Is Hamilton really daft enough to go to Mercedes?

The rumour mill has been grinding excitedly in the last few days with speculation that Lewis Hamilton will leave McLaren and go to Mercedes. No less a figure than Eddie Jordan, he of the mangled syntax and questionable sartorial sense, has staked his reputation on the claim. But would Hamilton really leave his alma mater?

On the plus side there are a number of persuasive arguments. Firstly, Hamilton has never hidden his desire to be a bigger brand than simply a racing driver, and partnership with Mercedes would suit that agenda. The Stuttgart marque’s moniker is after all synonymous the world over with quality and finesse.

Secondly, there is the team mate. Nico Rosberg and Hamilton were old pals and have still managed to retain a semblance of a friendship in the F1 paddock, an environment that rarely sings Hamilton’s praises with united voice. Hamilton would love to think that he can beat Rosberg in his own car, and would fancy his chances.

Thirdly, there are the resources, and the potential at the team which remain largely unrealised. Mercedes is in rude health as a manufacturer and with Ross Brawn at the helm, a man whose CV includes resurrecting and bringing championships to not one but two separate teams, all the pieces of the puzzle are there. That their double DRS has not yet worked is a gamble that did not pay off, so the argument goes, and they will come good devastatingly soon. They are proven winners in the hands of Rosberg.

So much for the ‘pull’ factors; there are also ‘push’ elements. Hamilton has seemed to grow weary of McLaren’s lack of consistency, and seems to think that the harder he tries, the less it seems to go his way. Even if they do not share some views that he is a prima donna, McLaren are no longer inspired by Lewis; the relationship has a staleness to it. Publishing telemetry on Twitter is not McLaren’s idea of a good thing to do. Ron Dennis, one suspects, might have been less lenient than his successor.

But then there are the negatives. McLaren have won the last two successive races, of which Hamilton won one. That is not the kind of win record with which Mercedes can compete. The Anglo-German squad have won but one race in their modern incarnation, and frankly do not look like winning another. Hamilton would probably have to write the next two years or so off as character-, car- and team-building – patience and forbearance that his critics might say he does not have.

Hamilton seems to realise this, too.”I want to win,” he is quoted as saying today by Autosport. “You always want to win every year you can compete: that is why us drivers exist and why teams exist. It is just making sure you are in the right place to do so.” That seems to point to McLaren rather than Mercedes.

Moreover, there are no guarantees that the marque will stay in the sport as a manufacturer. They have none of their dealership rivals – VW, Audi, BMW – to take on and beat on this grid, and are yet pouring vast numbers of Euros into the project. Norbert Haug must feel the heat under that collar. F1 is a results business, and there haven’t been many. Boards are capricious and can act.

So very simply, McLaren look like the least worst option for Hamilton, unless he feels like some very hard work. Or he could wait til Mark Webber goes and hop into a Red Bull for a year or two, to see how Sebastian Vettel would like that. Ultimately, fans want to see the best drivers in the best cars fighting it out, and a move to Mercedes by one of the big three would in all likelihood relegate Hamilton somewhat. But these days, very few people have any idea what the man from Stevenage is going to do next.

2 thoughts on “Is Hamilton really daft enough to go to Mercedes?”

  1. The “where will Lewis drive in 2013?” debate has been raging since Eddie Jordan launched the “Mercedes to sign Lewis” story like a grenade between Spa and Monza.

    The response of fans and F1 writers has intrigues me. Many are focusing on the pragmatic attitude that no better options to win are open to Lewis so he should stay put. Joe Saward for example saying only Ferrari (27), McLaren (32) and Red Bull (30) have consistently won races since Lewis joined F1; the next best was Brawn (8) who became Mercedes F1 AMG.

    From a logical point of view this is incontrovertible. Yet in F1 politics logic doesn’t always prevail. It may be that Lewis is being pushed.

