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Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Sep 2012   |  11:06 am GMT  |  844 comments

Lewis Hamilton’s demeanour and that of his team after victory in the Italian Grand Prix bore all the hallmarks of a divorce that has already been agreed. Minimal celebrations on the pit wall and beneath the podium, a team photo for appearances’ sake with an implacable looking Hamilton and Ron Dennis declining to join in.

Despite appearances, team boss Martin Whitmarsh said after the race that suggestions that a deal was already done were “fantasy” and insisted that the door is still open if Hamilton wants to stay.

However driver contracts often get signed during race weekends and there were strong indications that the situation may have been closed out before everyone left Monza.

Hamilton looks like he is moving on, perhaps the only way he can become his own man, certainly the only way he and XIX Entertainment can fully cash in on his status, box office power and his image rights. And that is a big part of what this is about. Mercedes is one of the world’s most powerful brands, while McLaren makes F1 cars and small volume sports cars. This deal will take Hamilton’s name and image well beyond the boundaries of F1. If Hamilton did not want this, why would he had signed up with XIX?

Also McLaren drivers have to work within strict guidelines with team sponsors. Mercedes need Hamilton and this deal will give him greater freedom. The suggested deal with Mercedes and its sponsors is very big and so too will be the impact it will make on the competition in F1 over the next three years and the driver market in the nearer term.

Mercedes had to do this, as one of only two “works” teams in F1 they had to get a champion on board, especially with Michael Schumacher winding down towards retirement again. There is risk if they don’t go on to win, but it’s a risk worth taking.

Ron Dennis’ fellow McLaren shareholders were all in Monza this weekend, from Friday onwards; Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman and long time shareholder Mansour Ojjeh could be observed in discussions with Whitmarsh over the next steps in a painful negotiation with a driver whom the team has nurtured since childhood.

Eddie Jordan, apparently prompted by both XIX and Bernie Ecclestone, lobbed the grenade in on Wednesday, saying that Hamilton was on the point of signing for Mercedes. It was a final call to McLaren to improve the deal on offer or lose their man.

But some signs were there from McLaren’s side that there was not only a reluctance to meet the financial terms, but also a weariness with the whole pantomime of ‘Life with Lewis.’ The tweeting of the set up sheet in Spa was a symbolic watershed in a relationship which has veered off track since the wide eyed enthusiasm of 2007.

The biggest problem for McLaren is how to replace Hamilton without losing significant performance. He’s worth £25 million a year because he’s one of the fastest drivers in the world and whoever sits in the car next year is unlikely to be able to match that speed. Whitmarsh said yesterday that he does not have a Plan B.

Paul di Resta senses an opportunity, but will he be able to meet the numbers on the stopwatch that Hamilton does? And will McLaren want both their drivers to be managed by the same person? Di Resta confirmed his deal with Jenson Button’s manager Richard Goddard this weekend, replacing Lewis’ father Anthony, who is suing Di Resta for wrongful dismissal and loss of earnings.

F1 is an incestuous world, with such complex intertwined relationships but there is great goodwill between Goddard and Whitmarsh. Goddard looked very pleased all weekend in sharp contrast to the careworn faces of the McLaren management.

Kimi Raikkonen is the only driver who could get close to Hamilton’s performance – he is only a single point behind him in the championship – but he seems happy at Lotus and he wasn’t terribly happy last time he drove for McLaren. His qualifying pace has yet to be rediscovered but he’s racing very strongly. He would work well with Button and form a strong team, but he’s come back to F1 to enjoy himself and the sponsor commitments would be a huge sticking point. Button would refuse to do more than his fair share for Vodafone, Mobil and the rest to compensate.

Speaking of Vodafone, there have been suggestions that discussions are taking place for Sergio Perez to join the team; Vodafone has been looking for years into expanding its reach in Latin America and particularly Brazil via Perez’ backers Telmex and America Movil. So this could provide a strong business case for a move. However Perez is a Ferrari Academy driver so there are some hurdles there.

There have been suggestions of a trade with Mercedes on Nico Rosberg, with Michael Schumacher staying on to partner Hamilton. But one senses that Mercedes were waiting to see if they could get Hamilton signed before making their next move, and now may start gently leaning on the seven times champion to ease him into retirement.

