Lewis Hamilton in publicity storm over ‘McLaren quit’ remarks

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Lewis Hamilton has suggested he might leave McLaren

Several British newspapers are running stories this morning claiming Lewis Hamilton has said he might leave McLaren.

Hamilton has a contract with the team up to 2012 and has previously said he wants to spend his whole career with the team.

He is quoted in The Guardian saying:

I haven’t had offers from other teams and I am not talking to anyone but I would listen to an offer if someone asked. It would be a compliment and it would be silly if I did not.

Thanks to Jay Menon for the tip. The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail and others have all picked up the story.

The Press Association is now quoting Hamilton playing down the remarks:

I’m happy where I am. It doesn’t really have any grounds. All I said was that it’s quite cool if you find out other teams are interested in you. It’s good to know you are wanted. I honestly want to see out my career with McLaren. I do feel it’s my family, it’s where I am right now and it’s where I’m happy

On the face of it Hamilton’s original quote seems innocent enough – but it is a departure from what he has said before and I can understand why it’s been spun into a story.

Last week we were discussing how cautious and PR-sensitive Hamilton usually is, but it seems he has failed to exercise the same care with his words this time. These are not the kind of headlines McLaren needs as it heads into a tough weekend, and Hamilton has inadvertently invited a year’s worth of questions about whether he’s going to jump ship.

Is Hamilton really thinking about leaving McLaren on the even of what looks to be a difficult race for the team? Or is this the press giving him a hard time and spinning a spurious story out of a few innocuous quotes? Have your say in the comments.

More on Hamilton and the media

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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85 comments on “Lewis Hamilton in publicity storm over ‘McLaren quit’ remarks”

  1. I think Lewis is right – if someone else has a good offer, any half-decent F1 driver would at least listen to it. But the thing is, he said more than what needed to be said.

    But I want to know what he was asked first, so that I can better understand the context of his answer.

  2. I’d say he’s not at all interested in leaving the team, just typical media hype, there’s really very little news that’s news worthy so most of it’s made up.

    i’d also agree his original quote was true, i’d listen to offers too, it would be flattering and also give you insight to what other teams think and what you could use in future negotiations.

    highly doubt he will jump ship, he’ll do a button, stick with the team through good and bad.

  3. schumi the greatest
    26th March 2009, 8:32

    Hmmmm….maybe hamin is just sounding out the fact that if the mclaren is as bad as many fear this year that he would be willing to jump ship. He does often say how he would like to become one of the best of all time and spending a few years struggling in midfield wont help him achieve that. i think this is a sign that hamilton, like all great drivers, will do anything to win.

    personally i think that mclaren are off the pace and hamilton knows it but if one team can turn it around it would be mclaren. also given the fact that hamilton has now won a world championship the pressure is off to some extent, i thought this year we would see hamilton emerge as the best driver on the grid, ctting out the immature mistakes of the last 2 seasons and see much more commanding drives from him. However with the mclaren off the pace we can see hamilton get the absolute maximum out of the car without the pressure of a championship fight, like alonso last year. this 1 season of struggling could really help his career in the long run.

  4. Yes, we need the full context for these remarks. It would be interesting to compare his answers to say Alonso and Old Schuey being asked similar questions in the past….

  5. Hilarious stuff, the usual quote-out-of-context,-that’s not-what-I-meant, kind of thing. Can’t wait for the hundreds of posts from Hamilton fans in a the-press-are-always-out-to-get-him, poor-old-Lewis kind of thing. Tedious, but hilarious. Come on LH fans!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I’ve obliged below. He needs someone fighting his corner dontcha think?

  6. I’m guessing McLaren will be better than we expect this weekend…anyone else spotted the new diffuser they have on the car…??

    1. Nope – got a picture?

    2. Nope. Here is what one of my friend says:

      Kovalainen told Finnish media that McLaren hasn’t been sandbagging. They believe they can recover in time, but at the moment they’re lagging behind and are not expecting much from this weekend.

    3. Nope that picture is an “old” diffuser.

      Tested March 19th at Jerez:

      Go to the bottom of the page. The diffuser slightly higher is from March 18th.

  7. Them’s negotiating words

  8. It’s the bloody press that are tedious…. !

    They’re most of ’em not even on nodding aquaintance
    with reality…or truth !

    The sooner this recession kills off most of the c**p
    the better for all of us !

