Whitmarsh: We did all we could
Martin Whitmarsh has insisted McLaren made Lewis Hamilton "a very good offer" and the team did all they could to retain their star asset.
Hamilton's decision to leave McLaren is understood to have only been made this week with Whitmarsh reputedly only learning of his driver's intentions less than 48 hours before.
Speaking in his first interview since summer's longest-running saga was brought to a close with the news that Hamilton has signed a three-year deal at Mercedes, Whitmarsh was adamant that neither his team, nor Hamilton's advisors XIX Entertainment, could be blamed for the failure to reach an agreement.
"If the question is 'do I blame 19?', then the answer is that I don't. Lewis is a great driver but has to make decisions about his life. We had lots of talks, went into lots of details and drew up lots of complex contracts. We negotiated lots of details and lots of freedom - it was a very good commercial offer that we made," Whitmarsh told Sky Sports News.
"We went a long way to make a good offer to Lewis but ultimately it takes two to get to a signature - and ultimately we clearly didn't agree terms."
Whitmarsh has also given the team's new line-up for the 2013 season - Sergio Perez and Jenson Button - his unequivocal backing as the team prepare for life without Hamilton.
"We've a World Champion in Jenson Button who has won fourteen grands prix and this exciting young Latin. When you meet him, he's exciting, he's charming, he's humble - but deeply hungry. He's coming here to win the World Championship next year."
Hamilton has described his move as a "fresh challenge" but Whitmarsh believes the switch makes it less likely he will achieve his ambition of matching his hero Ayrton Senna and becoming a three-time world champion.
"Mercedes is a great partner of ours and they are a great team," Whitmarsh said.
"But for anyone leaving McLaren, and he wants to win, I think that's a mistake because I have faith and belief in this team.
"Whether you measure it over the last four races, four years or 40 years, we're a fantastic team.
"So I would say to any driver who wanted to win in this sport 'come and join McLaren and aspire to join McLaren'.
"I wouldn't advise anyone to leave McLaren if they want to win, but I've got to respect Lewis' decision and really wish him well."