Times correspondent Edward Gorman reported a scoop today, proclaiming exclusive news that Anthony Hamilton, father and manager of Lewis Hamilton, had been caught in covert discussions with a key member of the Ferrari team.
Stefano Domenicali, team principal of the Italian team, was caught by the Times reporter/photographer enjoying private discussions with the McLaren man.
Having quietly slipped out from a party held by Mercedes at the German circuit, both men seemed to be engaged in furtive talks. Domenicali in particular seemed to be intrigued by what Hamilton Sr. had to say.
The very fact that Domenicali and other members of the Ferrari hierarchy were at the party is interesting. It indicates that relations between the two teams have improved considerably in recent times. Such a scenario would have been almost unthinkable in the immediate aftermath of the Spygate saga.
Whether pictures of Domenicali chatting with Anthony Hamilton will help matters, however, is highly debatable. Unfortunately for both sides it is a story that will grab headlines.
Rumours will no doubt start to spread that Lewis is about to leave McLaren, a team that has spent many years developing his natural talent. The 23-year-old is known to have a few differences of opinion with team boss Ron Dennis, lending weight to any suggestions he would be prepared to leave.
Similarly, Hamilton is a very ambitious driver—desperate to start his collection of World Championship trophies. At this moment in time, Ferrari arguably look better positioned to help his pursuit of Michael Schumacher’s seven titles.
The reality, however, is probably slightly different—any switch is far from imminent. Hamilton has not even completed the first year of his new five-year deal, which is rumoured to be worth around £75 million. Such a contract would be hard to break.
It is also rather obvious from his press conferences and post-race reactions that he has developed a deep rapport with his team of mechanics, whom he would be loath to leave behind.
Also, he has a great emotional attachment to McLaren, having been part of the English team for more than a decade. Such ties would be hard to break.
Being pragmatic, it is more than likely that the meeting was in fact very innocent. It is very possible that the meeting was simply two new friends discussing golf plans for the next week.
Nevertheless, such intimate discussions suggest that a switch to the Italian team is not out of the question for Lewis. It may not happen for a few years yet, but if McLaren lose competitiveness in forthcoming seasons they may have to brace themselves for a battle to keep their prized asset.
Having made contact, Ferrari are unlikely to give up the pursuit of one of F1’s most talented drivers. And as history shows, they often get their man.