Friday, April 17, 2009

Hamilton not upset by Dennis exit

Dennis and Hamilton have had a close working relationship for many years

Lewis Hamilton has insisted that despite being surprised at the exit of McLaren mentor Ron Dennis from Formula 1, he was "not disappointed".


Dennis, who stepped down as team boss in January, handed over complete control of McLaren Racing to team principal Martin Whitmarsh on Thursday.

"I wasn't disappointed," said the 23-year-old. "I was surprised."

Hamilton said Dennis would remain key in his life - but admitted he did not know why he had chosen to leave now.

"Ron has been a huge force and support in my life, and he still plays a key role in my life," he told a news conference after Friday practice at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

"Whether or not he is in the team or not, I think you guys have been writing about it for years that as soon as he gets to a certain stage he will move aside.

"I guess I don't know why he decided to do it now."

Dennis ended his 43-year involvement in F1 at a time when McLaren, whose car Hamilton drove to the world title last year, are under intense pressure after a series of on and off-track troubles.

McLaren - who have failed to register a podium finish in the season's first two races - are set to face the sport's governing body, the FIA, on 29 April to answer charges of breaching the International Sporting Code.

That comes after the British team were found guilty of misleading race stewards following the Australian Grand Prix, which led to Hamilton being disqualified from the race.

And 61-year-old Dennis - who insists that the timing of his departure from F1 was "purely coincidental" - admitted his absence may well be welcomed by two of F1's biggest names.

"I admit I'm not always easy to get on with. I admit I've always fought hard for McLaren in Formula 1," he said.

"I doubt if [FIA president] Max Mosley or [F1 commercial rights holder] Bernie Ecclestone will be displeased by my decision."

Martin Whitmarsh has also suggested that Dennis' departure may improve the team's standing with the FIA.

As executive chairman of McLaren Automotive, Dennis will now concentrate solely on leading the group's project to develop a range of pure McLaren sports cars, with the launch date for the first model set for 2011.

The future of Hamilton, who is contracted to McLaren until 2013, has been subject to scrutiny since events in Melbourne - but he insisted on Friday that he was not looking elsewhere.

"I'm contracted to the team and I'm happy where I am," he said.