Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Drivers Briefing: Lewis Hamilton

Many were surprised by Lewis Hamilton's announcement that he has signed a 3 year deal with the Mercedes F1 team starting from 2013. McLaren has funded Hamilton's entire single seater career after sponsoring him while he was still karting at the age of 13. These type of funding deals are based on mutual performance and both sides seem to have come to the party with multiple wins in each of the 6 years that Hamilton has been in F1, not to mention winning the drivers championship together in 2008 and missing the championship in his rookie year in 2007 by a single point. No other team can match that score over the same period. Not Red Bull, not Ferrari and not Mercedes.

Racing drivers tend to strive to get into the best seat available at the time. This provides the driver with the best opportunity to win, furthering their career, lining their pockets and satisfying the ego that each and every competitive driver must have. In single spec series, as the cars are identical, a well funded team that can afford to replace spare parts and employ the best engineers is the team to be with. In Formula 1, where each team manufactures their car, the team with the best designed and engineered car is the team to be with. While serious funding is required to build a F1 team capable of winning races and championships, a well funded team will not necessarily be a championship contender. This seems particularly relevant to road car manufacturers who turn their hand to Formula 1 to show their wares. Mercedes is one such team and, other than Nico Rosberg's sole win earlier this year, the return of Mercedes as a manufacturer in F1 has been uninspiring. In order to make their way to the front of the grid they have employed some serious engineering talent in the last year or so to assist Ross Brawn. Now they have brought across a driver whose talent behind the wheel is not doubted. For the Mercedes team this is a great move. I'm just not convinced that it is the right move for Lewis.

Hamilton may prove to be the Michael Schumacher of his day, gelling the team and developing the car to allow him to get the best out of his machinery. If he can do this I will have a newfound respect for the Brit.

The more likely scenario that I see is a frustrated Lewis watching his replacement at McLaren take more points than himself, all the while dividing his team with snarky comments and failing to develop the car to its full potential. Even at this embryonic stage I can imagine Lewis leaving Mercedes before his 3 year contract is up. Where to? Home to McLaren of course.

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