Posted On Saturday, October 06, 2012 at 08:34:36 AM
McLaren will ‘never say never’ to Lewis Hamilton returning to them one day even if that looks unlikely at the moment, team principal Martin Whitmarsh said on Friday. Hamilton, McLaren’s 2008 Formula One world champion, has signed a three-year deal with rivals Mercedes and will take retiring Michael Schumacher’s place there at the end of this season.
The British driver assured reporters ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix that he was not leaving McLaren through the back door and that the path he had chosen to take could ultimately bring him back.
“Yes, certainly, I think it is (possible),” Whitmarsh said. “But he’s joining a strong team in Mercedes and I don’t think he’ll be coming back any time soon. “I’m sure they’ve got a good contract... and I don’t think Lewis’s intention is to hop from team-toteam on an annual basis. “But never say never and we’ll see what happens in the future,” he added.
There is a notable precedent for Hamilton, with four times world champion Alain Prost starting his Formula One career at McLaren in 1980 before moving to Renault for three years and then returning to win titles. Hamilton’s 2007 team mate Fernando Alonso, now the championship leader with Ferrari, moved to McLaren from Renault and then went back to his previous team after an ill-fated season.
Whitmarsh also played down a suggestion by Hamilton on Thursday that he knew all about next year’s McLaren, with the driver telling his Mexican replacement Sergio Perez that it was sure to be good. “I think he knows the people and what we’re trying to do but I don’t think there’s any great secrets in that,” he said. “I think if I was pursuing intellectual property from other teams, I’d probably go for engineers not drivers.”
Schumi crashes, webber sets the pace
Michael Schumacher crashed out of Japanese Grand Prix practice on Friday, a day after announcing his retirement, while Australian Mark Webber set the pace for Red Bull.
Schumacher, a seven times champion and winner six times at Suzuka, went wide into the Spoon corner and lost control with the car slewing sideways into the tyre wall. The 43-year-old German removed the steering wheel, extricated himself from the cockpit, patted a marshal on the back and helped tidy up some debris before walking away.
He had been fifth fastest in the morning. “I had to go to the medical centre...but I’m 100 percent okay,” said Schumacher. “I think I was already concentrating on too much on the corner ahead of me and therefore had a wheel on the dirt and went off.”
Di Resta too slips off
Force India’s Paul Di Resta had earlier gone off at the same place, a slip that left him without a timed lap in the afternoon session. His team mate Nico Hulkenberg was fourth fastest. Webber’s best lap of one minute 32.493 seconds was the quickest of the day after McLaren’s Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton had led the opening session at one of the classic drivers’ tracks.