Whitmarsh Backs Hamilton and Promises a Stronger McLaren

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With three wins last season, Whitmarsh thinks that Hamilton outperformed most of the drivers.

Lewis Hamilton endured a tough 2011. Although he won three races, he was classified in a lowly fifth in the drivers' championship and his season was fraught with incidents, crashes, and personal frictions with colleagues. However on the eve of the 2012 season, Hamilton has received a strong backing from McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh. "Lewis won three Grands Prix in 2011 - one of only three drivers to have won more than a single race," he said in an interview with Formula1.com.

Hamilton picked up a lot of criticism last year for his behavior on and off the track. On track he was involved in a season-long duel with Ferrari's Felipe Massa that resulted in a few incidents. On other occasions he was blamed for an accident with his McLaren teammate, Jenson Button at the Canadian GP and with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi during the Belgian Grand Prix. Off the track, his relationship with former Pussycat Dolls' singer Nicole Scherzinger ebbed and flowed. His trips to the West Coast between races were deemed as distractions from his main job.

However Whitmarsh is still very supportive of Hamilton, whose McLaren contract runs out by the end of this year. "Sometimes, when things don't go quite right for him, he lets it get to him. We saw that last year sometimes. But it's a measure of his competitiveness, a side-effect of his monumental will to win," Whitmarsh continued. "As such, we wouldn't want Lewis any other way. He's a truly brilliant racing driver - one of the fastest we've ever seen. Overall, his record of 17 Grand Prix wins from 90 Grand Prix starts places him in the very top rank in Formula One's metaphorical hall of fame."

As for the McLaren team, Whitmarsh emphasized that although the team did not win the championship, it won six out of 19 races, a strike rate of almost one out of three. They also improved a bit on their record of winning one out of four races. The team's record stands at 175 race wins out of 703 starts. "We're proud of that strike-rate, but of course this season we aim to improve on it again."

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