Hamilton at Mercedes, if and when confirmed, is good news for Bernie Ecclestone, who keeps Mercedes involved and committed, despite some very rocky times between the two parties recently over Mercedes’ share of the sport’s revenues in comparison with Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren. It could be Mercedes’ turn to do some winning in F1.


Ecclestone has got what he wants, but is known to be suspicious of Simon Fuller and XIX Entertainment. Such a group having so much power and control over one of his biggest stars is a situation he will be monitoring carefully.

This looks like the final push for Mercedes – Ross Brawn knows what it takes to win and has followed the tried and tested formula: he has built up his technical team, they have their own engine facilities and a clear plan and now it looks like they have the driver.

All the pieces are in place and Mercedes must deliver the title in the next three years.

Fail with this group and there would be pressure from Daimler shareholders to call time on the F1 adventure.

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1

James,

I just read that Lewis was unhappy after monza, not cos of contract talks. His Aunt passed away. I think you have made a mountain out of a mole hill. And also check this latest press conf in india where Lewis says “M for McLaren ” and also that McLaren is his family!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsBvkE-2U0Y

Pls reply

2

We will see whether the tip off was right or wrong in the fullness of time

3

Oh boy, James! You were spot on with this article. Love the fact you didn’t leave much wriggle room for yourself in case the move didn’t happen. And you were right!

This is why your blog is the best in F1.

4

If Lewis wins championship this year and then another one with Mercedes in the next couple of years or so, will Ron Dennis still give him a McLaren MP4??

Ron promised Lewis one if he wins three championships. Not sure if he said all the championships have to be with McLaren??

5

If McLaren really wants to cut LH salary if they are to resign him, I think it says that they don’t really care if he stays or not.

Many here seem to think that a move to Merc is not in its best interest. Sure it may seems that way looking at their present performance, but can you really discount the fact that they actually may be able to produce a winning package? Based on the talent they have accumulated in the team I would be surprised if they don’t come up with a much more competitive package.

Again, many here seem to think that comes 2014, the Merc engine will be the best. Are they saying that ferrari & Renault are not capable of producing good engines? That is a laugh. I hope that the change of engine rules would encourage a new player in F1 as well. With a team like McLaren not being tied up to Merc anymore, It should be an added motivation for a would be supplier to take the plunge. Time will tell.

I hope MS comes to this site from time to time, as I am sure he would be feeling some warmth over all the support shown here for his continued present in an F1 car. A MS, LH team up is mouth watering, and I hope it will become a reality in 2013.

Marc

6

Just read this article that suggests McLaren are looking to cut Lewis salary below from £ 15m whilst Mercedes could be offering up to £ 60m for 3 years and number 1 status regardless of team mate. Some serious biscuits in this package if it real !

http://mobile.news.com.au/sport/motor-sport/lewis-hamilton-may-be-pondering-switch-back-to-mercedes/story-fnec578q-1226474168083

7

Lewis’s management are obviously on a percentage of the money he earns, so if Merc are offering more than McLaren that’s the way they will guide him, if he signs say, at Singapore will McLaren be removing Lewis’s mobile phone when he enters the garage !?

8

IMO, it is a great opportunity for him to move to a new team. That takes courage and he can have a chance to prove to everyone else (who is not his fans) that he can be a man.

Obviously, he has been spoon fed to reach the top so quickly. Then when Mclarens are bad, his performance is gone (see 2009). He is basically doing a Jenson Button move of 2010.

All the best kid!

9

Right judging by James’s comments there is a deal agreed, but I would guess not signed yet.

Meanwhile negotiations continue with McLaren while Lewis weighs up his options.

I suppose Merc would have a deadline on how long the offer is available for too, maybe October when MSC is going to decide his future

10

I find it truly hard to believe that McLaren could not afford to pay Lewis Hamilton 7M EUD more when considering that the McLaren Group made a substantial profit last year:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/mclarens-profits-driven-lower-2367403.html

Perhaps they stop diverting its resources into its money losing sports car division.

11

Mclarens first mistake was signing Button. To develop the optimum car they need two drivers with a similar driving style, not two drivers with polar opposite driving styles like Hamilton and Button.

