Lewis Hamilton's career has been one of frustration and bitter disappointment since claiming the driver’s title in 2008. Despite his obvious ability, he has had his chances of recapturing championship glory compromised by uncompetitive cars and unforced errors. With his career seemingly stuck in limbo, could Lewis Hamilton be justified in leaving McLaren for pastures new?
Christian Horner has certainly thrown the cat among the pigeons with his recent praise of Lewis Hamilton. The 26-year-old Englishman's contract expires at the end of the 2012 season, a time when Red Bull could have an open race seat.
"You would think he is not going to be happy if he has another barren year" said the Red Bull team principal.
Horner's mischievous comments come at an unwelcome time for the McLaren team. They are struggling to get this year’s car, the MP4- 26, on par with Ferrari and Red Bull, and the possibility of having to contend with losing an integral part of their driver set up could further disrupt developments.
Lewis Hamilton's hiring of a new agent, having been in charge of his destiny since parting company with his father, has encouraged speculation amongst fans and the media alike. Hamilton is now run by Simon Fuller's XIX entertainment company, the organization behind the "Pop Idol" franchise.
“It was important I took my time to make this decision as it had to be right for my career and my long-term future. I spoke to many interested companies in recent months, but I felt Simon and his team not only wanted to help me become an even better racing driver, but they also shared my ambitions for the longer term,” the McLaren driver commented.
The appointment comes following Horner's praise for Hamilton for being in charge of his own destiny, now it seems that the 2007 world champion may be open to external influences.
Simon Fuller is a man who has already had a big impact in Formula 1. His company was the first to promote environmentally friendly initiatives in Formula 1 with the Honda team in 2007.
Aside from this, he was the mastermind behind Steve Macmanaman's move to Real Madrid, and, more notably, David Beckham's $250 million move to LA Galaxy. It is fair to assume that a company that specializes in creating publicity and generating huge profits will want Hamilton at the front of the grid; something that may not happens if he remains behind the wheels of a McLaren.
Lewis Hamilton owes his loyalty to McLaren. They are a team that have stuck with him through childhood, overseen all of his development and provided him with an entry to Formula 1. Not many drivers are fortunate to make their race debuts in a race-winning car, not least win a championship in their second season of competition.
Will Hamilton drive for Red Bull if McLaren's poor form continues?
Despite what McLaren have done for Hamilton, the relationship has not always been harmonious, almost reaching breaking point at the 2009 Australian Grand Prix. McLaren and Lewis presented the FIA with "misleading evidence" following a pass Jarno Trulli made on him under safety car conditions. The scandal humiliated both Hamilton and the team leading people to seriously question their integrity.
More recently, Lewis has become noticeably disheartened by the lack of pace in the McLaren. Could the loving relationship between Hamilton and the team be coming to an early death?
Lewis has done all he can to qualm the rumors surrounding his future.
"It's a long, long year and I have no doubts that we can compete with these guys," he said.