Hamilton becomes focus of 2013 F1 driver market

2013 F1 season

Lewis Hamilton’s rumoured move to Mercedes could have a seismic effect on the 2013 driver market by opening up a seat at the team with the fastest car in F1 at the moment.

Hamilton to Mercedes?

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Monza, 2012A contract extension for Lewis Hamilton with McLaren looked like a formality after Mark Webber re-signed for Red Bull in July.

That meant there was no longer any room for him with last year’s world champions. And it seemed unlikely Fernando Alonso would welcome him at Ferrari, despite his protestations to the contrary.

But, despite Hamilton saying he “didn’t see many problems” in arranging a new contract, weeks passed and no new deal was announced. Then last week the BBC ran a story claiming Hamilton was Mercedes-bound for 2013.

McLaren were quick to deny the claim. But Ross Brawn leant legitimacy to the view that Hamilton might join his team when he said that top drivers would be well-advised to align themselves to manufacturer teams in time for the new 2014 engine rules.

Now in his sixth season with McLaren, Hamilton’s relationship with the team appears to have strained, particularly after he posted confidential team information on Twitter during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

And there is the added lure of a more generous deal. Amid doubts over the commitment of their title sponsor, McLaren have signalled Hamilton’s retainer would not be as generously renewed this time.

But there are compelling reasons why Hamilton might not want to leave McLaren: concern over compromising his championship effort with McLaren over the rest of 2012, doubts over Mercedes’ performance (they’ve scored one win in 51 races since returning to the sport) and commitment to F1 (they have not yet agreed terms for the new Concorde Agreement), and loyalty to the team that brought him through the junior ranks, gave him his F1 break and made him a world champion.

For Hamilton to leave McLaren at a time when they have the quickest car in F1 and a genuine shot at the championship would be a major statement about his faith in their ability to remain competitive in the years to come. And it would mark an end to an association which began when a nine-year-old Hamilton first introduced himself to Ron Dennis and declared he would race for his team one day.

But neither of those things means it isn’t going to happen.

Who would leave Mercedes?

Should Hamilton join Mercedes, which of their drivers will make way? On the face of it the decision is obvious: Nico Rosberg signed a “multi-year” deal in November whereas Michael Schumacher’s three-year deal expires at the end of this season.

But contracts in F1 are often made to be broken. And will Schumacher really want to head back into retirement just as he’s finally getting on terms with his team mate? In the last six races he’s out-qualified Rosberg four times and out-raced him five times.

Who would McLaren turn to?

Kimi Raikkonen, Spa-Francorchamps, 2012McLaren are clearly the team to beat at the moment having won the last three races. If Hamilton leaves they can go shopping for a replacement pretty much anywhere.

Martin Whitmarsh has said the team don’t have a ‘Plan B’ should they fail to retain Hamilton. But group chairman Ron Dennis recently reiterated the team’s hiring policy as being simply to sign the best two drivers that are available.

McLaren is a team that signs world champions: Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button. And McLaren is a team that makes world champions: Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, Lewis Hamilton.

If they can hire another one, they will. But should Hamilton go that would leave only two plausible options.

An early attempt by Dennis to sign Schumacher was caught in this famous video. Almost two decades later, perhaps this could be Dennis’s chance to finally get his man. It would be a hell of a way to put one over Mercedes.

Failing that, Kimi Raikkonen may be susceptible to overtures from his former team as Lotus continue to come frustratingly close to delivering victories. He had talks about returning to them in 2010 after leaving Ferrari.

But there have also been times in McLaren’s history where their driver choice has been more a case of short-term pragmatism. They have been willing to give opportunities to less experienced drivers. And there’s no shortage of promising talent in the field McLaren could give a dream chance to.

Either Force India driver could fit the bill and McLaren have a connection with the team through their technical supply deal. Sergio Perez and – his recent indiscretion notwithstanding – Romain Grosjean have also impressed, scoring a trio of podiums each this year.

Will Ferrari retain Massa?