Their second mistake was to treat Button as Hamilton’s equal, he’s simply not in the same league as top drivers like Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel. All car development should be focused around Hamilton and all strategy should have been optimised for Hamilton. Mclaren should have treated Button like Ferrari treat Massa, as the second tier driver that he is.

I don’t blame Hamilton for being unimpressed with Mclaren. I’ve lost count of the number of operational and strategic errors they have made in the past few years. There is no point in building the best car (which most of the time they don’t) if you can’t get the basics right. They have only managed to get their act together in the last few races and even then they arguabley made a huge error with Hamilton’s rear wing in Spa.

Why should a driver of Hamilton’s quality take the humiliation of a pay cut when he is already on half of what Alonso is paid at Ferrari? Too little too late from Mclaren, Hamilton needs to move on.

12

BTW, when can we expect a public announcement if it goes through ?

13

Hi James

This item has certainly generated a lot of interest with a great deal of intelligent comment.

I should be grateful if you could clear something up.

I understand that Lewis’s present contract is around 15 million and that Jens new contract was raised from around 8 million to very similar to that which Lewis is on.

I have read somewhere that McLaren want to reduce Lewis’s to well below Jens. Is that your understanding?

Siddle

15

Why o why is Michael keeping us waiting?

I want him to stay. He has unfinished business. Ideally he would leave with Ross. After the transition in two years time. They are in this together.

Hamilton is very eager on history. Look at his Senna helmet. It must be hard for him to witness Vettel making history as the youngest driver, youngest point scorer, youngest winner, youngest champion, youngest double and perhaps youngest triple champion in history.

The only way for him to make history is to become the first Driver Champion in a Silver Arrow. A brand with a rich history.

I really hope his team mate will be Michael Schumacher. And not Rosberg. Schumi deserves to be the first Driver Champion in a Silver Arrow. Especially after all he has gone through. I’d feel disappointed to see him go without a win.

Anyway, it was great to see you drive in Spa this year Michael. I was there on the Double Left Hander, great spot btw 🙂 If you plan to stay, please drop the red helmet in favour of the Spa helmet. It’s time for a new beginning! Schumacher VIII

16

Some good points. The main question is how many times have mclaren given Lewis a winning car. In the top 2.

And how many times have merc provided the same to Michael and nico.

I’ve no doubt both nico and michael would win as regularly as jb and Lewis if sitting in a mclaren quality car.

If it boils down to a brand move, then it will be a sad day to see.

Lewis is a great racer, underneath the mountains of baggage he seems to have picked up. He is rich beyond imagination now.

17

Ideal 2013 Line up would be:

Kimi & Button @ Mclaren

Alonso & Schumacher @ Ferrari

Lewis & Rosberg @ Mercedes

Perez & Romain @ Lotus

Massa & Kobayashi @ Sauber

Alternate Line up

Schumacher & Buton @ Mclaren

Alonso & Perez @ Ferrari

Lewis & Rosberg @ Mercedes

Kimi & Romain @ Lotus

Massa & Kobayashi @ Sauber

18

I still endorse… Kimi & Mclaren are the most fearsome combination in Formula one.

19

Over the years, there is one question which no one wants to answer – “is the team bigger or the driver?” Probably there is no right answer to it either. It is a team sport, and no politically correct person would probably risk giving 100% credit to the driver.

In my opinion, the team is bigger than the driver at all times. There would be no driver without a team. However, there are a lot of drivers who believe otherwise or rather are forced to believe otherwise by outside agencies (viz. PR agencies & marketing gurus). Lewis’ move seems to have been sparked by the later. A few million $$ here and there would not make much of a difference to him. He has age on his side and atleast another 10 years of racing in front of him. Thats a lot of time to count your $$.

Lets bear in mind that its not the first time a leading driver has switched teams. It is probably the more difficult for a driver to adjust to 50+ new team members over night rather than it is for the team to adjust to a new driver. Hopefully, Lewis would have given that a thought too, considering that the German team is not the best English speaking lot around. McLaren have been probably the most consistent team of the last decade having been the winners once and title contenders on most other occasions, leading us to believe that its the best place for Lewis. He is hard core racer on the tracks and probably uses the same adage in real life too. If he’s is not ready to take risks & give up that “safety net” that McLaren provides, he will never know what the outer world holds for him. He is a risk taker on the track and outside too. A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for. If he fails, I am sure he can always encash the “safety net” and come back to McLaren in the future (a la Fernando coming back to Renault!!!).

