Suzuka, Japan, Oct 4, 2012 (AFP/ Gordon Howard) - Team chief Martin Whitmarsh says McLaren offered to make former world champion Lewis Hamilton the best paid driver in Formula One but insisted he had no regrets over his departure.
Following months of speculation, the Englishman decided to quit after six seasons in Formula One with the British outfit and will replace German seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher at Mercedes next year.
Whitmarsh said he believed the offer McLaren made to the 2008 world champion, who has been with the team for 14 years, would have made him the best-paid in the sport, where drivers command multi-million-dollar salaries.
"I think Lewis is a top-flight driver and we didn't underestimate his attractiveness to others in F1," he said.
"I think we knew that Lewis would be in demand, that's why we made him an offer. The offer that we made was higher than, I believe, any other driver in Formula One is currently receiving, or will receive next year.
"It was a good offer, but clearly we had to look at the benefits because we recognised that there was a serious threat."
Whitmarsh said McLaren, who will replace Hamilton, 27, with Mexican Sauber driver Sergio Perez, had made a concerted effort to keep the prized British driver but would now move on.
"I think we had a lot of conversations with Lewis's management team," he said.
"I don't think I have any particular regrets. I think that we made a very good and serious offer and proposition. Ultimately of course we weren't able to agree terms.
"We put a lot of effort into trying to keep Lewis. Clearly he is a great asset to any race team, so we made a big effort but I think ultimately Lewis had to make a decision, he made one, and we must now look forward."
And the McLaren chief said that with negotiations over, both team and driver could now focus on the rest of the season, with Hamilton fourth in the drivers' standings, 52 points behind leader Fernando Alonso of Spain.
"We've got six races to go, we've got a competitive car, two competitive race drivers and two championships that are still in our sights," said Whitmarsh, as he made final preparations for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.
"We haven't reached that point (where any team orders are needed) and I think we're all hoping, Lewis and the team, that we actually really focus now.
"In one sense, there is some clarity," he added.
"We are committed to working as hard as we can to allow Lewis every opportunity to try and achieve a drivers' world championship," he said.
"And at the same time I believe Lewis is totally committed to working hard for the team to contribute to our assault on the constructors' championship."
Speaking about the title races, he said: "Clearly, Fernando [Alonso] has done a fantastic job in the Ferrari this year, Red Bull have done a great job in the constructors'. We've had a quick car, but I think we haven't maximised the points that we should have done.
"But we have got six races and 150 points available to the drivers and more for the constructors, so both are achievable."