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Monza, 2012Ferrari’s option on Felipe Massa’s services has expired and hasn’t been taken up.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t. Massa’s performances have modestly improved of late with fifth and fourth place finishes in the last two races, albeit aided by a much-improved F2012.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo reiterated today that he believes Sergio Perez is not experienced enough to drive for them yet, despite Perez beating both his drivers on Sunday.

Perez, a Ferrari development driver, is in a similar situation to Massa six years ago. Massa was promoted to Ferrari’s race team in 2006 after three years racing for Sauber and one year spent testing for Ferrari.

While Alonso leads the drivers’ points, Ferrari lie third in the constructors’ championship. With each passing season Massa’s points shortfall compared to his team mate has grown.

Massa is costing Ferrari points, places and, ultimately, millions in lost prize money. That situation is one that even a team as rich as Ferrari cannot tolerate indefinitely.

Other potential moves

Charles Pic is in contention for a seat at Sauber next year according to a recent report in Autosport magazine.

Pic has made an encouraging start to his first F1 season with Marussia, out-qualifying team mate Timo Glock four times and finishing ahead of him in three of the eight races where both were classified.

2013 F1 drivers and teams

The 2013 F1 driver line-up will be updated here as new deals are announced. Here’s the state of play at the moment:

2013 F1 season

Browse all 2013 F1 season articles

Images ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei, Lotus F1 Team/LAT, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

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203 comments on Hamilton becomes focus of 2013 F1 driver market

  1. Hallard (@hallard) said on 12th September 2012, 16:38

    McLaren and Hamilton remind me of a married couple that fell in love as teenagers and now take eachother for granted, and the resentment is building. McLaren needs to recognize that Hamilton is their most plausible championship chance. Hamilton needs to recognize that McLaren is his most plausible championship chance.

    But right now, they’re both being idiots. McLaren should have swallowed their pride and offered him what he wants. Hamilton should have swallowed his pride and taken the offers they’ve already presented to him. The fact that the two parties havent reached an agreement by now leads one to believe that their priorities lie in areas other than winning races and championships.

    I think that, like the resentful husband and wife, McLaren and Hamilton could use some time apart, in order to recognize what a good thing they had.

    • Maksutov (@maksutov) said on 12th September 2012, 17:37

      McLaren needs to recognize that Hamilton is their most plausible championship chance.

      But McLaren don’t think like that. And they never have for any driver. Sure they recognise talent. But they equally recognise that their driver success is only possible because of their team. To McLaren, drivers are replaceable assets employed (payed) to do a job. I know it sounds somewhat bad, but that is how it is with Ron Dennis and he doesn’t hide it.

      • OOliver said on 13th September 2012, 20:20

        But after Australia, Withmarsh was saying Button could win the drivers championship. He didn’t say both drivers could win the championship, or Mclaren could win lots of races. So what I believe is that a teams objective is only dependent on who is at the helm of affairs at any given time.
        If Mclaren are interested in the constructors’, they can’t win it without the drivers scoring points.

    • auto_freak (@auto_freak) said on 12th September 2012, 17:55

      Spot on! They’ll realize sooner than later as to what they have lost out on. But this current team principal and the management team as a whole makes me laugh. Not as professional as they seem from the outside with their fancy factory and offices. Being just a corporate and not a racing team that complements each other (driver and the team) is never going to win you much glory.

  2. Rahim.RG (@rahim-rg) said on 12th September 2012, 17:05

    I don’t know but i’m kinda surprised to see only few people saying about Raikkonen….its no secret Witmarsh really respects and praises Kimi…and lewis leaving Mclaren is only going to make way for Kimi…thats is why there’s no confirmation of Kimi being with Lotus yet…he’s waiting for Hamilton’s confirmation..

    • Kimi4WDC said on 13th September 2012, 0:10

      He have contract until the end of next year and a stake in Lotus F1 Team. We don’t know anything about performance clauses of course, which he presumably exceeded by now.

      Unless Button will take all McLaren PR work on him self, I see Kimi quitting F1 again before he goes back to McLaren do that “nonsense”.

