Hamilton and Schumacher the key to 2013 F1 driver market
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 May 2012   |  4:22 pm GMT  |  202 comments

The F1 driver market is starting to move for next season as drivers who are out of contract at the end of the year review their options and start discussions.

Unlike football, where there are rules about players being “tapped up” by rival teams without their team’s permission, as well as defined transfer windows, F1 drivers and their agents talk quite a bit and stay in touch with other teams. This constant ebb and flow leads to rumours of driver moves, which turn out to be wrong.

The key to the 2013 driver market is whether Michael Schumacher retires at the end of the year and whether Lewis Hamilton decides to try his luck away from McLaren.

Schumacher has had a tough comeback, but his pole in Monaco will have renewed his confidence and he may be on for a big result in Montreal. He’s outstanding there, having won the race seven times and the track will suit the Mercedes better than any other team, with its double DRS and good traction out of slow corners. It’s like Monaco with straights, so Schumacher should get at least a podium. Whether one strong result would encourage him to leave the sport for good or to continue, only he knows. But he will be 44 in January and time waits for no man.

If he quits, there will be a seat at Mercedes, which Hamilton would be prime candidate for. Should Hamilton stay at McLaren or move elsewhere it is felt that Paul Di Resta will get the Mercedes seat, which would create a vacancy at Force India.

Hamilton is the interesting one. He grew up with McLaren, so it would be a wrench to leave, but his vocal criticisms of the team, particularly in Monaco, have alerted observers to the possibility that he may be looking around.

It’s impossible to imagine Ferrari wanting to put him alongside Fernando Alonso. Not because they don’t get on; they do and the respect is clear between them when you see them together off camera. But the Ferrari/ Santander/ Alonso project is clearly defined and requires a driver like Mark Webber or Robert Kubica riding shotgun, not Lewis Hamilton.

Red Bull remains a possibility, although Sebastian Vettel and the current management would look at it like Ferrari do. However the team is run by Red Bull in Austria, not the race team management and if HQ thinks that Hamilton would be good for the business and the brand they may push for him to be hired.

McLaren want Hamilton to stay and for its principal partners like Vodafone and GSK Hamilton is certainly a big draw. But McLaren is no longer manufacturer-backed and infinitely resourced. It depends whether Hamilton’s management company XIX, which comes from the entertainment industry and has a different view on value from racing people, push for maximum value from their asset. If it came to a bidding war between McLaren and Mercedes, as XIX would love it to, then who would dig the deepest?

Complicating the picture is the uncertainty over Mercedes’ continued participation in the sport beyond December 31st. At present the terms on offer to them to continue are less favourable than the other teams. That must be resolved first before long term driver contracts are signed.

By getting Jenson Button’s signature on a three year contract, McLaren have covered themselves to a point. But XIX is sure to try to create a market for Hamilton’s services and that’s what a lot of the talk in the papers over the next three months will be about.

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I like to bet on Schumaker (8th title) for Ferrari 2xyear contract post 2012. If he gets this seat…we have 2 years of rock n roll


I think lewis should go to Williams. If he signed a contract with a reasonable salary but with good bonus structure he would still earn a ton of money and Williams team would be inspired to do great things and the sponsors would be queueing round the factory to sign up because the media would go mad for it.


James, I, also, was not impressed with Latham not keeping Hamilton up to date with what Vettel was doing. So not sure why calling Lewis’ Monaco comments “vocal criticism” is a responsible way of describing things.

I come from an Urban background and get VERY fed up (note if my background was middle class or higher I would probably say “a bit ” not “very” wouldn’t I?) with the constant picking on and commenting on Lewis’ communiqués that seem VERY straight forward to me (again I should probably dissemble that word VERY if I could be half bothered with such time wasting shenanigans).

It’s shows a lack of appreciation or awareness of difference in communication style by people from more diverse backgrounds burgeoning on the institutional, and when compared to Button’s charge to his engineer “to work that one out!!” (having failed to get a pole capable car into Q3) or constant complaints about the car handling always ignored by the media, is beginning to have a sinister overtone in my view.

