Lewis Hamilton is hoping his former McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has “forgiven” him for leaving the team to join Mercedes at the end of 2012.
Whitmarsh said at the time of the announcement in September 2012 that he believed it was “a mistake” for Hamilton to join Mercedes for the 2013 season.
Since then, the 35-year-old Briton has won five more World Championships – in addition to his first with McLaren in 2008 – is on course for a record-equalling seventh in total, and has added 70 more race victories to match Michael Schumacher’s tally of 91.
In contrast, since Hamilton’s departure eight years ago, McLaren have not won a race and had only five podium finishes.
Hamilton’s call to leave McLaren, to whom he had been attached since the age of 13, was questioned widely at the time and he acknowledged recently it was “one of the hardest decisions” to make.
He has said that informing then McLaren team principal Whitmarsh that he was to leave the team in the autumn of 2012 was a particularly difficult conversation to have.
“Calling my boss, calling Martin in particular, was one of the hardest calls I’ve ever had to make,” said Hamilton, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“I hope he has forgiven me by now! I think so because he understands, but ultimately I think it was the right decision.
“I knew it was the right decision for me personally and I think that’s how life is generally. Nobody can tell you what to do, only you will know personally what’s right or wrong for yourself.
“You can’t have anyone else influence that decision. As long as you do your homework, you’ve got to do what’s right for you and at the time, that’s what I did.”
Hamilton reiterated the thought processes he had that caused him to make the decision to switch to Mercedes.
He said: “Without McLaren’s support I wouldn’t have made it to Formula 1, being that it’s so expensive, so there was no way, as a family, that we had the sort of money some other families are able to throw at this sport.
“So my loyalty was to them, but at the time I had to think about what the future would hold and what I wanted to be a part of.
“I wanted to be a part of a team that perhaps hadn’t had as much success, was in the growing phase, and I wanted to be a part of that, that growing journey, building something relatively new.
“That was an exciting challenge and I didn’t know how long it would be until we got to winning ways. But I truly believed we would get there at some stage.”