5 Sept 2012

Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes F1 in 2013?

Eddie Jordan has come out and predicted that Lewis Hamilton will drive for the Mercedes Formula 1 Team in 2013.

Eddie caught up with Bernie Ecclestone on the grid at last weekends race at Spa.  Bernie said of Michael Schumacher, "I'm sorry that he's leaving us not being a winner, because he is a winner."

Eddie then asked if Bernie knew whether Schumacher was retiring and Bernie replied, "I don't know, I don't know."

Confronted with Ecclestone's comments, Schumacher insisted after Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix that he hadn't yet decided on his future.

So Eddie did some investigating and has now come up with the story that Lewis will sign for Ross Brawn's Mercedes team.  Eddie said, "I believe Hamilton and Mercedes have already agreed personal terms and a deal could be imminent."

Eddie went on to say, "Some weeks ago I said on TV that I felt Lewis was on the move and I had an idea at the time he had been speaking to Ferrari, which we now know is true.  But I can now confirm his people have had meetings with Mercedes.  Bernie Ecclestone made it clear to me live on television on Sunday that Schumacher was leaving, although Schumacher later played it down.  So it would appear Michael is leaving and Lewis is arriving at Mercedes.  Hamilton has not agreed terms with McLaren yet."

"In fact the team have made it clear they cannot offer him as big a salary as his current £9.42m deal, which was negotiated before the global financial crisis.  On top of that, McLaren have to pay for their Mercedes engines for the first time next year.  Hamilton moving to Mercedes would also make a lot of sense in the context of his manager Simon Fuller, the man behind the Spice Girls and now David Beckham.  Fuller is trying to position Hamilton as a major global star, like Beckham, and Mercedes is a much bigger global brand than McLaren.  There has been some uncertainty over Mercedes' position in F1. The board is unhappy at the current performance of the team, but getting Hamilton would undoubtedly be a massive coup and it could give the F1 team some breathing space."

Lewis Hamilton's management company, and Mercedes, have refused to comment on Eddie's remarks whilst McLaren said, "Negotiations between Lewis Hamilton and McLaren continue."

So is this all talk?  Or is there substance behind the rumours and conjecture?  Well, rumours of Lewis talking with other teams have been going on for some time now.  Indeed we reported as much back on 16 July (see F1 Driver market for 2013 and beyond).

McLaren have, in Lewis Hamilton, a driver who is capable of outdriving the car - a rare commodity.  Only Alonso and Vettel are capable of such feats - although others, such as Jenson Button can do so on occasion.  But Lewis has been behaving strangely recently.  His tweeting of team data, of which Jenson Button said he was "Disappointed" and the wholesale reinvention of his persona.  He can also be a quite emotional young man prone to sulking and under-performing when things don't go his way.

McLaren need Lewis Hamilton - that much is clear.  Jenson is occasionally brilliant but Lewis has the potential to be brilliant at every race and F1's top teams need two high achieving drivers if they are to ride high in the constructors table - which pays the bills.  They will do everything they can to keep him.

But if, and it's a big if, Michael Schumacher does leave Mercedes then they too need a top driver and  Nico Rosberg is not a top driver.  Nico is at the upper end of the mid-field but he isn't one of F1's greats.  Mercedes have the financial capability to entice Lewis.  They can also make promises of number 1 status - something Ross Brawn is quite used to - which McLaren cannot.  With a top driver comes a top ego and being beaten by Jenson, if only occasionally, must bruise the Hamilton ego.

Mercedes F1 has under-performed and the board of Daimler AMG have made it quite clear that if they do not improve they will pull the plug on the F1 team.  A driver of Hamilton's calibre replacing Schumacher will be the lifeline the F1 team needs.

If Lewis is genuinely on the market then Mercedes have the capacity to outbid McLaren.

So will Lewis Hamilton leave McLaren for Mercedes?  We may find out sooner rather than later.