Mat Coch writes:
Say what he might about no driver being bigger than the team there is no hiding the fact that this weekend marks the end of an era for Ron Dennis' outfit. It is not only the final race of the 2012 season but it is also the final time the team's protege will pull on McLaren overalls.
"Of course we're going to miss Lewis a great deal," admitted Technical Director Paddy Lowe in the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Phone-In. Hamilton's departure from the Woking squad, for whom he's raced since his junior career, has met with mixed opinions with many criticising his decision to move to Mercedes.
Many see it as a decision driven more by money than the promise of success, but it doesn't stop the team which nurtured him from an early age feeling a twinge of sadness as the weekend approaches.
"We'll all miss him because he is such a fantastic driver," said Lowe. "We've been through a lot of history together.
"But we wish him best for the future and we'll all look forward after Brazil to next year," he continued. "There's change in the world, and that's how I feel; we look forward to a great season next year when Sergio arrives and the great promise he has."
However before it can begin focussing solely on 2013 McLaren faces one final challenge.
Currently third in the Constructors' Championship it remains focussed on overhauling Ferrari for second place. The Italian team holds a fourteen point lead over the Woking squad, leaving Hamilton and teammate Jenson Button a difficult task in Interlagos.
"We've got to admit that our prime objective is to overhaul Ferrari in the Constructors' (Championship)," Lowe confessed. "We need to get both of our cars ahead of both Ferraris and up the road a bit.
"We're optimistic," he added. "There's no reason we can't carry forward the pace that we showed across the weekend in Austin on to Brazil.
"We'll be pushing very hard to win the race, not just with Lewis, Jenson is equally capable of winning."
Were it not for reliability woes it's almost certain McLaren would have secured second spot in the constructors' race already, a fact not lost on Lowe. With consistent rules heading in to 2013, McLaren's technical boss is keenly aware that reliability problems now could carry over to next year if the team isn't careful.
"We have had a fairly tough time in recent months with reliability," Lowe admitted before quickly pointing out that McLaren was not alone. "Red Bull have certainly suffered in their own way," he pointed out. "It's just the nature of things in a sport where there are literally thousands of parts and the demands for quality are extraordinarily high.
"These things need to be taken in context," he continued. "Formula One has improved its reliability in general to a massive extent if you look back over a twenty year period.
"Although it doesn't feel like it this car that we're actually making now is the most reliable that we've had (in recent years)," he contended. "It's been unfortunate that, statistically, more of our problems fall in actual races as opposed to all the other miles that we run the car through. For example through the Young Drivers Test in Abu Dhabi (we completed) 1500km without a single issue.
"The car generally is reliable, it's not reliable enough, but we just need to raising the bar and moving ahead.
"We absolutely know that (reliability is) a key component to Formula One, just as car performance is," he said. "As it stands the dice have fallen rather unfortunately for us in races this season."