Septemebr 28th, 2012 (F1plus / Jordan Irvine).- On Friday, September 28th 2012, literally months of rumours, stories and speculation ended as Mercedes AMG F1 team made the announcement the entire F1 world was waiting for – Lewis Hamilton has signed with the team for 2013, replacing Michael Schumacher, who is retiring from F1 for the second time.
Lewis Hamilton, who has driven for the McLaren F1 team since 2007 and was supported by the team his entire career building up to his Formula 1 debut, signed with Mercedes AMG F1 team for a reported £60 million over three years – a considerable pay increase that McLaren were ultimately unable to match, or that Hamilton was not wanting to commit to with his team of six years.
Although it is a move that has almost been ‘expected’ now for the past few weeks, or even months, it is not an announcement that many will take lightly. The move may very be seen as almost a betrayal by the McLaren team; a team who has been seen to have supported Hamilton in everything from his first Drivers’ World Championship win in 2008, to his struggles over the past couple of seasons in a less than competitive car. And though recent races have seen success from the team and from Hamilton in the form of pole positions and race wins, it may have been too little, too late, as Hamilton had likely already made up his mind about the move.
It is reasonably fair to say that tension has been somewhat high between McLaren and Hamilton as of lately, the ‘twitter-gate’ scandal being just one of many public displays of two different sides on two different pages. One may also remember the ‘less-than-impressed look’ Hamilton gave on-looking members of the media and public after his win at Monza – it was clear to see that something was not quite connecting between the driver and the team, something that was obvious in years before. Yet still, McLaren denied the stories about their star driver, and Mercedes AMG refused to comment on “speculation”.
However, just a few weeks later, the story is out, and as Lewis Hamilton steps out of his McLaren at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday November 25th, it will be the last time we see him in a McLaren car and outfit. He will then step into his new role as teammate to Nico Rosberg. With Michael Schumacher announcing his second retirement, the team will no longer star an all-German line-up, and Mercedes will be hoping the Lewis can help bring the team back to its glory days. Hamilton will be expected to bring pole positions and wins, as well as the fame and stardom already attached with the driver.
Though as I sit and write this article, I still can’t help but think this is not the right move for Hamilton. Forget loyalty, and forget the fact that Hamilton has driven with McLaren since before anyone can remember. Let’s look at things factually. McLaren are, and have been for the past three years, a stronger, more reliable, and more successful team than Mercedes AMG F1 have.
Since buying the World Championship winning team in 2009 (Brawn GP), Mercedes have been unable to replicate the success Brawn, failing to win more than just one Grand Prix over three seasons (to date) and only amassing a handful of World Championship points despite having a seven-time World Champion and a star youngster as their drivers. Reliability has been a major issue for the team, especially for Schumacher who has retired from too many races with mechanical failures in 2012 alone. When the cars are running without mechanical fault, uneven balance has meant the team has struggled with tyre management. Mercedes have had two pole positions, (one was from Schumacher who was demoted due to a five place grid penalty in Monaco) and only one race win (from Rosberg in China, who held the position from pole).
McLaren, on the other hand, have much more to brag about. In 2012 so far, Lewis Hamilton has finished eleven of the fourteen races on the calendar– six of those finishes have been on the podium, three of them race wins. To add to this, he has five pole positions this year with McLaren, not to mention the results from teammate Jenson Button added to the tally.
These results, of course, are just recent examples and comparison’s – to go into the past few years, and further, would be a task that may take longer than I could keep ones attention..!
The comparisons do make me question what the motivation for Hamilton behind such a move is nevertheless. All I can currently see is that this move is motivated by money, and not a lot else. With McLaren, Hamilton is with a World Championship team, a team with proven results and success. No, the past few years have not been perfect, but they’ve been considerably stronger than that of Mercedes.
Mercedes are a team who are still developing, progressing and re-establishing themselves as contenders. Hamilton will be a strong driver for the team, and will certainly help with the team’s development going through 2013. But I don’t see Hamilton winning races or Championships with the team – not just yet anyway.
If Hamilton wants to be a double World Champion, or more, than I would have advised him to remain with McLaren – a team who knows every aspect of his character, personality, and racing ability. Mercedes is a step backwards – the team needs to spend time learning all about the man, before they can learn about the racer.
But I’m not Hamilton’s manager, or adviser. I’m just a simple journalist voicing an opinion – and there won’t be a shortage of opinions going around in the next few days. And so I end – good luck to Hamilton and Mercedes AMG F1 in 2013, I think it will be needed.