But even putting communication style aside – you should cut him enough slack, from his growing frustration as a result of all the mishaps coming from the pit, pitstops and inadequate strategy, at least up until the first non-bungled race– innit!!


I meant throw…throw is cap into that pool


If he gets a win on the board in Canada/Silverstone I think he will stay with McLaren; it hinges on whether he feels they are his best bet for championship #2.

If the team continue to fluff their lines in pit stops/strategy he will seek pastures new at Red Bull (with Webber moving to Ferrari).


I cannot understand why people think Ferrari would be a good move for any driver, its a “on the way to the grave yard team” – and its not even the top team.

o.k…you get a ferrai as a company car and , yeah they pay well…o.k they have history but they’re still a ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out of F1’ team.

Schumi,kimi, fisci then you have those who’s careers were ruined Ervine, Barricello in my opinion the best seat, the seat I’d be chasing is the merc seat – if Webber is looking elsewhere he needs to through his cap into that pool.


I’m sure Alonso would welcome Hamilton at Ferrari – bring on Prost vs Senna again please


If I was Hamilton, I would go to Mercedes (if they are sticking around) and Mercedes should whisper to Schumi ‘its time, its over’. (hes suffered enough, all those wrongs from his 1st career….he’s payed….let it stop)

Rosberg would be a great team mate for Hamilton imo(both doing a solid and consistant job in cars that in race trim are not as quick as they should be) and again imo the car is almost there it just needs that tiny thing…about 0.5+ of a second. Which I feel Hamilton could bring and Rosberg would chase.

Norbet knows it, maybe Ross Brawn(a man of dubious character) like Schumi see it but don’t want to accept it.

But its like when Coultard left RedBull and Vettle joined.

Hamilton is wasted under Whitmarsh


Hit the nail on the head in terms of Schumacher. Ross Brawn has to think of the team and if he can get ahold of Hamilton or even a up and coming Di Resta he needs to take it.

Schumacher has been stonger this year no question but I really think that he would sevre him better to retire if he wins again. Be a great for him in sense he returned after 3 years, took abit of beating critically and won a race. I do not see another championship in him he is too different race to race. Once race looks good the other mistake like in Spain.


We are forgetting that Mercedes is not the All-Conquering Silver Arrows team of old. nor is F1.

In the glory days Alfred Neubauer had an unlimited budget and the full might of Daimler Benz Engineering to draw on.

Today neither are possible. With a complete change in the technical regulations beckoning, one man could just make the difference to Lewis and that’s Adrian Newey.

Would anyone bet against Red Bull hitting new ground running faster than their rivals as long as they have a good (Mercedes ?) engine deal.

Surely Mercedes would drop Force India to supply an Austrian Team with two WDCs in the driving seats, one German and the other Lewis ?


what about williams team….i think williams is the only team that need a driver like hamilton in thei cockpit.

can you james write your opinion about it.


They could’t afford him currently


don`t forget that they can use the stockmarket and that if they sign hamilton they will earn money from new sponsorships.

i think is not impossible


I think McLaren is Lewis’s only realistic option. He has a good team-mate who he bettered one year, didn’t the next, but with whom he appears to have a good relationship where they continue to get on regardless of whether or not one of them is having a bad time of things. This kind of stability is actually pretty important for Lewis, in my opinion; if you look at last year when there was a bit of turmoil or him his eye wasn’t nearly as on the ball.

As a post script, now that Jenson has had a few misfortunes it’s good to see the back of the conspiracy nonsense that the team was focussing on JB at the expense of Lewis.


There’s no point in him staying at McLaren. The last few years McLaren have made strategic mistakes with the paths followed for their cars. I.e. no evolution, kitchen sink approach every year. This year was an evolution of last year. But they still got it wrong with the lack of high nose, so another approach again for next year.

So McLaren have produced some cars that were not genuine title challengers over the past years. Now that in 2012 they have produced a genuine challenger and he doesn’t haven to overdrive, what is the point in staying if they make strategic mistakes even with a fast car? This is why he should just go.

