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Whitmarsh: Drivers should be free to race

28 March 2013

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh has insisted that the current situation between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel wouldn't have been allowed to develop within McLaren.

Webber was angered by Vettel's decision to overtake him for the lead of the Malaysian Grand Prix despite a call from the pits for the duo to maintain position in the closing stages of the race.

Although Vettel issued a grovelling apology afterwards, Webber was left furious at the defending champion – leaving Red Bull to pick up the pieces and trying to prevent a meltdown in the relationship between its drivers.

Speaking in the aftermath of the race, Whitmarsh insisted such a situation wouldn't be allowed to occur at McLaren, with the team having always insisted that its drivers are free to race and wouldn't be subjected to orders in how to race.

“You cannot accept drivers not taking team orders,” he told the Sun. “The team is bigger than any driver and they have got to respect that. It is very serious affair if you tell a driver to do something and he doesn't do it and it could also be a breach of his contract.

“In terms of how you treat your drivers. We always try to treat them fair and openly and they know where we stand. We are run to a situation where we want both our drivers to win if they are within a chance of doing so. That has created some uncomfortable moments with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in the past.

“When you are the team principal and you see drivers making contact you get people asking you what you are going to do. But I always say 'let it run' and you know if it goes wrong you have to be prepared to say I got it wrong.”

Whitmarsh also pointed to the 2007 season as one when McLaren could have won the title had it elected to employ team orders. Instead, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were left free to race, and were beaten to the championship crown by the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.

“I don't want to criticise any team who does things differently because in 2007, we could have won the championship if we favoured either of our drivers,” he added. “But for me, if we sat in an office in Woking and decided who was going to be champion for 2007, it doesn't feel right. Of course I am disappointed that it was a world championship which we gave away but I also feel that we did the right thing.

“I remember talking to both drivers before the [final] race and said that if they wanted to win the world championship, then they to be able to look themselves in the mirror and say 'I won it' rather than 'I was given it'.

“Other teams take a different views and have their own priorities on how they want to run, but we are a driver-centric team. If I was a racing driver, I would find it very difficult, doing something as dangerous and demanding as that, knowing that I could have my opportunity taken away.”


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