he does sound bitter with Lewis Departure. It reminds me of his outburst on the Senna/Prost Mclaren clash in Suzuka, where Senna was banned for restarting after the chicane. Dennis probably cared for Hamilton. Anyway, this is also a way to protect the Mclaren “brand”: Like Ferrari and Williams, Mclaren is one of the most prestigious and historic teams in the field, and outlasted many “Legends”. This is his way of saying so, and, in my view, rightfully so. Hamilton, as much as I like is driving style, still a single World Champion and started his career in a Mclaren. Let’s see if he is good enough to gain again a spot in one of the top 2 historic teams ( in my view) of Formula 1.

  11. The Limit said on 5th January 2013, 13:11

    McLaren in recent years remind me of Williams a decade ago. Fast, can win grands prix, but are too inconsistent to win championships. If the Santander saga has damaged McLaren’s financial abilities as some have suggested, I find it hard to believe that this scenario is going to improve. I have always believed that if a team as great as once were can hit the buffers, as they did in 2011, then so can McLaren. So can any team to be quite honest.
    F1 is a very fickle business, and with the economy like it is no one is taking any risks. If I were a major sponsor looking at F1, McLaren’s current lineup would make me nervous. You know that Red Bull and Ferrari a safe bets, and you ‘USED’ to be able to say the same about McLaren. If, and its a mighty ‘IF’, Mercedes can get their thumbs out of their backsides in 2013 and build a halfway decent car, anything is possible. Personally, I think Lotus will be the ‘third’ team to watch this year I really do. With Raikkonen leading the way, and if Grosjean learns from past errors, I believe they have a stronger line up than McLaren and one on par with that of Mercedes.

  12. At the end of the day Ron has to respect his CEO of McLaren Racing and Team principal Whitmarsh. It’s easy to understand. Jenson is a Whitmarsh signing whereas Lewis was Ron`s signing. With Whitmarsh in charge, he is naturally biased towards his signing. Jenson has to look good or it reflects on Whitmarsh. Jenson was given garentees with his contract in 2011 when Lewis was under-performing in the same car and one wonder’s why,but that was all Whitmarsh’s doing right,. It is wrong to believe that Lewis was eyeing more money, what he wanted was a #1 status like Alonso and Vettel that Ron could not deliver, even though this season, Lewis destroyed Jenson completely. The only thing that made it look close were the retirements.
    I really wish Lewis well next year and if he listens to Lauda and Brawn he should be a massive threat for McLaren.

  13. acherco said on 5th January 2013, 14:49

    According to lewis he told martin that he was going to mercedes and martin said his there anything we could have done better and lewis said no i just need a new challenge and he tried to inform dennis, but for 2 weeks he couldnt reach him as he wouldnt speak to him. In the press all he did was criticise lewis management company. He told lewis to inform all their sponsors of his decision. from what have gathered, dennis never expected lewis to leave even with a pay cut as he know lewis wants more wins than money and only mcclaren can provide that apart from red bull. there are three world class drivers out there, vettel, alonso and lewis, none of them are in mclaren. Lets now move on . button needs to improve on q3 otherwise he will struggle. i for one dont know how the tyres will perform this year. if its the same as last season then its going to be a long season for him. he seem to struggle a lot with trying to warm up the tyres.

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