Lewis Hamilton faced the media today, 24 hours after BBC’s Eddie Jordan launched the story about him moving to Mercedes. So too did Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn, who said that he wants Mercedes to be a team every driver would want to drive for.
Hamilton denied that a deal was done with Mercedes, but did not say he wasn’t talking to them. He also said he didn’t know where he would be driving next season.
Mercedes did not deny that they were negotiating with Hamilton, but said that they wouldn’t comment. McLaren say only that Hamilton’s management have told them it’s not true, while Hamilton himself says that he is in “advanced talks with McLaren” and that money is not what interests him; “I just want to win” he said.
It seems that in recent weeks the talks with McLaren had stalled somewhat over money and terms and in the lull, Mercedes opened a serious dialogue with Hamilton. That’s where it is.
The door is still open for McLaren to come back and seal a deal with Hamilton, which many F1 insiders believe will be the outcome, while Mercedes has clearly put an offer to him, is serious about it and Hamilton is “in a good position”, as he puts it.
Although it seems things aren’t quite as advanced as Jordan’s story suggested, it would be a great mistake to say that there’s nothing to the story. Clearly Hamilton has an option, albeit one which comes with some uncertainty about competitiveness give the Brackley based team’s competitiveness.
There could be other commercial interests involved, sponsors who might back a Hamilton presence at Mercedes but who are conflicted with existing McLaren sponsors, for example.
The key question is, in whose interests is it that Jordan put the story out? Nothing like this happens in F1 without a reason. It could help Hamilton to negotiate, by creating a sense of loss for McLaren, but it doesn’t seem to have been his camp that leaked it. It’s certainly not in McLaren’s interests, on the face of it, while it gives Mercedes a chance to see what life might be like with Hamilton attached.
Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal said, “We never comment on speculation. When we make our driver decision you’ll be the first to hear about it.
“Lewis is a very good driver. We want to be a team that every driver wants to drive for. We’ve got a tremendous history to live up to, we’ve not there yet. But the plan we have in place, particularly with the changes in regulations in the next couple of years.”
And where does this leave Schumacher? Perhaps he has to wait and see what Mercedes come to him with once this process has been gone through.
Mercedes are ahead of schedule on the 2014 engines, a new technology that interests Brawn, who says that he wants to steer the team through the transition to the new rules and has no plans to retire.
The customer teams, including McLaren, expect to get the details of the new 2014 engine, its length, height, weight and installation details around April next year so that they can start the design of the 2014 cars.
Although the chassis department of Mercedes knows that information already, customer teams do not feel that the works team will have any significant advantage, as April is early enough for customers to be able to get an optimised design around the new unit.