    1. Well said leon

  9. Wow, Hamilton is already subtly setting expectations that he won’t stick around at the back of the pack with McLaren like Button did with Honda all these years…

    I’m sure the quote is being overblown by the media but I’m also sure that the tone if this remark is quite different than any other he has made on the topic in the past. Before it was always, “Why would I consider leaving McLaren? No, never” (to paraphrase).

  10. He immediately backtracked what he said:

    Just hours after admitting that he would “listen to an offer from another team if someone asked me”, the 24-year-old has performed a u-turn, saying he has no intension of leaving McLaren.

    “I’m happy where I am,” the defending world champion said. “It doesn’t really have any grounds. All I said was that it’s quite cool if you find out other teams are interested in you. It’s good to know you are wanted.


    1. Ali, that same quote is already in the article.

    2. Oops, sorry for that, you can delete it.

  11. Keith, disingenuous questions there I think. You should know by now that Lewis just has to sneeze and a million newspapers run a story twisting it and turning it into whatever spin they want. Please don’t act like you don’t know this. He tries to be careful with his words because he knows the consequences of saying ONE thing that could be construed as controversial. But then when he doesn’t make a comment, he is also flayed by the media, forums, fans, commentators, bloggers etcetera etcetera. It must be really tiresome for him, and he’ll probably never get used to it because he’s only human. No other driver has to endure this kind of media scrutiny – it’s probably because he is the only black driver, the most popular worldwide and the champion, and the fact that the media are all over him because he is the most charismatic.

    As for his comments, if you asked any driver if they would be open to offers, if they were honest they would say what he said, which is that he would listen to them and be complimented by the interest, but that they are probably happy where they are for the moment. God, I can see what sort of season it’s going to be AGAIN.

    1. Please don’t act like you don’t know this.

      I didn’t.

      No other driver has to endure this kind of media scrutiny

      Rubbish. How many times did Alonso get asked if he was leaving Renault last year?

    2. Alonso may have been asked, but there was never the same level of media storm as has surrounded this “story”.

    3. Huges, maybe not in the UK, but the alonso media storm is big, just as big as the massa media storm in brazil… but you’d know about that because you live in brazil and no the UK.

      he is the most charismatic, his ‘no comment’ last week was riveting, aside from all that, the media storm behind him – and most people in f1 is big, that take 2 words in one context and throw it into another context.

      end of the day, the media is the problem!

    4. No offense Hughes, but unless you know Hamilton personally you can’t act like an expert yourself – you have probably learnt all you have about him from the media itself. If you’re going to look at every single article about him (which I think you’ve said before you do) then it’s not going to be all rosy, especially when sensationalist tabloids are concerned. For other media, like this site, all that is done is conveying what others have said, without the perceived venom.

    5. Cry baby. Move on.

  12. A non-story. Sensible enough comment to have made in private, bit silly to have told a journalist on the record. A better line would have been “I’d be flattered but I’m spoken for” – but always easier to see that in hindsight.

  13. I think ‘publicity storm’ is a bit of a stretch. He says something just before the season starts, the press report it in their own way, he clarifies his words, the press report that too.

    Having watched the news on four different channels this morning, this story wasn’t mentioned once. What was mentioned, however, was the fact that the Brawn diffusers passed scrutiny and the threatened appeals have been made… which seems considerably more newsworthy to me.

    1. My apologies – Sky News are carrying the story on their interactive text, but not on their news round-up.

    2. Obviously there’s a distance between what Hamilton’s said and the way it has been reported – e.g. from “I would listen to an offer” to “sensationally admitted he could quit McLaren“. But that kind of reportage is going to have a significant effect on popular perception of Hamilton. I wouldn’t take what the press are saying at face value and nor would most readers of this site.

      Equally, I don’t think many people are surprised to see the cars have passed scrutineering and the appeal is going ahead. There’s already lots of discussion going on about the diffuser story:

      Red Bull will protest Brawn GP diffuser

      F1 2009 Technology: Rear wings, diffusers – and the inevitable controversy

      Diffuser issues set to overshadow Melbourne (forum)

    3. You’d expect that kind of thing from the Sun though, reputable redhead tabloid toilet paper that it is.

  14. He just wants some love or even some appreciation for someone.

    1. haha, don’t you think he gets enough of that from Ron and the McLaren fraternity, not to mention Nicole and all his female admirers? :)

  15. Just seems they’ve put a big spin on what he said to write a story. I think he’ll stay at McLaren as long as they are strong. But he don’t take losing well, no world champ ever does. If McLaren go bad I could imagine him moving just to stay on top.

