Whitmarsh defends Hamilton's form

McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh has defended Lewis Hamilton following the British driver's performances at the start of the season

Whitmarsh defends Hamilton's form

Hamilton, who enjoyed a sensational debut season last year with four wins and a run of nine consecutive podiums, dropped down to third in the standings after a disappointing showing in the Bahrain Grand Prix, where the Briton felt he had let his team down following a series of mistakes.

The McLaren driver has scored just 16 points in his last five races, although that includes victory in the season opener in Australia.

Whitmarsh believes it is up to the team to provide Hamilton with a car that allows the Briton to avoid having to overdrive in order to fight on top.

"Let's be frank, it is a very normal human reaction to overdrive the car if the car isn't set up well, if the driver is not on form or if his teammate is pushing him," Whitmarsh told Autosport.

"And overdriving a Formula One generally doesn't make it go any quicker.

"Together, we didn't get the right set-up for Malaysia. But we know Lewis is a winner, and if we provide him with a car that's not capable of winning then he's simply not content to accept the car is second-best.

"If he sees another driver has gone quickest, even if his car isn't capable of it, he will drive to that speed. Generally, you'd rather have that than someone who rocks back and accepts the natural order."

He added: "The pain of failure motivates everyone within McLaren - and it's the same with Lewis. He just expects to win. Even in Bahrain earlier this month, Lewis told me on the Sunday morning that he thought he could win the race - and he genuinely believed it.

"I'd be bitterly disappointed if he didn't have that attitude every Sunday morning for the rest of this year because that's the level of commitment and self-belief a great champion needs to have.

"If a driver turns up on a Sunday morning and says, 'I might be able to score a point here or luck into a podium if I luck out', he's not likely to win many races."

Whitmarsh admits it was inevitable that Hamilton would face increased pressure following his impressive performance in his first season in the sport.

"You can't reduce that pressure," he added. "It's the same with all of us; Lewis, the team and his fans would be bitterly disappointed if he's not world champion by the end of the year.

"Of course, the team is schizophrenic about that because we would be equally happy if Heikki becomes world champion, but if neither of them are, there will be a sense of failure. We don't like the word and we don't like talking about it - but that's reality.

"We live with that pressure: we get criticised when we don't win but that criticism is never as harsh as our own self-criticism."

Read the full interview with Martin Whitmarsh in this week's issue of Autosport magazine.

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