History has it that it can work either ways (good as in Kimi’s move to Ferrari; bad as in Fernando’s move to McLaren!!!) Only time will tell how the move (if it happens) will work for him and in the meantime we can merrily speculate.

20

James

It is feasible that Rosberg could be leaving Mercedes, not Schumacher?

If Rosberg has got fed up waiting for Mercedes to become competitive, Massa’s seat at Ferrari might look attractive?

Thanks

21

Great article, it makes sense of the rumours that have been going around, and logically ties it all together.

In the end like a lot of F1 it comes down to money. Talk of competitive cars, loyalty, personality etc are just a sideshow.

Mercedes needs a big driver, with their current one, Schumacher probably only good for perhaps one more year. Lewis is the only one available, not under contract.

F1 needs Mercedes, for their engines, their name, their history. Their marque adds credibility, which brings in sponsors Hence the background rumour spreading by Bernie and his boys. They want this move.

McLaren have set the price they can afford to pay Lewis. 20 million US. That’s what he’s worth to them. They’ll have done all the calculations on sponsorship etc. I note that Jenson is on the same salary, so if Lewis was to get more, that could also alter the internal politics. If they lose Lewis, that frees up a lot of cash to lure a replacement. They may not have a plan B, but e article shows, while Lewis would be a loss, they have multiple options.

Lewis wants to get the most money he can, in a contract year. Perhaps some of the Mercedes rumours were planted to see if McLaren would up their offer. I wouldn’t call it a bluff either, as he Mercedes have given him a strong hand, so he can’t really lose either way. Get pay rise to stay with a team currently with a fast car, or get paid even more to go to a team with the resources to build him a fast car.

In the end F1 is a professional sport, and by definition professionals go where the money is. All that other silly stuff like loyalty, etc is for us the fans.

22

I concur!! That’s the logic that is often lost among fan but never lost in negotiations between teams and drivers or teams and players.

On one point I must disagree, a fast car is a must for a top rated driver.

23

Has anyone considered whether Lewis will actually be joining Alonso at Ferrari next year, not Mercedes??

Only a theory, but Ferrari are staying quite quiet re drivers at the moment. There is no sign of a new contract for Massa, and they keep talking themselves out of taking Perez for next year (why??). Alonso has recently said he’d have no problem with Lewis driving alongside him at Ferrari.

And the icing on the cake – who saw the drivers’ interview on the podium at Monza? The first thing Lewis said in response to Lauda’s first question, was I believe “ciao tutta” – maybe trying to ingratitae himself with the Tifosi?

He wouldn’t be the first McLaren driver to defect to Ferrari, would he??!

Points for Lewis to consider:

Manufacturer team – Ferrari 1, Mercedes 1, McLaren 0

Proven top car – Ferrari 1, Mercedes 0, McLaren 1

Ability to improve car over season – Ferrari 1, Mercedes 0, McLaren 1

Top commercial opportunities – Ferrari 1, Mercedes 1, McLaren 0

Ability to pay Lewis’ salary – Ferrari 1, Mercedes 1, McLaren 0

Seat free in 2013 – Ferrari 1, Mercedes 0, McLaren 1

I think we have a clear winner…

24

Ferrari won’t hire Hamilton Alonso or no Alonso. It is simply out of the question.

25

Why not? Think you need to justify your comment…

26

Hamilton would never settle for a role as a second driver. He would never quit racing because of team orders. As much as I like Alonso he would never pull over when told that “Alonso is faster than you are”. It Just would not happen.

Ferrari is very explicit about why you are there. You drive for Ferrari not for yourself.

Besides, the tifosi let it be known this past weekend what they think about him.

27

Yeah I definitely wouldn’t rule them out. I’m sure he’s talking to both of them!. He really sang Alonso’s praises on the podium and that’s been a pattern for a few races this year- they’ve both been chummy chummy haven’t they??..

It’s just that Norbert Haug have been singing Lewis praise a bit longer and Ross Brawn has been building the team up to its greatest potential this last year or so & they really need a top notch driver even more do than Ferrari- but seriously your dead right anythings possible atm!

28

If there is a pre-contract with Vettel for 2014, which is widely believed to be true, then what will Ferrari do for 2014 by taking Lewis in 2013?