  16. Hehe, I find it rather amsuing that the media took that quote to mean ‘he might leave Mclaren’ – I have now read that quote several times, and I still dont think it suggests anything of the sort. Completely taken out of context.

    I cant see him ever leaving Mclaren personally, but its a fact of the game that he will get other offers – of course he will – and like he said, its a compliment – cant see him acting on it though, he is very much a Mclaren man!

    1. Same here- he’s a product of the McLaren system, and as long as he keeps in top form, I can’t see McLaren letting him walk out the door.

  17. I dont think if Mclaren have a poor start to the season that it means they will be a midfield team for several seasons. I can see them starting poorly and then improving. they have not got things right yet but importantly, they have a strong and focussed team. so whatever happens in the long run they will right up there with the leading teams.
    whatever the question asked was, Hamilton should really have been more careful with his words. I guess its a sign of his frustration and clearly he knows that he does not have a winning car at this moment in time.

  18. Good to see he’s now joined the GPDA:


    Which other F1 drivers aren’t in it? I think Raikkonen isn’t.

    1. i don’t think massa is in it either.

    2. actually dont think sutil is either… really should check the googles.

    3. Raikkonen spilt beer on the application form…

    4. Anthony Davidson wasn’t a member either, Kimi and Massa aren’t. Massa left last year because he didn’t like the way it was run.

  19. To be honest I would be surprised if he didn’t have a performance clause in his contract, governing the teams performance.

  20. There’s a possibility Hamilton may be making a comment like this out of frustration with McLaren’s current form, or possibly even to put pressure on McLaren to improve.

    More likely, Hamilton was just making an honest and innocent comment that is being overblown by the media.

  21. GPDA chairman Pedro de la Rosa was quoted in March 08 saying the 4 drivers that weren’t members were Hamilton, Raikkonen, Anthony Davidson and Adrian Sutil.

  22. it was stupid of him to say that he will never leave McLaren.

  23. The depressing aspect of this is that we bemoan drivers who never stray from their corporate sponsor-approved PR-prepared non-committal generic and dull speeches, but as soon as any driver says something remotely different or interesting, the media (not you Keith, the tabloids) twist an off-the-cuff remark into a ‘newsworthy’ and pretty much fabricated headline.

    Matt Bishop has probably stuck Vodafone branded tape to Lewis’s mouth already. Now we can look forward to a season of ‘the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team working really hard together to address the performance shortfall of the technical package’ instead of making the car faster.

    1. Spot-on bro, it’s such a corporate environment these days that even a polite remark (as I believe this was, nothing more) is twisted into a conspiracy theroy.

  24. Good to see a balanced report, thanks Keith.

    Yawn, bring on the racing. I’ll be wide awake while that’s on…even if practice is at 1.30am tonight.

  25. No offence intended Keith – I read this site as it’s the least biased and most balanced of the lot – I was just surprised at the somewhat sensational headline :)

    1. Fair enough 8-)

  26. anyone seen this yet on autosport?

    Hamilton expects no points in Australia

  27. If Lewis speaks his mind – he gets criticised. If Lewis says no comment – he gets criticised.

    The guy cannot win with the media or the F1 fans. I agree with Mr. Spencer above.

    1. TOTALLY!

  28. The “I Hope” at the end of that interview doesn’t sound very positive. I have alway been a true McLaren supported and I always use to say that if Kimi wants to become World Champ he has to leave McLaren which he did and it worked for him. So if McLaren cant give LH a car that win WDC then everybody can understand that he might consider other options. This is their jobs and their lives and they aim for the best. No one ones to be at the back of the Grid. You only get so many years in F1 then its over. You have to make the most of it while you can

  29. Wow, I’ve really missed getting stuck in to these forums!!

    I really think that Lewis should have known better than to have gotten even vaguely drawn into a quote on this topic. He knows where it leads, and it was a long enough quote for him to be perfectly aware of where people would take it. Unfortunately it seems to follow the Alonso tactic of using a stick to beat his team faster rather than a carrot.

    I can;t help but feel that this year will be fascinating to really see Lewis’s true quality and heart under adversity. It would be really lovely to see him keep his head down and fight for every single point, and inspire the team to a truly great performance – and also just to see how capable he is of driving the development of a car at this point in his career.