    Lewis’ appeared much of 2011 to have a petulant and at times a Balotelli like, “why always me” attitude to his consistent visits to the stewards and of course there was his infamous Ali Gee comment in Monaco.

    This year however, Lewis has been “born again”. Smiling and happy for Jenson in Australia, forgiving of his team for short fuelling him for qualifying in Barcelona and until twittergate in Belgium, the model employee driver.

    Many have accredited his Zen like re-incarnation to the fact that he now has a Jenson like “bubble” (Lewis’ words), has more of his family around and of course made up with Nicole. Yet is this really credible, and reading the stream of happy tweets extolling the beauty of life, friendship and the oneness of the universe in general the sceptic in me is smelling a rat. Here’s a couple from the past 2 weeks…

    “Never give up. No matter how hard the situation is, always believe that something beautiful is going to happen”, and

    “The only person I have to be better than today is the person I was yesterday. So, Past, thanks for all the lessons. To my Future, I’m ready!”

    These are endearing and touching sentiments and most eloquent by comparison to anything we’ve ever heard from Lewis before. So if Lewis has undergone a personality conversion from 2011, it is as radical as the light on the Damascus road.

    The unfolding events were broadly as follows

    Lewis signed with XIX and Simon Fuller (Beckham’s agency) in 2011, and if I were representing him in corporate land last season, I would have been weeping into my foie gras and Cristal champagne.

    Any agent worth their salt would need to advise their client that in the year when you are looking for a new contract, the sponsors will be focused on the kind of person being signed to market their brand. Seeing as “Bad Ass Jeans” are not in the XIX portfolio, something clearly needed to change; hence the new and improved 2012 Lewis.

    Ron Dennis has been surprisingly vocal on the matter of Lewis and a new contract. He said in a Radio 5 live interview before the summer break there was “no reason Lewis won’t be driving our cars in the future”. However, he added: “I think people get the wrong impression though, as when I last looked at the contract – I was paying him. It’s a question of whether we employ him, not the other way around.”

    It’s pretty clear here Ron is saying it’s not Lewis’ decision whether he drives for McLaren in 2013.

    Earlier in Canada, Dennis told Sky TV, “He [Lewis] is on the end of a contract which was signed at a time when the economy was somewhat different. Now there has to be a balance…He’s very highly paid…He’s certainly paid more than I am.”

    This appears to send the message that Lewis will be offered less money and can take it or leave it.

    Then when asked what he thought of Dennis’ statements, Lewis replied “It has nothing to do with me particularly, what he [Dennis] says…Martin is my boss.”

    This is not a particularly smart response, knowing how McLaren F1 is run.

    And then we have twittergate. Lewis puts confidential information up on twitter. One of the McLaren guys was telling me in Monza his phone never stopped beeping with text after text thanking them for their disclosure. Okay, even if the material was not that secretive, the humiliation and ridicule heaped onto many McLaren team members by competitors would be hard to take.

    The final piece of the jigsaw is XIX. They have been recruited to make Lewis a mega world brand and more money. It’s not going to look good if all they can get from McLaren is less money than Lewis old fella’ got last time around. Add to this their fee would be smaller, even if Lewis paid them.

    So who leaked the Mercedes story? It’s a story that has been given credence; it’s not just a rumour. McLaren have accepted it wasn’t Lewis or his representatives. Mercedes say they’ve said nothing, so who does that leave. The McLaren group?

    James Allen, who does not write speculative pieces, recently suggested, that it would not be surprising if McLaren were “tired of the pantomime of life that surrounds Lewis”.

    So McLaren may have had enough of Lewis, XIX need to justify their existence by getting him more money, McLaren refuse to pay more – gridlock.

    So there are 2 parties with incentives to give poor Lewis a shove.

    The alternatives are:-

    1) McLaren back down and pay more – is this like big Ron?

    2) Lewis stays and takes less money – why pay XIX for that, they’d be redundant.

    We shall see.

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