  3. If Mclaren does want a WCC and Hamilton does leave, Raikkonen is their only choice, he is a world champion and consistent, otherwise i dont see Mclaren winning the WCC in the near future i think a button and raikkonen pairing would go down well, if raikkonen wants another world championship then mclaren is his place, he wont win a wdc with lotus harsh but true

    • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 12th September 2012, 17:55

      Unfortunately the acrid smell of hastily burnt bridges follows Raikkonen around the paddock like a brown stripe on his overalls.

      Anyway I can’t see Raikkonen wanting to go back there. he’s too fond of having long hair and wearing hats which are too big for him. Both of which are a real no-no if you’re driving for Team Sensible.

  4. auto_freak (@auto_freak) said on 12th September 2012, 18:03

    If Lewis wants to win this years WDC and potentially one more next year, then he should be staying at McLaren. If Lewis wants to win multiple WDCs and not just have a chance at it but actually dominate the way his talent and skills permit, then he must move on. Why? Because he needs to be at his happy place and I just don’t see it at McLaren. The team and the company behaves just like how their latest road car behaves on the road. Disciplined, Smart, technically outstanding yet falling short of true brilliance and actual passion on the road.

    Lewis needs a team wrapped around his success on the track. He needs a leader to show him exactly what he has to do to win multiple titles. With Rosberg at Merc or even Schumi and also good reliability, Lewis can even win a WCC for the team. Rosberg and Schumacher are top drivers, maybe not the best but they are nearly there. He needs a change in scenario and he needs a fresh mind. He needs someone like Ross Brawn to keep him focussed on whats at stake once he hits the track. Lewis’ character is flawed just like many other racing greats and that’s the only reason he needs a father figure even though he is old enough to be on his own.

    He isn’t matured enough to survive with actual success in the cruel world of Formula 1. Surely, people will feel betrayed and McLaren along with Ron will have a bitter taste about this but he left the team on one team principal’s hand who genuinely and openly favours a driver he has brought on from another team (Jenson Button).

    • Estesark (@estesark) said on 12th September 2012, 21:45

      Would you care to elaborate how a car can have “actual passion on the road”?

      • auto_freak (@auto_freak) said on 13th September 2012, 0:03

        I am not sure what you drive but if you have ever driven a Ferrari and for comparisons sake, the latest 458, you’ll definitely feel how it embraces the road and fights you and every single move you make. I haven’t driven the MP4-12C yet, been on it though and it was fast but all I hear from the drivers feedback, its boring. Lacks a clear personality.

        Saying things like, McLaren is all about winning races and not mentioning “winning the championship” a single time in that interview Sky took of Ron, I have to say that’s exactly whats lacking at McLaren. It looks like they don’t necessarily care much about the true passion of racing. It’s way too technical.

      • electrolite (@electrolite) said on 13th September 2012, 0:08

        Humour him for a second…surely you get what he’s trying to say?

        • Estesark (@estesark) said on 14th September 2012, 22:51

          @electrolite, I’m not really sure I get the concept of passion in a car at all. I’ve heard it mentioned often enough, but I think it’s all nonsense. If the MP4-12C had a Ferrari badge on it I’m sure people would say it had loads of passion. Likewise, a McLaren 458 would be thought dull. It’s all down to the image of the company, I think.

          But there’s nothing wrong with McLaren’s attitude. Ron Dennis has as much passion for his work as is humanly possible, if you ask me. It’s just that his passion manifests itself in perfectionism and attention to detail rather than producing ridiculous cars that will only be fully exploited by 1% of their owners 1% of the time yet are somehow more exciting for it.

  5. Funny how every year we talk about the silly season starts earlier and earlier but this time it’s actually quite late!

    For what it’s worth, I see Rosberg going to McLaren and Hamilton going to Merc (on a two year deal, in case a seat at Red Bull becomes free at some point and Merc aren’t very quick in 2014 after all).

    Schumi stays in the other Merc seat for one more year, and Perez joins Ferrari (Luca was basically having us all on).

    If all this comes true, I will refer you all back to this comment!!!