RBR is a marketing team, and Hamilton is marketing man’s dream come true. These 2 in theory should be a match made in heaven. If I was RBR I would get Hamilton in and let Vettel go if he wants, Hamilton has already made it clear he is not afraid to partner Vettel. Hamilton also has the more worldwide appeal and would sell more cans of Redbull than Vettel (who is big mainly in Germany) so again I don’t understand the business decision in not hiring Hamilton.

However, Hamilton still should not join Newey because Newey has a weakness. While Newey is great at hitting the ground running with big rule changes (98, 09+), he has always been outdone when the regulations have settled for 2-3 years. There are other groups of engineers better than him at the constant iterative improvement. This is where his success rate slows down. Newey should be a good bet again for 2014-2016 though. The other negative with RBR is the key men inteam have all only been signed up until 2014 so there is a chance of the dream team breaking up upon Hamilton’s arrival.

Finally, Mercedes. I believe Hamilton should go there if he has the chance. Mercedes have invested too much into the team to depart F1, so they are very unlikely to leave. Either Schumacher or Rosberg should be replaced, doesn’t matter which. Ross Brawn is the key man, he knows what it takes to win and is was instrumental in mentoring Schumacher for wins. People say Hamilton lacks intelligence, but it is not required, Brawn spoonfed Schumacher in his previous career and asked him to execute some brilliant strategies, which Hamilton can duly do also. Brawn is also building up a very strong engineering team, with 5 previous technical directors under his commandership. Already they have started to have race wins and poles, so have demonstrated they have the leap up from last year. Next year they may be ready to mount a proper WDC challenge, and to be fair they can do it in 2012 already but I don’t think they have the drivers to pull it off.

Summary: Hamilton should move because McLaren have given him a competitive car but the team still does not perform.

He should move to Mercedes.


Hi James, in the scenario of Hamilton leaving McLaren, would it be safe to say that the legendary team is in quick decline internally? I think Hamilton will be the person who know the best about the future of the team.


I always thought Lewis was meant to stay at Mclaren. However Mclaren have gone a bit “stale” lately.If Mercedes decide to stay in the game for a while and Michael hangs up his helmet, he should go to them in 2013 It would be really good for him and the experience of working with a key partner could prove invaluable to Mercedes AMG, not to mention he is one of the very best out there! I also think he and Nico woild make a good combination -same sort of persnalities and age and Norbert Haug likes Lewis. I don’t think Horner is as big a fan and they will go via their young drivers to partner up with Senastian.


What about Raikkonen? As far as I know he’s only on a 1 year contract at Lotus is it not?

I’m sure there are many teams who would like him in one of their cars. Grosjean too. Needs to get rid of the “crash-kid-syndrome” but he’s been fast too.

And Glock? He’s disappeared off the radar, but he’s consistent and quick enough to be a number 2. Maybe his age is counting against him.


Hope Glock decides to do what Fichella did when he left Jordan. Fischella moved to Sauber a midfield team, drove a strong season and got a job at Renault up front. Glock really needs to get out of there in my view. Hope Kimi stays where he is as it appears to be working for both the team and him.


Who do you think is the most important in the driver market James? As in who will get the ball rolling? Hamilton is for sure looking elsewhere, Schumacher weighting up his options, Webber too looking around for the best deal and Massa struggling to hang on to his seat in Red.


Hamilton. He may well stay put, but the possibility of moving leaves things in the air


If you had to guess at this point in time, will he stay or leave? Thinking the next few races will decide his fate as much as decide the main runners for this year’s championship. Clearly he is getting annoyed about the mistake and lack of performance so if looking around for the best deal. Certainly he is not the same man who said in his first year that he will stay with the team for his entire career.


I also see Kimi being in the mix in the drivers market in 2012, too.


Hi James,

I am quite surpirised you have described Robert Kubica as a “riding shotgun”, given that Kubica has been the better of the two drivers (Hamilton) when they competed in earlier years.

