Lewis Hamilton has taken advantage of the brief interlude in F1's hectic run towards Interlagos by returning to say goodbye to behind the scenes members of the team that nurtured him to world championship success.
The Briton, who is headed to Mercedes to begin a three-year deal in 2013, took time out to visit the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking to catch up with both team members and Vodafone customers for the final time. Despite having decided to sever ties with McLaren after six seasons in F1 - and many more on his way up the racing ladder - the occasion proved to be an emotional one for the 27-year old, who admitted that leaving friends behind was tougher than deciding to risk his career at a team further down the grid.
"I'm massively proud to have worked for McLaren for so long," he was quoted by Britain's Sun
newspaper, "I still remember the day I first went to the old McLaren factory when I was 13. I've spent half my life at McLaren, [and] the team, the cars, the place, the people - they'll always be special to me.
"The challenge of moving to Mercedes will be working with that team's engineers to take a car that doesn't win regularly, and turn it into a car that does, like my McLaren.
"I hope to bring great success to Mercedes, but McLaren will always have a special place in my heart."
Hamilton heads into the final four races of the year driving for pride, as he accepts that it is unlikely that he can overhaul either Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso at the top of the championship after back-to-back frustrations in Singapore, Japan and Korea. Having won twice in three race between Hungary and Italy, the Briton's best finish since has been the fifth place he took at Suzuka, and he goes into this weekend's second Indian Grand Prix 62 points behind new leader Vettel.