McLaren chief lauds Hamilton for 'humanity'

As Martin Whitmarsh officially takes over today from Ron Dennis as team principal at McLaren, he confesses that he has two overriding concerns: to win the first race, in Melbourne at the end of the month, and see Lewis Hamilton retain his World Championship title.

Whitmarsh joined McLaren a year after Ayrton Senna won his first World Championship in 1988, and was instrumental in bringing on Hamilton, who he believes stands comparison with the great Brazilian.

"Early in 1990 Ayrton ripped the bottom out of the chassis of a McLaren MP4/5B when he spun at Silverstone," says Whitmarsh. "He walked into my office at the factory and apologised for writing off the car. And there was me, I had been in the industry two minutes! He was a charming individual who never failed to find every opportunity to gain a psychological advantage. And he had that massive intensity to him, though he was always polite.

"I first met Lewis as a kid when he was at the dinner where he first approached Ron, and I placed him in Formula Renault, Formula Three and GP2 before we decided to give him his chance to race at McLaren. So the relationship is different. The incredible thing with him is the depth of his humanity. That can occasionally make him vulnerable, but he has matured extraordinarily into a man and a world champion and has not changed as much as I would have feared.

"Ayrton had fewer dimensions, just that pure intensity, whereas Lewis is a fuller human being and his humanity is the great strength that gives him a fuller life. They both had charisma, whereas some of the greats have been nasty bastards.

"Lewis is less impervious but manages it all incredibly well and has been battle-hardened unlike any other. He wanted to be world champion since he was eight and now he is. That can be an anticlimax and I think after Brazil last year he did have a little bit of a dip because he'd done it. But now he wants to prove he is a multiple world champion and the pressure is back in a very positive way."

Whitmarsh is relishing the chance to take the reins. "Ron and I have common views, but I am not an Identi-Kit of him. On the fundamental issues of how to go motor racing we are very similar in how we approach things. We want to provide the best technology and opportunities for both of our drivers."

But he is acutely aware that form is hard to predict. "Our car is good and we will be bolting on a fair amount more performance to it, but who knows? Maybe others have done better and found something we haven't.

"I am a competitive person and being team principal adds a little zing this year. But in 12 months' time I don't want to be the team principal who did not help Lewis to win the World Championship again, so that does add pressure."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album