Although the uncertainty about his future is now over, Lewis Hamilton admits it could be awkward when he walks into his garage at Suzuka this weekend.
The Japanese grand prix will be the first race in the Briton’s six-year career at which other McLaren team members know for sure that Hamilton is departing. The 2008 world champion has decided to switch to Mercedes for 2013, prompting Hamilton to admit: "It will be interesting walking into the garage (at Suzuka). "There are a couple of guys who work on my car have been there with me since 2007. "There are other people who have been in the team since I started and I have great relationships with them, and I have not had a chance to speak to them. "I told Martin (Whitmarsh) that I wanted to have a big get together in the canteen and speak to the team and answer any questions they may have."
Speaking at Tokyo’s Conrad hotel, Hamilton also admitted he is yet to talk to his former boss and mentor Ron Dennis, which suggests that their relationship is broken. "I did try to get hold of Ron, but I did not manage to speak to him," said Hamilton. "You will have to ask Ron if he feels that way," he added, when asked if Dennis would be right to feel betrayed after shaping Hamilton’s career since boyhood. Hamilton said he hopes he can leave McLaren after next month’s Brazil finale with his relationship with the team intact. "When I spoke to Martin I said that the plan was not to burn bridges. There was no unrest with McLaren." He admits the decision to switch to Mercedes was difficult, with his choice swinging "like a pendulum" in recent weeks. "It has been very, very stressful," said Hamilton. "One moment I would think ‘let’s go for it’, the next I would think ‘I’m going to stay’. "It was important to do it on my terms," he said, explaining his long deliberations. "I wasn’t going to be pushed and rushed, although there was a lot of pressure. I had a couple of deadlines, I didn’t meet any one of them."
He said that, ultimately, he made the call to leave McLaren because it is a bigger challenge to build Mercedes into a championship winning team. "I could have stayed and it would have been easy," he said. "They (McLaren) are an incredible team. They have the best facilities by far. The factory is untouchable; they’ve got everything, really, so in fact they should be winning more." Hamilton also denied it was a bigger financial offer that persuaded him to leave. "I had two offers on the table which were very, very similar. One had slightly fewer (PR) days but it was not about the offer. "Martin asked me what more they could have done. I said ‘to be honest, Martin, it is about the challenge’. "I don’t know what is going to happen. I just know that everyone has to experience these things, working with new people and in new environments. "That is just part of growing up. It’s my last step of independence, I guess."
And the challenge, Hamilton conceded, is trying to emulate the feats of "greats" like Michael Schumacher, who have in the past traded a winning car for a tougher project. "We haven’t really got any other driver in formula one (except Schumacher) who is known for that. I hope that one day someone can say that about me. "The way I look at it is that I am walking over that bridge (at McLaren) and down a different path. If that path brings me back, then who knows?"
Info: GMM, Image: McLaren