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As Lewis Hamilton prepares to visit Woking for the first time since announcing his move to Mercedes, team boss Martin Whitmarsh assures him that he is still loved by the team.
Ever since the Englishman announced that he is to leave the team of which he has been a part since the age of thirteen, funding his progress through the ranks and eventually bringing him into F1 and achieving his dream of winning the title, sections of the media have suggested that the relationship is in freefall.
However, with four races remaining before he swaps his McLaren overalls for those of the Silvers Arrows, and a second title still mathematically possible, Whitmarsh is keen to assure Hamilton that he remains part of the Woking family.
"Of course people were disappointed to lose someone like Lewis but Lewis has been here a long time and everyone is going to be giving everything for him," Whitmarsh told Reuters. "One way or another I'm sure we'll get together and remember lots of fantastic achievements, many race wins, many poles, many great races and a great world championship in 2008. He's loved in this team and he knows that."
On being told of Whitmarsh's comments, Hamilton, who admittedly hasn't appeared totally at ease since last month's announcement, was clearly delighted.
"It's nice to be appreciated, because I really didn't give up. It was one of the hardest races I have ever had," said the 27-year-old, whose Yeongam performance was hailed by Whitmarsh as "the hardest won and most heroically fought world championship point in McLaren's long history".
"The car was a disaster and, I was thinking people are just going to say I'm making an excuse again. But I really wasn't," Hamilton continued.
"I have not been distracted once this year, I am still 100 percent a part of this team, right until the last minute. People will continue to say there's a rift between me and Jenson and there honestly are no issues between us. We've been fantastic team mates really.
"I have been a part of this team for several years and I have honestly got a great relationship. I think I am loved as much as I love the team. Hopefully."
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