Lewis Hamilton has been given a healthy vote of confidence from McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale who insists that the whole team are fully behind their downtrodden driver.
Neale said Hamilton was downcast after a poor run in which he has not won since July and been involved in a series of incidents with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
The 2008 champion was also widely linked to move to Red Bull earlier in the year, but Neale gave assurances that “the workforce at McLaren love everything about Lewis Hamilton”.
“Lewis’s biggest critic is himself. He desperately wants to win and he’s understandably not happy when either his team-mate beats him, or somebody else is winning the race or the championship,” he said.
“He’s seen this championship slide away to Red Bull. He’s tough on himself and he’s massively disappointed. We’d be disappointed if he didn’t feel that as well.
“Lewis is a phenomenal driver. He’s had 16 race wins. He’s constantly exciting on the circuit, always in the action and we love him for that.”
Hamilton has called 2011 the toughest year of his career as despite two wins he lies just fifth in the standings, way behind newly crowned double champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and team-mate Jenson Button, who is second.
“Certainly I’m concerned to make sure that he feels and understands that we’re 100 per cent behind him, and this team certainly is – the workforce at McLaren love everything about Lewis Hamilton,” Neale said.
“We want to take care of him. It’s been a difficult season for him. We didn’t really give him the car to get the job done this year, but what he’s done with it has been fantastic.”
He added: “The sense of the workforce is that they’d like to see more of Lewis. “With the ‘fly-aways’ (races outside Europe) recently we haven’t been able to get him back as much as they’d like.
“They’re very keen to make sure that he understands and feels the warmth and the love from this end.”
Hamilton’s father Anthony has criticised the support of his management firm, Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment, while his relationship with former Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger has also put him under greater scrutiny.
“You do have to remember that professional sport – as the England rugby team will be feeling when they read the papers – is a brutal business,” Neale said.
“We can all turn round and say ‘where’s Lewis?’ but the reality is that he’s a really quick driver. He’s a really nice guy and he puts his heart and everything into it.”