Lewis Hamilton has conceded that he perhaps 'misinterpreted and misunderstood the goals' at McLaren-Mercedes during his rookie year in F1 in 2007 – an acrimonious campaign that degenerated to such an extent as to prematurely drive embittered team-mate Fernando Alonso out of the team come season's end.
The recipe of the reigning double world champion alongside an ambitious and highly-rated debutant at Woking that year on paper had all the ingredients for a highly successful challenge, with conventional wisdom going that the apprentice would learn from the master in order to equip himself to be able to launch his own all-out assault on glory the following season. Only things didn't quite work out that way.
Not only was Hamilton faster than Alonso had anticipated, but he also seemed to have precious little inclination to play the subservient role of second fiddle to his illustrious team-mate, immediately generating tension inside the team, with the spectre of 'team orders' rearing its ugly head in Monaco. By the time the hostilities spilled over onto the track with a tit-for-tat qualifying spat at the Hungaroring mid-summer, the pair were scarcely any longer on speaking terms, with the Spaniard very publicly claiming that he was not being treated on equal terms.
There followed an unsavoury episode during which Alonso allegedly attempted to blackmail team principal Ron Dennis over the espionage row, and when the fierce in-fighting and mutual disdain culminated in both drivers missing out on the crown by just a single point to Ferrari rival Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix finale at Interlagos, for the Oviedo native it was the final straw. Never mind the fact that he still had two years left remaining on his contract – he was off.
Hamilton's subsequent team-mate Heikki Kovalainen has also made noises about McLaren being very much the Briton's team – to the detriment of the man inside the other cockpit – and fears have been expressed that in entering the lion's den as it were, reigning F1 World Champion Jenson Button is simply lining himself up to suffer a similar fate in 2010, unwittingly preparing himself to simply be chewed up and spat out.
The 2008 title-winner, predictably, disagrees, and whilst he recognises with the benefit of hindsight that errors were made three years ago with regard to the manner in which he handled the situation alongside a driver of similar calibre to himself, the 25-year-old is adamant that he had learned from his mistakes and that he and his fellow countryman have already struck up a strong working relationship.
“It's different [now],” Hamilton stressed in an interview with BBC Sport
. “We've learned from experiences and we (he and Button) understand each other very well. At the beginning of my first year I was up alongside the two-time world champion, and he was seen as the guy to win the world championship. I think at the time I misinterpreted and misunderstood the goals and the understanding of how the team worked.
“Since I've been here, they do everything to give us individually the best package possible. I've never had more than the guy next to me; we've always had equal opportunity, which is the greatest thing in a team. It's not easy to manage that, because one guy can be ahead of the other.
“Inevitably people say things sometimes when they haven't done so well. You say things out of anger; you say things that you potentially don't mean. That's how I see it from the others.”