McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has once again moved to defend Lewis Hamilton after his difficult 2011 campaign, insisting that the Briton remains a 'truly brilliant racing driver' and 'one of the fastest we've ever seen'.
The 2008 title winner endured a difficult season last year, with a number of issues both on and off track playing a part in him finishing the campaign down in fifth place in the championship standings.
Despite that, and the fact that he was beaten by a team-mate for the first time since making his debut in 2007, Hamilton was one of only three drivers to win more than one race and Whitmarsh was quick to defend his man when quizzed by the official F1 website about whether he had had 'a serious chat' with Hamilton over the off-season.
“Just as most teams have never and will never win six Grands Prix in a single season, as McLaren did last year, it's equally true to say that most drivers have never and will never win three Grands Prix in a single season, as Lewis did last year,” he said. “Indeed, some of the most compelling highlights of last season's on-track action - from the point of view of a racer's sheer talent shining through - were provided by Lewis. In China, in Germany and in Abu Dhabi - and in many other places besides - he was awesomely impressive.
“Nonetheless, you described 2011 as 'a tough season' for Lewis and undoubtedly there's some truth in that. But, such is the level of his ambition that he's his own sternest critic. Sometimes, therefore, when things don't go quite right for him, he lets it get to him. We saw that last year sometimes. But it's a measure of his competitiveness, a side-effect of his monumental will to win.
“As such, we wouldn't want Lewis any other way. He's a truly brilliant racing driver - one of the fastest we've ever seen. And that's why, throughout last year, we were always keen to reassure him that we were backing him 100 per cent.”
Whitmarsh added that people would do well to remember the success Hamilton has enjoyed thus far in his career and not focus too much on the difficulties he faced in 2011.
“People have short memories, don't they?” he said. “Lewis has been an integral part of McLaren for more than half his life. He's part of the McLaren story and part of the McLaren family, too. He knows that. Equally, he's been phenomenally successful in the five seasons he's spent with us as a Formula One driver.
“He's been in contention for the drivers' world championship until the last Grand Prix of the season in three of those five seasons, and of course he won the drivers' world championship for us in 2008. Overall, his record of 17 Grand Prix wins from 90 Grand Prix starts places him in the very top rank in Formula One's metaphorical hall of fame.”