Lewis Hamilton has said goodbye to staff at McLaren's headquarters
2008 Champion admits team "will always have a special place in my heart"
By Mike Wise
Last Updated: 23/10/12 4:41pm
The 27-year-old visited the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking on Friday, when he met both team members and 600 customers of sponsor Vodafone.
It was an emotional moment for Hamilton, who has spent his entire F1 career with McLaren having been backed by them since he was 13 years old.
"I'm massively proud to have worked for McLaren for so long," the 2008 World Champion was quoted as saying by The Sun.
"I remember the day I first went to the old McLaren factory when I was 13.
"I've spent half my life at McLaren. The team, the cars, the place, the people - they'll always be special to me.
"The Mercedes building definitely isn't as spectacular as the MTC.
"The challenge of moving to Mercedes will be working with that team's engineers to take a car that doesn't win regularly, and turn it into a car that does, like my McLaren.
"I hope to bring great success to Mercedes, but McLaren will always have a special place in my heart."
Hamilton also admitted that winning a second World Championship with McLaren is now a long shot at best.
He struggled home in 10th place at the Korean Grand Prix two weeks ago and now stands 62 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel with four races to go.
The first of those, the Indian Grand Prix, takes place this weekend, with Hamilton nevertheless determined to hit back.
"It's frustrating that the last three grand prix have been disappointing for McLaren in terms of points scored," he added.
"This year's McLaren car has a lot of pace, but the world championship will now be a tall order for us this year.
"I didn't have a particularly tidy weekend in India last year, but I feel I've been driving better than ever recently - even if the results haven't quite shown it.
"So I'm heading to India determined for another good result.
"I think we'll have a car that's a match for the circuit and I can't wait to get out there and start practicing on Friday."