Talking Heads: What's going on with Lewis?
Struggling to understand the ongoing Lewis Hamilton furore? Wondering why he might be leaving McLaren for Mercedes? Here's what the Sky Sports F1pundits had to say at Monza on the saga of the summer...
Last Updated: 14/09/12 10:45am
So as this furore was sparked by a report that a deal between Hamilton and Mercedes was 'imminent', let's start with that claim. Is it true? Has Hamilton signed to drive for Mercedes in 2013?
Martin Brundle: "He hasn't signed for Mercedes, that's misinformation."
So just what is going on?
Martin Brundle: "It's a bit of a muddle..."
David Croft: "Only a handful of people know the truth and the truth, as they say, is out there, but nobody is going on to the record to say 'this is definitely happening'."
Hmm. Let's rephrase the question - what do we think is happening?
Ted Kravitz: "Well, Lewis hasn't denied he is talking to Mercedes - that is real - and he's probably talking to Lotus as well."
David Croft: "Ross Brawn knows Lewis well, is a huge admirer and Hamilton is a driver Mercedes would be courting if there was a chance of capturing him - and I think there is."
McLaren have consistently proved themselves to be a winning package whereas Mercedes have won just one grand prix in three years. Why would he think about leaving McLaren to go there? It can't just be about money, can it?
Johnny Herbert: "He's got enough money anyway. It's having the opportunity for yourself for a World Championship. He's not doing it for money. But it's not just Lewis; his management are possibly thinking about it in a different way..."
Martin Brundle: "McLaren are testing him by asking: 'where are your priorities? Is it to stay with us and make this a championship-winning team or have you got other ideas that appeal to you more?' - be it money or freedom to cut some other deals or be in America more? They are testing him out."
So it is conceivable that Lewis could join Mercedes?
Johnny Herbert: "The twist to it is what happens in 2014, because that's when new engine regulations come in. Mercedes will be working very hard on their engine and that's where, technically, Mercedes are very good. McLaren has a Mercedes in at the moment and they're doing the best of the Mercedes-powered cars."
Ted Kravitz: "If he feels he will be happier with a change then he will go to Mercedes. He has been with McLaren all of his Formula 1 career, maybe a change is a good thing for him."
We're depicting the situation as a straight choice between McLaren and Mercedes. Are Ferrari and Red Bull definitely out of the equation?
Johnny Herbert: "As a driver, you'd be looking at Red Bull but there's nowhere for him to fit there. There's Ferrari, possibly with Felipe moving on, but I don't see Fernando Alonso wanting Lewis back. And Lewis wouldn't want to go there unless it's with equal number one status - but I presume that's a done deal with Fernando, so that's not going to happen."
For argument's sake, let's say that Hamilton has decided to join Mercedes. Would that mean the end of Michael Schumacher's F1 career?
David Croft: "The likelihood is that Michael would step down but there might be an opening at Ferrari for him because there is still a big question mark against Felipe Massa's career there. Michael would be a good short-term solution - he might not necessarily challenge Fernando Alonso but he would push him. Michael's not had the greatest season but it's not all been his fault and I think there might be enough of the old magic left to tempt Ferrari."
Martin Whitmarsh admitted at Monza that the team don't have a 'Plan B' in the event of Hamilton departing. But if he did quit the team who might they go for?
Johnny Herbert "There's a lot of young drivers around, Paul di Resta would be one, but I would think: 'why not get Kimi Raikkonen back?"
Ted Kravitz: "McLaren have to tread quite a fine line because on the face of it there isn't really anyone else apart from Lewis Hamilton who can win multiple grands prix and World Championships out there who the team can just pop into their driver line-up alongside Jenson Button. That's McLaren's problem. They have to keep Lewis Hamilton because he's shown them that he's their best chance of winning a championship.
"The question is who else knows how to win a World Championship? I'm not sure that Paul di Resta or Nico Hulkenberg do yet, although I'm sure they will during their career, but Kimi Raikkonen certainly knows how to win a World Championship."
Paddock gossip in Monza reckoned that Valtteri Bottas would be in the frame. Could he be?
Johnny Herbert: "He hasn't raced yet! He hasn't been on track in a pressure situation so, personally, I don't think he has enough experience for McLaren yet. McLaren are trying to win World Championships, they are not in the business of bringing on anyone willy-nilly."
And finally, how will this saga end?
Ted Kravitz: "The most likely outcome is that he'll end up staying."
Johnny Herbert: "I think he's staying at McLaren."
Martin Brundle: "I suspect he'll end up re-signing."