Hamilton to leave McLaren: A racing relationship turned sour

So, as James Allen reports today, Lewis Hamilton is likely to sign for the Mercedes team for 2013. His move away from McLaren would see him cut the ties to the team that grew and nurtured him from a young unknown kart driver, to the peaks of being the 2008 world champion.

For all the messages coming from the paddock, Hamilton, it seems wants to leave McLaren for “commercial reasons” which is fundamentally the salary his is paid and his potential to control his earning ability through his own image rights and sponsorship. I say seems, because on the face of the decision it cannot be one down to purely racing factors. Mercedes have won just one race this year and have struggled to develop the car around its ability to use the Pirelli tyres.

However, that tells just one side of the story, for Hamilton has endured a generally unhappy season with McLaren, who have underperformed after early promise despite recently turning there fortunes round by winning two of the last three rounds.  Hamilton has managed to create a number of awkward PR ‘situations’ from within the McLaren team as he struggles to show respect to some of the team’s recent performances on track.

But let’s be clear, the issues in the last paragraph are fixable, far quicker than the issues that the Mercedes team are confronted with, so why has there been this feeling of negative inertia from Hamilton that has brought him to the point on closing the door on his motor racing family at McLaren.

Truth is Lewis Hamilton has endured 4 grotty seasons in F1. Since winning the title in 2008, Hamilton has consistently been on the wrong end of under performing McLarens, race steward decisions through over aggressive driving, press and media errors and a draining celebrity personal relationship that have come together over this period that I think means Hamilton’s mind set right now is that he has had enough with the way things have been going for him and that a change is what is needed in his life.

From the outside he seems joyless and devoid of and real pleasure. Massive credit where credit is due, his performances on the track recently have not reflected this and he has driven superbly, so we know his mind-set when his visor is down is fully committed to racing, it just seems that he has lost the love and respect of the management team around McLaren and he cannot see an end to the dark clouds that follows him around the F1 paddock.

I think a move away from McLaren on a personal level will benefit him in the long term. He will be stepping out of the shadow of  Ron Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh and like a young teenager does when he leaves for University, for the first time in his life he will be fully responsible for his own actions. This will hopefully change Hamilton, who constantly seems to be pushing the boundaries and patience of his team.

He will have to develop a resolve that is much stronger than he has now, knowing that the Mercedes project is still a work in progress because for all of McLaren’s faults, they know they will be there or there about in 2013, and Hamilton probably knows that too.

It is a shame, as both parties seemingly don’t want the partnership to end. Mclaren are stronger with Hamilton in the team, but would like him to evolve his personality slightly, and Hamilton wants to be where he can win the title next year, but wants the freedom to be who he feels he wants to be.

Who knows what the long term future will hold for both parties and who will have made the right choice, one thing is for sure, neither party will be truly happy about a split in their racing relationship

Thoughts as we head to Spa

It seems like an age ago that there was an F1 weekend, and this year the races have come and gone thick and fast while having to compete for headlines with the Olympics and the European Championships. Truth be told, the recent break at times, has felt far too long. But, there is a positive, it has given me reason to pause and contemplate something I believe a lot of of us F1 had taken for granted, that we are in the middle of what could potentially be a magical year.

Who would have thought in March that Fernando Alonso would be sat on top of the championship come the half-way point? What odds would you have given for there being 7 different winners in the first half of the year, with the promise of maybe more to add to that list? And as we turn in to the final 7 races of the series there are at least 5 drivers who have a possibility of the title.

There are 7 more rounds to go, 2 more in Europe before the long haul races wrap up the season. Writing this sounds like we are in to the final throws of the championship, but in reality that’s nearly 3 months away so much is yet to happen.

What the title contenders must do is leap-frog Ferrari and in particular the amazing Fernando Alonso. The contenders have to as a group, force Alonso off the top 3 places in the majority of the races to come. To use a cycling analogy: they have to form a high speed leading peloton that puts Alonso out of contention for the big points, and that must start this weekend in Belgium.

Lotus will be bringing their DDRS, McLaren will be hoping that Lewis Hamilton’s return to form in the Hungarian Grand Prix is there to stay for the remaining 8 races and Red Bull with the super team of Vettel-Webber-Newey will be able to find consistent race pace to put them back at the front.

So many questions left to be answered, so many more thrills and spills, incidents and accidents before we crown surely the most deserving world champion in what has been a golden era of F1.

Thank you summer break, for rekindling my love of F1 again!