Lewis Hamilton's move to Mercedes for 2013 was a great shock after he spent the first six years of his career with McLaren, the team that had nurtured him since boyhood.
Now, after just a year and a half in a Silver Arrow, there are rumours Hamilton could be on his way back to Woking. The Telegraph's Daniel Johnson is reporting that McLaren have "opened very tentative dialogue with Lewis Hamilton."
But would Hamilton really leave Mercedes, who have produced a car that is delivering one of the most dominant seasons in Formula One history, for a team that has not won a grand prix since the year he left? And is McLaren interested in changing their driver pairing for the fourth straight season?
As early as March of this year, McLaren boss Ron Dennis said of Hamilton, "As and when—and I can assure you it will be sooner rather than later—that we return to the level of competitiveness that we have enjoyed in the past, he could well be one of the drivers that could be attracted back to us," per Sky Sports.
The team is not there yet. McLaren is still struggling to regain their race- and championship-winning form and they are also preparing for a switch from Mercedes to Honda engines for 2015. That means they will no longer be customers of their rivals, but the move will not be a panacea for the British team.
Honda may have an extra year to develop their new power unit, but they are also missing the data from a full season of racing. And McLaren's problem is not their engine, anyway. They are using the best power unit on the grid, but still lie sixth in the Constructors' Championship.
Meanwhile, in eight races this year, Mercedes have taken seven wins and seven second-place finishes. If Hamilton does not win the Drivers' title, he will still finish second to his teammate, Nico Rosberg. And while Hamilton has been frustrated with Rosberg at times—most notably when he felt the German cheated him out of a pole position in Monaco—is that really a reason to abandon a championship-level car?
Even if Hamilton did want to leave, there is no guarantee Mercedes would release him from his contract, which runs until the end of the 2015 season.
The move would make more sense for McLaren. Hamilton is unquestionably one of the best drivers on the grid and his star power can only help McLaren's ongoing search for a title sponsor.
Dennis recently said that, "if Lewis was in a position to drive for us next year, as with many of the other top drivers if they were in that position, we'd love to have them on board," according to Phil Duncan of the Daily Mail.
Few teams would say no if Hamilton came knocking, but he would be foolish to leave Mercedes right now. He certainly wants to add another championship to his resume and his current team—even with a strong teammate—provides the best opportunity to do so.
And if the McLaren/Honda partnership does prove to be successful, there will be opportunities in the future for Hamilton to return. For now, he should just be focused on winning as many races as possible before the other teams close the gap to Mercedes.
The time in the middle of the F1 season, when driver speculation starts to heat up, is called the silly season. But some rumours are sillier than others. As much as Dennis may want it, Hamilton to McLaren will not happen for 2015...although at this time last year, I think everyone would have said the same thing about Kimi Raikkonen returning to Ferrari this year.
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