The world of Formula 1 was moderately stirred earlier today by the announcement that Lewis Hamilton is set to join Mercedes GP. Having been at McLaren for six years, the 27-year-old driver moves to Mercedes hoping to reignite his title challenge.
Already, pundit Eddie Jordan has boldly predicted that Hamilton can become the world champion once again at Mercedes. So is the future rosy now for the man who once told McLaren’s Ron Dennis that he would one day drive for him, boldly, back in 1995?
In a word, or two, not necessarily. Hamilton’s move to Mercedes is a huge gamble, and one that Hamilton is probably aware of. His team principal certainly is, anyway. Martin Whitmarsh described Hamilton’s desertion as a “mistake”, rightly pointing out that “whether you measure it over the last four races, four years or 40 years, we’re a fantastic team”.
Hamilton has certainly been well paid at McLaren, and supported hugely during his time with the team. Backed throughout the spat with Alonso, which saw the double world champion leave, not the golden boy himself, Hamilton has not wanted for support or anything else over the past seven years.
His current deal, signed in 2008, narrowly pre-empted the global financial crisis, and was priced accordingly. Now he has decided that, already is possession of life’s greatest good, a Pussycat Doll to call his own, McLaren’s money is no longer enough. Or big enough, perhaps.
Replacements all round
As with most deals in Formula 1, this isn’t a one-sided affair. McLaren’s arrival at Mercedes has prompted the team to release legendary driver Michael Schumacher, who was able through the outfit to return to F1 with the hope of adding further glory to a career touched with brilliance and showered with success.
On the face of it, Mercedes’ line-up for next year of Nico Rosberg and Hamilton looks particularly strong. The German tweeted the following to show his enthusiasm at the arrival of his British team-mate: “Very cool that Lewis will be my new team-mate! Gonna be another great challenge!”
More intriguing than the Mercedes pair, however, will be how Sergio Perez copes with moving up to the big leagues and signing on with McLaren at the age of 22. Perez described himself as “thrilled and delighted” to secure a drive with the team on a “multi-year deal”.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo rubbished Perez’ move to McLaren, claiming that he does not have the necessary experience. While this may be true, Perez is an exciting driver, a breath of fresh air for a team whose line-up was beginning to look a bit bloated and stale, and a gamble that may turn out to be a master stroke.
It is also a fantastic prospect for Perez himself. For McLaren, as Hamilton will know deep down, care about and nurture their young drivers. While the Mexican may not win as many titles as Alonso or Schumacher, and could hold McLaren back in his early years, they are a team that brings people forward and builds winners on a long term, not short term basis.
Interestingly, the language from McLaren was big: “”We have got the opportunity to mould and form the rising star of Formula 1. It’s the opportunity to turn him into an international brand, an international star and a world champion.”
So while one young driver has just made the move of his life, Hamilton is already having to deny rumours that he has switched for the money. His deal at Mercedes will be astronomically larger than anything McLaren would or could have offered.
Yet he insists that he has gone to the Brackley-based team to benefit from it in the long-term. Certainly this season, McLaren have the upper hand. Will this remains the case, or will Hamilton be left to regret his decision? Well, that’s one for Jake Humphrey, David Coulthard and Jordan to debate to their hearts content.
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