Team boss Martin Whitmarsh says he still doesn't understand the reasons why Lewis Hamilton elected to quit McLaren to join Mercedes for the 2013 F1 season – and has questioned if he is already regretting the decision.
The Briton confirmed back in September that he would leave the team after months of speculation suggesting he could be heading for pastures new, with McLaren then bringing in Sergio Perez as his replacement.
Much has been said about why Hamilton may have elected to make the move but, in an interview with the official F1 website, Whitmarsh said he didn't understand why the decision was taken.
“The simple answer is that I don't know,” he said. “Lewis would be able to answer that question much better than me. If I were speculating there are a number of factors and the prime one, I think, is that there comes a time when a man feels he has to flee the nest. I think it was a bit of that and a range of different emotions. He has been with us for so many years that I do not fully understand it.
“We made Lewis an offer - an offer, which I believe is more money than any other driver at the moment is being paid. That leads us to suspect that our competitor and our partner Mercedes-Benz offered a bit more money. I don't know that, but I think for Lewis made his decision. I am disappointed in one sense, but you have to focus on going forward.”
Prior to the decision being made, Whitmarsh said he was sure that Hamilton would extend his contract with the team, and the team boss said he had held that view right until the moment when Hamilton broke the news following the Singapore Grand Prix.
That race had seen Hamilton retire from the lead and Whitmarsh said he felt the 2008 title winner may have rushed into the decision based on what happened in F1's annual night race.
“Honestly I didn't think that he was going to leave,” he said. “I was surprised, but I was not shocked. He told me right after Singapore and I am pretty sure he hadn't made up his mind until after Singapore - the Monday or Tuesday after Singapore. I think it is always bad to make a decision in the aftermath of a bad race. He was pretty sure that he was going to win that race and it was a disappointment and as I just said it is never good to make a decision in such a situation. I respect his decision, but I believe that he would be better off with us - we are the stronger team - and we intend to beat him next year!”
Whitmarsh also said he felt Hamilton may have regretted his decision, even if it was something the Briton wouldn't admit to publically.