So, Lewis is going to Mercedes next year after 14 years as a McLaren man. Big mistake? Well, don’t expect him to feature in next year’s championship; he’s going to have to wait a while until he’s at the sharp end again. But I think he’ll win a title in the Silver Arrow at some point. Just not for a while.
On the face of it Lewis’ move seems to be one that has been motivated by money, albeit earning potential rather than outright salary. But there’s no doubt that the years at McLaren since his 2008 drivers’ championship have been blighted as much by the team’s mistakes as his, particularly this year. I think he’s probably sick of having points thrown away.
Will he regret the move? Short term? Yes, probably, but 2014 is a year of change for Formula One. New rules for both engines and chassis will give the team a chance to steal a march on those who will spend next year fighting for the titles, which Mercedes will not. Last time F1 got a regulatory shake up like this was for the 2009 season, which saw McLaren having an absolute nightmare, while a little team known as BrawnGP scooped the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles. Of course, this is also noteworthy since the team that was called BrawnGP are now the team Lewis will drive for next year, and the titles were the result of spending much longer developing the new car than their rivals. Undoubtedly this is what Mercedes has told Lewis they plan to do or are already doing, but engines are the key here I think.
There’s no doubt that things will be hard for Hamilton whether it’s planned or not. It’s going to be awkward in that garage
The more immediate problem he’s going to face of course is in his fight for the 2012 Championship. Now that he’s off at the end of the year, McLaren will have to very careful about what they reveal to him between now and the last race in Brazil. The conspiracy theorists will go totally nuts, claiming all sorts of things every time something goes wrong for Hamilton: ‘They don’t want him to take the number one to another team’, ‘he’s being punished for bailing, the traitor’ and so on and so forth. That’s all bollocks, but there’s no doubt that things will be hard for him whether it’s planned or not. It’s going to be awkward in that garage.
So, what are his reasons? Well, he’s probably feeling like McLaren isn’t really working out for him and is looking for a fresh start. On top of that, Mercedes (despite McLaren’s history) is a ‘works’ drive, and that would appeal to anyone. He’ll have more chances for personal endorsement deals (McLaren are notoriously difficult in this area) while Simon Fuller will find building Brand Hamilton a bit easier with a global ‘F1-transcending’ company like Mercedes-Benz. Oh, and he’ll get to keep his trophies, of course.
But all of that is not really the exciting part of this story. That honour belongs to Sergio Perez, who has been snaffled from Ferrari in what is arguably a larger coup for McLaren than nabbing Lewis was for Mercedes. Perez is a Ferrari Academy driver; I imagine his move to Maranello’s arch rivals in Woking is something akin to a Manchester United youth team superstar-in-the-making ending up in a red shirt that has Standard Chartered written on the front instead of AON.
He’s demonstrated time and time again that he’s a future world champion
Sergio, providing that McLaren can give him the car, will do incredible things at that team. In fact, so convinced am I by what a stonking 2013 he’s going to have, I’m off to the bookies this afternoon to put a tenner on him taking the title next year. He’s demonstrated time and time again that he’s a future world champion, in particular with his stellar single-stop drive from 12th to 2nd in Monza, McLaren will give him the chance he deserves to prove it.
The change also offers us a window in to future driver movements. One suspects that Ferrari wouldn’t have let Sergio drive a silver car if there was room for him at Maranello in 2014, which suggests that Ferrari already has its line-up for that year sorted. Will Kubica join Alonso? I doubt it. The more likely option seems to be that Vettel will leave Red Bull at the end of next year to chase a title with another team. Webber will ‘retire’ to race Porsches at Le Mans leaving a couple of Red Bull seats open for Ricciardo and Di Resta.
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