Formula One: McLaren chief says Hamilton wrong to leave

Lewis Hamilton has been told by McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh he is making a mistake in leaving for Formula One rivals Mercedes.

The German motorsport giants, who supply McLaren with their engines, confirmed earlier Friday that English driver Hamilton would be joining them on a three-year deal from the start of the 2013 Formula One season.

Meanwhile Sauber's Mexican driver Sergio Perez will replace Hamilton at McLaren.

Hamilton, who has been associated with McLaren for 14 years after being discovered by the British-based team as a schoolboy karting racer, will replace seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher at Mercedes from next season.

But Whitmarsh is convinced Hamilton is damaging his chances of emulating his hero Ayrton Senna in becoming a triple world champion by leaving McLaren.

"Mercedes is a great partner of ours and they are a great team," Whitmarsh said. "But for anyone leaving McLaren, and he wants to win, I think that's a mistake because I have faith and belief in this team.

"Whether you measure it over the last four races, four years or 40 years, we're a fantastic team.

"So I would say to any driver who wanted to win in this sport 'come and join McLaren and aspire to join McLaren'.

"I wouldn't advise anyone to leave McLaren if they want to win, but I've got to respect Lewis's decision and really wish him well."

Whitmarsh was adamant McLaren did all they could to hang on to 2008 world champion Hamilton.

"I know we made a very big financial offer, bigger than I believe any Formula One driver is enjoying today, other than himself. That is something that I am comfortable with. But ultimately we move forward now."

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