McLaren pledges to 'take care of' under-fire Lewis Hamilton

McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale says Lewis Hamilton should have no doubts whatsoever about the level of support for and understanding of him within his team, despite the 2008 champion's current run of difficulties

McLaren pledges to 'take care of' under-fire Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton has not finished on the podium since winning the German Grand Prix in July, and has been involved in a series of on-track incidents during that time - while his team-mate Jenson Button has taken two wins and pulled away in second place in the championship.

But Neale said McLaren was giving Hamilton maximum support rather than putting pressure on him to rediscover his form.

"Lewis's biggest critic is himself," said Neale in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in teleconference.

"He desperately wants to win and he's understandably not happy when either his team-mate beats him, or somebody else is winning the race or the championship. He's seen this championship slide away to Red Bull. He's tough on himself and he's massively disappointed. We'd be disappointed if he didn't feel that as well.

"Lewis is a phenomenal driver. He's had 16 race wins. He's constantly exciting on the circuit, always in the action and we love him for that.

"Certainly I'm concerned to make sure that he feels and understands that we're 100 per cent behind him, and this team certainly is. The workforce here love everything about Lewis Hamilton.

"We want to take care of him. It's been a difficult season for him. We didn't really give him the car to get the job done this year, but what he's done with it has been fantastic."

Neale said the factory staff at McLaren were keen to have a chance to emphasise their continued belief in Hamilton.

"The sense of the workforce is that they'd like to see more of Lewis," he said. "With the flyaways recently we haven't been able to get him back as much as they'd like. They're very keen to make sure that he understands and feels the warmth and the love from this end."

He also warned against reading too much into short-term form and the press criticism Hamilton has received recently.

"You do have to remember that professional sport - as the England rugby team will be feeling when they read the papers - is a brutal business," Neale said.

"One of the journalists there wrote that it's a sport where the winners are deified and the losers are vilified.

"We can all turn round and say 'where's Lewis?' but the reality is that he's a really quick driver. He's a really nice guy and he puts his heart and everything into it."

Hamilton only finished fifth in last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, while Button won the race. Neale believes McLaren hampered Hamilton by misinterpreting data that led to him making an early first pitstop on lap eight.

"We have to look to ourselves in the team as to why he wasn't able to get the performance out of the rear tyres that Jenson was able to get," said Neale.

"If you watch the race traces as I have done, and look at the way he carved through, overtaking a number of people, when he got the opportunity, I think he did a good job to bring that car back.

"But he was always going to be on the back foot with a three-stop strategy called in before lap 10. When we were looking at whether that was puncture, tyre pressure or tyre temperature related, I think we may have got a slightly wrong steer from the data in that first stint and I think we might've compromised him on his second stint."

Neale added that Button's current form was a reminder that the 26-year-old Hamilton was also still developing as a driver.

"Both drivers are getting better," said Neale. "Many would argue that Jenson is probably driving the best he ever has and continues to get stronger.

"I'm confident that Lewis has some stuff to learn and can get better, but then I'm twice Lewis's age and the same goes for me as well - I'm anything but the finished product."

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