    He really does need to be compared to Alonso and all that he managed to achieve last season, which really was truly mighty. Not that I like his attitude much of the time.

  30. just read his quote carefully and you can deduce that he didnt mean what the articles said. it has been mis-interpreted just to make a story out of it.

    it clearly shows that he meant that if some other team approached him, he would be flattered, and would listen to what they had to offer, but he never even made an incline as to accepting what they have to offer.

    mean he will listen to what they have to say but wont hear what they are saying.

  31. This sort of thing is probably why Hamilton is so cautious with what he says all the time. Any comment taken out of context can be blown up into a big news story.

    He will regret saying it but you can see where he is coming from, any offers from other teams would be considered a compliment, and if nothing else when it is time to negotiate a new contract at McLaren he will know his worth on the open market.

    It looks like McLaren won’t be competitive at the start of the season, so leaving him too much ground to make up in the championship to retain his title. He will know McLaren have off seasons and the only better place for long term success in F1 is Ferrari.

    Being a fan of McLaren and Hamilton I would like him to stay at McLaren for the rest of his career and be successful. However he could easily be in F1 for another 10 years and who knows what the future will bring to the sport as a whole in that time. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 years F1 is vastly different to what it is like today.

    1. Same here. I am also a big fan of both Hamilton and McLaren, and I imagine he will finish out his career with the team. But things change and circumstances are different sometimes- just a few years ago very few people thought that Dale Jr. would veer leave his family empire at DEI, but things changed and the landscape was altered in that sport. The same could happen in F1, but I believe Lewis will still be with McLaren for many more seasons.

  32. Someone also said he bought a yacht. The Media have a way of interpreting a statement and getting a whole different meaning. Then they make their interpretations into headlines quoting these interpretations as statements.

  33. Hamilton more often than not speaks his mind on issues, but journalists more often than not try to look for ways to invert words.

  34. Oliver, he did buy a Yacht, did u not see the size of the £5m thing!?

    Also — “All I said was that for sure if someone did approach me, I wouldn’t tell them to f*** off. I would think, ‘wow’.

    “It is great to see that there is interest in other areas but I am happy where I am right now, so that is all there is.”

    =] – http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/73900

    1. He did not buy a yacht. His own website denied it.

  35. I agree, he would be stupid to not listen to other offers, especially if Macca fails to have a competetive car the next few years. The problem with mainstream media is that we still only get one side of the story as everyone takes everything out of context. Not saying that this is what happened here, but with MacLaren/Hamilton the PR machine that they are, this just sounds like the original reporter baited him with a question like “are you talking to any other teams about a contract right now?” and he answered with a ‘no, but I would if they called because I would be stupid not too’ and it blew up from there into “Lewis Isnt Happy at MacLaren – May Leave When Contract Is Up In 2012!”

  36. Williams 4ever
    26th March 2009, 15:21

    Wouldn’t believe either the Drivers or the teams. They have way of lying through their teeth. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised to find Anthony Hamilton hobnobbing with Ferrari given that a) stefano domenicali had gone on record to put pressure on Kimi to up his game and b) Hamilton Sr. Has done that before when Ron Dennis adviced Hamiltons to stay put in Jr Formulae. Didn’t they Dally with Williams then?

    Would love to see Ron’s face if indeed Ferrari pull off the coup end of 2009 :P. It would be like visiting end of 2005 all over again, Luca DM playing Ron and Ron playing Flavio LMAO

  37. If Hamilton is pushed, he only crashes the car more often making it even harder for the team to understand and figure what is wrong with the vehicle’s dynamics.

    I have a feeling that he will frustrate them even more than become a positive driver.

  38. The last project I was involved that a product did not perform as we planned and designed for. The mistake was later was found and attributed to the algorithms we used for simulations which obviously side tracked us as we ended up chasing ghosts.

    I wonder whether they went back to check their modelling software, or they are still starring at the same blank screens?

  39. I don’t think he’s going to be leaving Woking anytime soon- his statement was just a polite response to the question.

    1. Yer its not like he’s saying he is going to leave its just that if another team offered him he would look

  40. Keith, great forum, great debate. As always….

    No other site comes close when it comes down to intelligent debate with that little bit of spice and/or humour thrown in at just the right moment. The sheer numbers of knowledeable contributors you have is stunning.

    Going to be an amazing season !

