Lewis Hamilton: No regrets over contract discussions - McLaren

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer

McLaren say they have no regrets over their handling of contract discussions with Lewis Hamilton, who is moving to Mercedes next season.

McLaren initially offered Hamilton a pay cut, before raising their offer when they realised they might lose him.

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said: "We had a lot of conversations with Lewis's management team. I don't think I have any particular regrets.

"We made a very good and serious offer and weren't able to agree terms."

Sources close to Hamilton say he questioned why McLaren had made their initial offer, and whether it meant they were not that interested in whether he stayed.

But Whitmarsh said: "We put a lot of effort into trying to keep Lewis. He's clearly a great asset to any race team. We made a big effort.

"Ultimately, Lewis had to make a decision. He made one, and we must now look forward."

And he dismissed suggestions that he had underestimated the threat of Hamilton leaving.

"Lewis is a top-flight driver," Whitmarsh added. "We didn't underestimate his attractiveness to others in Formula 1.

"We knew Lewis would be in demand. That's why we made him an offer.

"The offer that we made was higher I believe than any other driver in F1 is currently receiving or will receive next year.

"I think it was a good offer. But there was clearly, we had to look at alternatives because we recognised there was a serious threat."

Whitmarsh said McLaren and Hamilton were now concentrating on trying to win both the drivers' and constructors' championships this season.

Hamilton is 52 points behind leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari with six races remaining and a maximum of 150 points available.

McLaren trail Red Bull by 36 points in the constructors' table, with a total of 258 points still up for grabs.

Whitmarsh said: "In one sense there is some clarity, we are committed to working as hard as we can to allow Lewis the opportunity to achieve a drivers' world championship and at the same time I believe Lewis is totally committed to working hard with the team to contribute to our assault on the constructors' championship."

If Hamilton does win the title, it would mean that his Mercedes car would carry the number one next season, rather than a McLaren.

But Whitmarsh said that was not a consideration.

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