Martin Whitmarsh has reflected that Lewis Hamilton's not-so-secret meeting with Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner in the Montreal paddock over the weekend of last month's Canadian Grand Prix was 'a misjudgement'.
Having expressed his frustrations on a number of occasions this season with McLaren-Mercedes' seeming inability to provide him with a title-challenging car – for the third successive campaign – Hamilton's name has for months been linked with a switch to current runaway world championship leaders Red Bull.
Both sides have been at pains to play down the speculation, but Hamilton's brief discussion with Horner in the RBR motorhome in Montreal – albeit described as merely a social visit – set tongues wagging once more and poured fuel onto the fire. Whitmarsh concedes that in the light of all the rumours swirling around at present, it was perhaps a little naïve of his driver not to think it would be pounced upon and scrutinised by the media.
“It was a misjudgement by Lewis because it gave ammunition,” the McLaren team principal told the Daily Mail
. “I feel sorry for Lewis, because I know he is a little bit more sensitive than me on these subjects. I went to see Christian, too, and I don't think I am going to join Red Bull next year!”
The Woking-based outfit's managing director Jonathan Neale has also dismissed notions of a Hamilton/Red Bull tie-up as just 'silly season' talk [see separate story – click here
], whilst having already asserted that he 'doesn't give a toss' about the criticism aimed in his direction by the likes of triple F1 World Champion Niki Lauda [see separate story – click here
], the 15-time grand prix-winner has now hinted that Nigel Mansell and Jacques Villeneuve would similarly do well to butt out of his business.
“I find it kind of funny and am not sure anyone really cares what some people think,” he caustically observed. “If you have an opinion, just keep it to yourself.”
“I'll take my driving style to my deathbed, for sure,” the 26-year-old added in an interview with BBC Sport
, in the wake of suggestions that his on-track aggression – most in evidence in Monaco and Montreal, with four collisions in two races, including with his own McLaren team-mate Jenson Button – had crossed the line. “People overreact to everything. You make a squeak and people overreact to it. That's the way of this world. You have to turn it into a positive, so you just laugh it off. People will have opinions, and that's life.”
“When you have some difficult races, when maybe you're trying too much, you have to calm down a bit,” countered Ferrari's Felipe Massa, one of Hamilton's Monaco victims. “It would be better for him, too, because he was paying for it – he was penalised in a few races – and it wasn't just with me, he even hit his own team-mate! Lewis is a clever guy, though, and I'm sure he already knows this...”