  41. A bit dissapointed with the Hamilton camp’s response, but I guess most of you were at school today.

  42. Eduardo Colombi
    26th March 2009, 17:03

    He won’t leave mclaren, hi was supported by the team since the old days when he was nothing, he has a contract to deal with and i’m sure that the recision terms worth some euros…
    they are just trying to change the focus of their car problems to something that is safe to talk about.

    1. Your right, he won’t leave McLaren but thats because no other team would have him unless of course he paid them. What a team wants is a driver as capable as Alonso not a driver who’s never made the mental transition from cart’s.

  43. Saying that Lewis is the only driver that has to endure media scrutiny is unfair. If you live in the UK, you’re bound to see your driver in press, which is Lewis’ in this case. Live in Spain, you get Alonso mania, Massa in Brazil, so on and so forth…so that just doesn’t cut bread.

    Doesn’t matter what he said, if he stays, he will stay, if he doesn’t..we’ll thats his problem.

    1. I’m sure other drivers get media scrutiny in their respective countries, but it is positive as opposed the the negative crap and lies writtn in the UK media about Lewis.

  44. I have not seen anywhere that Lewis will quit McLaren, just press stirring as usual. But if he does leave in the future what of it. He has repaid McLaren already by winning the drivers championship last year. What would be great if the team could win both titles this year, and then Lewis can move on.

  45. I think it’s a case of Hamilton saying something that’s completely bypassed his PR manager for once.

    More of that would be good – it might make him seem human.

    1. Not for the first time and precisely the reason Matt Bishop was brought to McLaren just over a year ago.

  46. Toby Thwaites 93
    26th March 2009, 19:20

    OHMY, i knew it!
    i can vividly remembering discussing how Hamilton was a silly little boy when he signed that 5 year deal and that it was a stupid time to do it. AND whadda you know now his team isnt competitive he wants to jump ship

    I feel good something i said has come true :)

  47. I can’t wait for the first “Hamilton to Brawn” headline.

  48. Hamilton is a bit naive sometimes in believing the press will understand exactly the message he is trying to get across. What he doesn’t know is that its the furthest thing from their mind

  49. This is a non story, but becuase it’s got Hamilton attached to it it’s news. Zzzzzz.

  50. I’m not putting too much store on this story, as obviously Hamilton is under the microscope as the defending champion. If the car is no good, and really as bad as everybody suggests, then who can blame ‘ANY’ driver for considering their options.
    The worrying thing is for McLaren is that if Hamilton is seriously thinking about leaving, then obviously he knows that the teams problems are no short term blip.
    Lets remember that Renault endured two years in the doldrums after their 2005/2006 championship double, and have yet to fully recover from this.
    Also, it would also confirm my previous suspicions about Ron Dennis standing down, in the knowledge probably that McLaren had produced abit of a mutt.
    The fascinating part of this saga is that we will soon see who is right and who is wrong, the pundits or McLaren.
    Whatever the outcome, entering this season is the biggest ‘unknown’ I have ever experienced watching any sport. Nobody knows for sure what will happen when that fifth light goes out on Sunday.

  51. The Mclaren and Renault look like dogs from the First practise, the on board shots of the cars leaving the exit showed no grip at all and a load of opposite lock, even Alonso look liked he was going to bin it at the exit of each corner, i dont think Mclaren or Renault will be competative at all this season, the cars just have no grip on the exit of the corners! i dont blame Hamilton for his comments its going to be bad season for Mclaren!

  52. Just goes to show the difference those aero appendages made to the cars in recent years. Also, the fact that teams like Toyota and Williams a seemingly hitting the ground running in Australia.
    Both of these teams have produced below par machinery in the last couple of seasons, but their forward thinking in the development of their 2009 spec cars may well prove their saviour.
    I want teams like Brawn GP, Williams, and Toyota to prosper this season. This sport has to have them become successfull or they will fold, and unlike the former Honda outfit, disappear into oblivion.
    I am so confident that finally, with these new rule changes, the little teams a being given the chance to succeed that they deserve. The bottom line is that the
    championship for too many years has been dominated by
    Ferrari and McLaren, and this has to stop if F1 is going to survive.

  53. I can totally see Hamilton leaving McLaren at the end of 2012. Maybe to a younger team with a bit of potential, like Brawn perhaps. Lewis might not win another title for McLaren in the next three years or so and will probably get frustrated and will want a fresh start.

    I think Ross Brawn should tap up Rosberg for next season too. I think Nico and Lewis would work well together in the future in 2013, which is four years away from me posting this and certainly not next year or anything.

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