  6. astonished (@astonished) said on 12th September 2012, 19:09

    Hamilton should not be afraid of comprimising his 2012 chances of he announces a move to Mercedes. For sure Mc Laren, and mr Dennis, will treat him as Fairly as they did with Alonso in 2007, so perhaps Keith might consider re visiting that part of the article :-)

  7. OOliver said on 12th September 2012, 20:10

    All I can say is that loyalty works both ways.
    Where is Mclaren’s loyalty.
    Mclaren has aligned their future with Button and have shown it.
    There is no longer a loyalty factor, he has been made to look like an outsider, long before the tweet.
    Spa was just the last straw of a breakdown of trust in the team.
    All we hear is rear wing, but I believe it goes beyond that.
    Information was not shared, therein lies the root cause of the tweet.

    • Jason (@jason12) said on 12th September 2012, 22:06

      wow, interesting point.
      A lot people may have overlooked what that tweet was about, in rush to just criticize Lewis, but he’s no fool, there’s most probably more to that tweet than has been explored so far.

    • Young One said on 12th September 2012, 23:12

      When it happened last week, it was easy to notice the complacency in the garages about getting the new wing to work with his vehicle. But noh, everyone here claimed it was just some delusional conspiracy.

      And at Monza, HAM improvement was the slowest I ever saw as if he was alone just dealing with it. So whatever ppl that use to work with him, they are not there now.

  8. The Limit said on 12th September 2012, 20:26

    I think a Button/Raikkonen pairing at McLaren would work. Raikkonen was never one for politics or conversation, just driving. I could see that working! The problem with Hamilton now is that he has gone too long without a championship and has now got itchy feet. We must remember that when he became champion four years ago he was only in his second season and the world was his oyster. The press were suggesting that he would be a multiple champion and he would dominate and that for varying reasons has not happened.
    On top of that, he has a team mate in Jenson Button who has not been as ‘easy’ to beat as many assumed back in 2010. And worse than that, he has become popular at McLaren and that in itself is a problem. But in all honesty, five years is an eternity in F1 and for me the time is right for a change at McLaren.
    If rumours are to be believed that Mercedes are considering jacking it in then Hamilton’s signing could prove vital for the teams future, and I for one do not want to see another F1 team go down the pan. Whatever happens it is going to be exciting, and its only fair that at some stage another driver should be given a shot at McLaren as they are one of the best teams.

  9. Well as per my perception, I think that Hamilton may move to Mercedes. Another big transfer will be Kimi to Ferrari and Massa probably driving for Sauber while Sergio moves to Lotus. 2012 season may also be the final one for the seven time world champion. For the smaller teams, some alterations and they will enhance the mid-field battle(hopefully). All in all a 2013 will be a better prospect!

  10. Or maybe Sergio may move to Mc Laren as Ron Dennis is always searching for a driver with speed and intellect(hope Sergio has those attributes) and Paul Di Resta moving to Lotus. Robert Kubica comes back in F1( prob. with Force India), the rest remains the same as posted earlier.

  11. I cant see how another team other than mclaren will tolerate antics of hamilton. Not all teams have a babysitter (withmarsh) in charge .

  12. Young One said on 12th September 2012, 23:05

    The push MC i s making this year will def. cause setbacks in the next season. And I don’t think HAM & BUT both now old drivers will tolerate such reverse gears in their fortunes. So I can see why next season is not something to look forward to including the potential loss of their main sponsors.

  13. I think it would be great if Hamilton moved to Mercedes. Him and Schumacher would make an awesome team in my opinion. We might even see better races coming out of Mercedes with such strong team.
    I’m not surprised in the least bit about Massa possibly leaving Ferrari. He’s always seemed to stand in the shadow of his teammate whether its Schumi, Raikkonen, or Alonso.

  14. You are all saying that Ferrai would not want to sign Parez yet coz he is deemed too inexperienced. But what about the possibility that he himself does not want to join Ferrari becasue Alonso is there and he will eat him alive. I guess noone who wants to be a world champion would join Ferrai coz Alonso is the beloved there.

  15. go to mercedes lewis!

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