Martin Whitmarsh has revealed that McLaren-Mercedes made a bid to secure the services of Sebastian Vettel three years ago – and provided the highly-regarded German 'continues to develop so fantastically', when his current contract expires at the end of 2012 he admits they will try again.
McLaren team principal Whitmarsh has been open in his criticism of Vettel recently, branding the 23-year-old – who competes for the Woking-based operation's chief title rivals Red Bull Racing – a 'crash kid' following his contentious and impetuous comings-together with team-mate Mark Webber in Istanbul and defending F1 World Champion Jenson Button at Spa-Francorchamps three weeks ago [see separate story – click here
“Under pressure this year, Sebastian is making just too many mistakes,” the Englishman told German publication Sport Bild
. “Also, his collision with Mark Webber in Turkey, for me, was 95 per cent his fault.”
However, his high-profile errors notwithstanding, Whitmarsh and McLaren clearly still hold Vettel in extremely high esteem, and as he conceded to having tried to sign up the Heppenheim native to replace the departing Fernando Alonso at the end of 2007 – only to find the offer vetoed by Red Bull – the 52-year-old reflected that the sport's youngest-ever grand prix-winner is still very much on his team's radar for the future.
“I am open and honest enough to admit it,” Whitmarsh confessed. “Sebastian is one of the great and promising talents, and we at McLaren wanted to have him. Unfortunately, we were not able to sign him at that time – but if he continues to develop so fantastically, then at the end of his contract I will try once again to get him.”
If they do genuinely wish to try to poach Vettel away from RBR, McLaren will likely have a fight on their hands, with the energy drinks-backed outfit's team principal Christian Horner having quipped earlier this year that he is keen to retain his protégé until 2028, and having tabled an offer to the seven-time grand prix-winner that should he accept, would keep him at Milton Keynes until at least the end of 2015 [see separate story – click here
Another school of thought behind Whitmarsh's surprise admission is that it has been aimed at destabilising Vettel so that he takes his eye off the ball and focusses on the future rather than the present on-track action as the F1 2010 title chase reaches fever pitch.