McLaren-Mercedes F1 duo Lewis Hamilton
and Jenson Button
have spoken up in defence of the under-fire Martin Whitmarsh, insisting that the atmosphere inside the team is 'better than ever' and that it is 'absolute rubbish' that the Englishman's job is under threat.
It has been rumoured in the media that Whitmarsh could be vulnerable off the back of a comparatively poor start to proceedings in F1 2011 by McLaren's traditionally high standards – one marked by a car incapable of doing battle for victory on out-and-out pace and a litany of uncharacteristic errors.
That has been the catalyst for whispers that Whitmarsh – who assumed the role of team principal at the Woking-based outfit back at the beginning of 2009, but has yet to lead McLaren
to any world championship silverware over the intervening two-and-a-half years – may be in danger of finding himself replaced at the helm by his predecessor Ron Dennis, who remains an omnipresent figure inside the team.
Managing director Jonathan Neale, however, has stressed that the firm intention is for Whitmarsh to remain in-place 'for the long-term' and that such speculation is inevitable and 'all part of the media circus' [see separate story – click here
], and now Hamilton and Button – both of whom have expressed their frustrations with matters this year, the former in particular – have similarly publicly backed their boss.
“There's no chance of that,” Hamilton told Press Association Sport
, when asked about the likelihood of Whitmarsh being ousted from his post. “There is a better atmosphere within the team than there ever has been – it is constantly growing. He has been a part of the team for 23 years, so a part of the ups and the downs for many years, but he is doing a fantastic job. I am certain there are no plans for him to go anywhere, and we're all working as hard as we can – the team are doing a great job.”
“For me, he is a great person to work with, and I personally feel he is great for the team,” concurred Button, who suggested Whitmarsh is being singled-out as something of a scapegoat by the media. “He is very light-hearted in some ways, but very serious in others. He is very passionate about racing. It was said people are unsure of his position within the team, the engineers and mechanics – that's absolute rubbish. I know that's not the case from the team. Everyone thinks he is doing a good job, and the atmosphere is great.”
McLaren is the only team in F1 2011 to-date to have seen both of its drivers triumph, Hamilton in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai and Button in the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.