I believe that Kubica is as good as Alonso (who perhaps is one of the top 5 drivers in the history of the sport).




I can’t see Hamilton going to Ferrari alongside Alonso. I can’t see him going to Mercedes either.

RBR is more likely, but stay at Mclaren is what’s most possible to happen.

They just have to raise the bar and do better on the track.


and Lotus?


Speaking of Kubica, is there any news on him?


With Mercedes’ future in the sport in doubt, where do you see Nico fitting in to this equation? RBR?


On his toes at the moment, hoping they stay in. The more I learn about the deal on the table for the other top teams I can see why Merc are unhappy with what they are being offered. There is a big premium for past success at championship level and Merc won two in the 1950s and another with Brawn


I can understand Merc being unhappy with the situation you describe James. Principle, pride and um er money.

I’d hate to see Nico go backwards at this stage of his career. This young guy has learned so much the past few years and deserves a decent seat going forward. I reckon he’d give Seb a run for his money if the situation ever arose.


Doesn’t matter where Hamilton goes. I honestly believe you have seen the best of him. Outside influences seem to dictate his outlook and performance in F1 and from all accounts if your not 100% switched on doesn’t matter where you go, it ain’t gonna happen.

Hoping MS stays at least long enough to get a win. He deserves it for what he has put into the sport. Imagine being smashed and spoken about for 3 years do which most comments have been negative. He has proved he is worthy and if the Mercedes was as competitive the last two years as it is now I’m sure he would of had a few podiums if not wins.


As I see it, McLaren is in a very strong negotiating position. He has no real alternatives:

Ferrari – not a chance in a million years.

Red Bull – Hamilton shot himself in the foot by publicly making overtures to Red Bull last year, and being thereafter snubbed. I don’t see him at Red Bull as long as Vettel is there. Moreover, I believe Webber will continue at Red Bull next year. He appears to be the least likely of any driver on the grid to drive for a non-English speaking team like Ferrari.

Mercedes – I do believe Schumi will continue, and even if he doesn’t it will not be known until the end of the season.

Mclaren will realize that Hamilton likely will not have any serious alternatives, at least, during the summer contract negotiations period.

I also did get the sense last year that Ron Dennis (who is still the super boss) and McLaren would have been slightly uncomfortable with the hip hop-celebriy glitz culture that Lewis was bringing into the team. Perhaps they want him out? I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Hamilton is left without a competitive drive next year. Any inside views on this, James?

Crucial weeks ahead for him.

James Clayton

Perhaps they want him out? Which is why they’re reportedly offering him 60 million to stay?




My prediction for 2013:

1. Massa stays in red for another season

2. Hamilton stays at McLaren (possible 3 year deal)

3. Schumacher stays at Mercedes for one another season.

4. Webber stays at RBR (one season)

5. Hulkenberg and DiResta remain under paid at Force India.

6. Vergne and Ricciardo stay at STR

7. Lotus – same drivers, but Grosjean smiles less in 2013 (as he becomes more of a man and less of a boy)

Sorry to burst your bubbles guys but I don’t predict much movement come 2013….

Truth or lies

Spot on.

Actually Kimi might even retire (again) before MS, he’s one strange cat that Kimi, funny how his head was down so much in Monaco, just after the team told him he couldn’t go Rallying.


Think its clear from Hamilton’s (body) language that he is now open to a move and that loyalty has it ends. Problem for Old Lewis is that I don’t see anyone paying what he (read management team) wants nor are there many options as already made clear in several posts.

I think Lewis’s stock has been in decline since last year when he was not driving well and team managers could see he his not always intelligent and calm enough. On top of that other driver talents like Perez, diResta are in their 2nd season and are doing a very good job. They are cheaper.

Last point I want to make is that even is Michael is going, surley Mercedes are wanting Nico to succeed and win a title (unless they poach Vettel but lets forget about that). This means there is no point in putting Hamilton next to him in the Merc.

James Clayton

I think any stock Lewis lost last year is well on its way to being recovered this year.

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