Lewis Hamilton, the man synonymous with McLaren- the brand ever since he made his debut back in 2007, has decided to part ways with the team.
With One World Championship in the last 5 years, but a disappointing last few years, Hamilton- supposedly the next big thing in British Sports- has now joined Mercedes (previously known as Brawn GP) in a 3-year contract starting 2013 that could be worth more than $100 million. This makes the misunderstood British boy the highest paid driver in the sport- and much like Alonso’s move from Renault to McLaren was greeted with lukewarm hearts and hailed as the biggest mistake of the Spaniard’s fledging career, this could be Hamilton’s unraveling.
New challenge- yes. But moving from a team that has won 16 races since 2009 to a team that has won 1 race in the same period does not exactly conform to his hungry Championship winning desires. After a troubled season with his beloved team, and with chief Whitmarsh playing disciplinary daddy to Hamilton’s spoilt little brat ways, a move was always on the cards. But this move will have greater reciprocations than expected- because he displaces none other than Michael Schumacher from a team powered by his mentor Ross Brawn. This will most certainly bring to an end the 7-time World Champion’s second wind, a soft breeze that never really materialized into anything other than melancholy. The crash in Singapore only signifies the fact that his exit, now forced, is very near- and the marketing strategy that was his ‘comeback’ to the sport he once owned, is well and truly over.
Tell Ross I say Hi and, that I miss him.
A third wind is not likely, not even if he drinks the same water that Sachin Tendulkar does. That he will stay on in some form or the other, as mentor and leader, is a given- and it will be interesting to observe his unusual partnership with Hamilton behind the scenes. Rosberg, the other next big thing for 10 years, will feel a lot less secure now that Schumacher is out, and he will be faced with the real prospect of being a no. 2 in a team that he is slowly beginning to feel comfortable with. Hamilton, on his part, cannot afford to have another Alonso situation in a new team.
The most important result of this entire move is that of young Sergio Perez- who will be moving to McLaren to replace Lewis Hamilton, and partner Button in 2013. This could be a dream come true for 22 year old Perez, now with Sauber, already fresh from 3 impressive podium finishes this season. That he is being earmarked by a team that is famous for discovering prodigies is a massive thing for the sport, and his arrival will be anticipated eagerly. What’s more- he is a product of Ferrari’s youth academy, and has been rejected by them for a senior driver’s position already after being deemed too ‘inexperienced’. McLaren’s move is a clear statement to their arch rivals, and Perez must feel like a lucky pawn in this power game. He is known to be reckless and underdeveloped, as Whitmarsh has often commented, but that is a challenge that will be taken by them over a period of two years- as Button phases himself out of the sport. One can be sure that Hamilton and Button have been having a lot of late-night phone conversations lately about Button’s ex-world-championship-winning team, and Hamilton’s decision- though seen as a step backward within the McLaren camp- is a fresh start at an important juncture of his inconsistent career.
This clears the way for someone like Vettel, atleast for the next season, and Alonso- who is urging his underperforming team to greater things. But as we all know, Hamilton is a fast starter, and it is how he ends that matters more.