Is Lewis Hamilton barking mad?
Can he really be serious about walking away from McLaren to take a seat (presumably Michael Schumacher’s) in a Mercedes GP car?
If Bernie Ecclestone is to be believed—and that’s a whole other debate—Hamilton had made up his mind to go, according to ESPN F1. But that was before his recent run of good form.
It is obvious that Hamilton is not in a happy place. His demeanour on the podium at Monza was more reminiscent of someone whose dog had died rather than someone who had just won one of the year’s most prestigious races.
It is also clear that McLaren have let Hamilton down on quite a number of occasions this year.
In Spain, the team forgot to put enough fuel in the car during qualifying, meaning that Hamilton was relegated to last place on the grid, despite the fact he dominated qualifying to secure pole position by over half a second.
In Bahrain, he was held up by not one, but two excruciatingly long pit stops as the guy on the left rear figured out how to put a wheel nut on.
In Valencia, McLaren outdid themselves by dropping Hamilton’s car off the jack before the front wheels were on—turning what should have been a sub-three second stop into a 14 second nightmare.
Throw in a number of gearbox issues and you can see why Hamilton might be a bit annoyed.
Despite that, however, the McLaren is still a very quick car and Hamilton is still very much in the title hunt—albeit with a fair bit of work to do. Luckily for him, the misfortune has been very evenly spread this year with only Fernando Alonso seemingly immune to the gremlins.
Life at Mercedes doesn’t appear to be a whole lot better. They have also had their share of mechanical issues this year but more importantly, they don’t seem to have a fast car despite the early promise that it showed.
They also aren’t improving.
While they appear to be a relatively new team on the grid, their car is an evolution of the machine that took the 2009 championship.
Unless they have developed a secret weapon for next year, it’s hard to see what could possibly entice Hamilton to jump ship.
Surely, it cannot be the almighty dollar that is behind Hamilton’s thinking. If it’s a bargaining ploy to get a few more dollars and to cajole McLaren to loosen their death grip on sponsorship arrangements, then well played.
Otherwise, it’s sheer madness.
At this stage of his career, Hamilton has to be sitting in a car that gives him a shot at the title. At the moment that can only mean McLaren, Ferrari or Red Bull. We know he can’t work with Alonso and Red Bull have no room until 2014.
If he enjoys a challenge, Renault has the potential to move up the pecking order and would be worth a shot, but Mercedes just doesn’t look like getting there.
If Hamilton wants to be remembered as one of the greats—as he has the potential to be—McLaren are his best bet for the short term. Yes, they’ve let him down this year, but he should also remember that they kept faith with him when he almost threw the title away in 2008 and during some of his other “excitable” moments.
If, however, he’s in the game for the money, then good luck to him. We may forget about him in a few years, but he’ll be too rich and happy to care.