McLaren CEO Ron Dennis would not tolerate Lewis Hamilton’s behavior if he was still racing for the team, saying that he looks at his former driver with “mixed emotions”.
Hamilton was first signed by McLaren at the age of 13, and would go on to make his Formula 1 debut with the team in 2007 before winning his first world championship the following year.
The Briton walked away from McLaren at the end of 2012 to join Mercedes in a move that former team principal Martin Whitmarsh called “a mistake” at the time.
However, Hamilton has since gone on to enjoy unprecedented success with Mercedes, winning the world championship in 2014 and 2015 to firmly establish himself as one of F1’s all-time greats.
Hamilton has also enjoyed a celebrity status he lacked before, gracing red carpets all over the world and enjoying a party lifestyle that recently left him feeling a bit “run down”.
Speaking to British newspaper The Guardian, Dennis said that Hamilton’s currently lifestyle and behavior would not be tolerated if he were still with McLaren.
“If he was at McLaren he wouldn’t be behaving the way he is because he wouldn’t be allowed to,” Dennis said. “He’s shaking off some chains he didn’t want to have.
“I look at him with mixed emotions. I don’t approve of everything he does or says, but nevertheless, great athletes are great because of the sacrifices they have to make.
“And sometimes sacrifices are in a very formative part of their childhood. They don’t always emerge with the all the right social process or behaviour or tendencies that you like.”
In contrast to Hamilton and Mercedes’ recent success, McLaren has entered a period of decline that will hit a new low this weekend in Abu Dhabi as it prepares to end the year last-but-one in the constructors’ championship.
McLaren has not won a race since Hamilton left, justifying his decision to walk away at the time. Not only did it allow him to shake off the chains he didn’t want, but it also paved the way for a success that he most likely would not have attained had he remained with at Woking.