McLaren still upset over Alonso’s exitAugust 22nd, 2009 - 6:19 pm ICT by IANS
Valencia, Aug 22 (DPA) The infighting within McLaren-Mercedes in 2007, involving then team boss Ron Dennis and drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, belongs to the past, but it has not yet been forgotten.
Martin Whitmarsh, 51, who became the team’s new boss on March 1 after 20 years working within its ranks, admits his “massive regret” over the Spaniard Alonso’s departure.
“I have been here 20 years and you look back over the 20 years and you have some highs and lows and some regrets. A massive regret to me is losing a star like Fernando. He’s one of the greatest racing drivers,” Whitmarsh said Friday in an interview with DPA in Valencia.
As team boss, he is trying to leave behind the arrogance that marked the Silver Arrows under Dennis.
“A lot of people assumed that we had similar personalities, that I was the clone of Ron. We have a different style, a different approach. I want to have success in the team but, but I don’t necessarily have to do it in the same way,” Whitmarsh said of comparisons with his predecessor.
“Sometimes we’ve been too arrogant, we have to accept it,” Whitmarsh noted. “I have been always very open in the company, my style is completely open.”
Whitmarsh admitted that Hamilton’s debut, at the young age of 22, surprised everyone in 2007: It was supposed to be a year for him to get used to the top category of motorsport.
To fight for the title, McLaren-Mercedes had signed Alonso, who had just won two world championships with Renault and whose arrival had been announced one year in advance.
“Part of the reason that brought us to that situation is that Lewis was considerably better in his first year than all the team and Alonso had expected,” Whitmarsh recalled. “Lewis was a surprising phenomenon in his first year.”
Hamilton proved his talent, he fought for race wins from the start and the battle for the championship happened within the McLaren-Mercedes team, to Ferrari’s great joy.
Alonso wanted to be the number one driver, Hamilton was not willing to step on the brake, and Dennis - who had seen and promoted his British compatriot’s growth - did not want to make him stop.
British media found their messiah, a present and future champion. And they found him within a British team.
Alonso complained that McLaren-Mercedes was favouring his team-mate. And there were no winners within the team in that battle.
“I regret that we didn’t make it work,” Whitmarsh said. “It doesn’t matter whose fault, the only fact is that the relationship failed and we should have won the world championship in 2007.”
Hamilton finally lost a championship that had seemed to be in his pocket. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen got the longed-for prize by just one point, in the last race of the season in Brazil.
Alonso always excused Hamilton but blamed Dennis for not having made things work. And at the end of the season, he returned to his “home” in Renault.
“In this kind of situation there is no one’s person fault. The fact is that Fernando is an incredibly focussed, driven and competitive individual. So is Lewis. If you put all this together in one boat then occasionally there is going to be a disruption.”
“We failed to manage the situation. It was disappointing,” he added.
Alonso’s premature exit was the crystallization of this disappointment.
“I was involved and I have to say that I regret it, that it’s a shame, because he is a very good driver,” Whitmarsh said.
Time has healed the wounds to allow objective analysis, with both Alonso and Dennis out of the picture.
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Tags: arrogance, different style, fernando alonso, great joy, highs and lows, infighting, lewis hamilton, march 1, martin whitmarsh, mclaren mercedes, mercedes team, motorsport, new boss, predecessor, racing drivers, ron dennis, silver arrows, spaniard alonso, team boss, world championships