29

They have an option on someone for one year in 2013. I think it might be Hulkenberg, but Italian sources aren’t sure

30

I mentioned several weeks ago that Kova would make a great #2 for Ferrari and I still think it’s a good choice. (Hulk would be fine too actually)

What I find very disturbing is the Vettel2014 idea. If that happens, we can expect Fernando to be #2 so he will be angry and leave (either at the announcement of after being awarded a 5 place grid penalty in hungary)

Considering how well regarded is Alonso at ferrari currentlty, it’s weird.

31

James! Please please convey to bernie that we the fans (millions around the world) want Schumacher to stay.

We would be devastated to see the old man go without a step on the top podium. Thanks

32

As was pointed out before, is it really Lewis’ fault for this divorce or is the team’s?

Looking back you have to the same the team is the constant here with all the drivers that have departed acrimoniously.

Yes, Hamilton is a prima donna. But what about kimi, Montoya, Alonso,and Prost?

And this two equal drivers pretence is just a charade.

You can’t honestly say that Coulthard got as much support as kimi or mika

33

Kimi couldn’t care less about no.1 or whom his teammate is~~~ even if the team want to make him no.1, by no means he will utilize his position to pressurize his teammmate, unlike Alonso!!

34

The elephant in the room here is the Concorde Agreement – which Mercedes havent signed yet. Schumacher can’t confirm he will be racing next year until Merc announce they have signed it but he could confirm his retirement irrespective of an announcement from Merc so I would suspect it will be LH and MS at Merc next season.

35

Wow. Never thought Lewis would leave McLaren ever just because it is a massive security blanket for him.

I just can’t imagine how Lewis would react if he were driving for a team that gave him a bad car for a year. I mean Lewis always every year gets a great car and wins races and yet still he has meltdowns. I just can’t imagine how he would go driving a true dog of a car for an entire season.

Everyone knows that McLaren are at the pointy end of the field every year. Its a super safe bet staying at McLaren.

The only way I ever thought Lewis would leave is if he threw a hissy fit and signed whilst in a delusional angry state.

If Lewis does go I think it will be the biggest mistake of his life.

36

Is it really that safe for him stay?

Mclaren are always fast no doubt but how many times during the last decade or so have they produced the fastest car in the field?

Once (2007), twice if you count 2008

37

What if Mercedes produces a world beater the next couple of years, and mcLaren a dog?

Everbody would call Lewis a fool not having signed there as he had the opportunity.

Nobody knows what the future brings, but for every indivdual it’s good to make different experiences and try someting new from time ti time

38

James, just slightly off topic, but have you ever considered changing the name of this site to “Kay on F1” ? 😉

39

Or… “Kay on Button”?

40

Haha.. Now you mention it i have seen the name Kay an almost infinite number of times scrolling through these comments

41

As neither a JB or LH fan I see it like this; LH is a bit of a [mod] but brilliantly fast. JB is also damn fast, but only when he has the car that suits him. This was seen in the especially in the Brawn period, he regularly beat Barrichello when the car was good, but when it wasn’t so good, Barrichello had the (considerable) edge.
Therefore LH is is McLarens better chance of winning. BUT he is just so annoying! (although not half as much as Vettel) It got tedious reading about his antics a long time ago.
Also, there must be at least a fair chance that Ross Brawn will pull it all together, look at his history! So it may well be worth it for LH and as many others have said above he wants to prove himself with another team. Most (all?) truly great drivers have performed in more than one team and he most likely wants to show himself as such.
Mclaren’s loss, perhaps LH’s gain, certainly Mercedes gain.
I too would love to see him up against MSC in the same car.

42

Brawn car was not due to Button’s liking of the car – it was just superfast than others. period. In such a car, there is no question of likes or dislikes. Button’s liking issue came to the fore much more this year where he was remarkably fighting in mid-field for many races while Hamilton was in the front.

43

But it Vettel annoying to Red Bull? Or just to fans who don’t like the proctologist impersonations?

My own perception of 2009 was that it was qualifying where Rubens got the edge on Button when Jenson was unhappy. In the races, Button generally was as fast, but wasn’t always able to close the gap created by starting so far behind.

44

+1 to the “proctologist impersonations”! 🙂

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