Lewis Hamilton has rubbished fears that McLaren's performance will drop off as a result of Mercedes-Benz rescinding its 40 per cent share in the team in order to purchase a majority stake in rivals Brawn GP – stressing that with 'the best engine in F1' still behind him, he and the Woking-based outfit will remain leading contenders in 2010 and beyond.
The Stuttgart manufacturer's 75 per cent takeover of F1 2009 World Champions Brawn – in a move that will see the Brackley-based operation re-baptised Mercedes Grand Prix from next season onwards – means that whilst the three-pointed star will still be involved with McLaren, it will henceforth be merely as an engine-supplier, as part of an ongoing agreement until the end of 2015.
The split has arisen off the back of a succession of incidents that increasingly drove Mercedes out of the exit door, from the highly embarrassing 'Spygate' saga of 2007 to Hamilton being caught deliberately lying to race stewards in Melbourne earlier this year and the abject early-season form of the low downforce-shy MP4-24 chassis.
There was also understood to be a good deal of disdain in Germany when McLaren announced its intention to build more of its own sportscars and supercars as well as its own engine without
Mercedes' help – placing the two companies in direct competition with one another. Prior to the official divorce confirmation just under a fortnight ago, the writing had already been on the wall for some time.
“It doesn't concern us too much, because until 2015 we are still getting the engines from Mercedes,” 2008 F1 World Champion Hamilton – contracted to McLaren until 2012 – is quoted as having said by the Daily Mirror
. “The relationship will remain very good, even if I would prefer that nobody else gets the engine except us.
“My personal relationship with Mercedes has become closer over the years, and I wish them all the best. It's great news for Formula 1 that they are continuing while other manufacturers are getting out. The Mercedes is definitely the best engine in Formula 1.”