A Formula 1 season would not be complete without the mass of speculation created by the Motorsport media’s rumour mill. As is always the case, central to the so-called ‘silly season’ this year, is contemplation regarding possible driver moves.
Bizarrely, this year sees the current championship favourite’s position placed under scrutiny, with tabloids attempting to second-guess Lewis Hamilton
McLaren – Hamilton’s original F1 residency – have made a ‘tentative’ approach towards the Brit Championship contender about a sensational return.
Although the reality could prove to be far less sensational.
Hamilton’s current Mercedes team, who he joined from McLaren at the start of 2013 on a three-year contract, have been the class of the field in 2014 with Hamilton currently running 2nd in the championship behind teammate Nico Rosberg. The two drivers have shared all bar one of the race wins and pole positions so far. McLaren, in stark contrast, have enjoyed sparse, isolated pockets of success in recent years.
The British Motorsport giant has not occupied the top space of a podium since the closing stages of the 2012 F1 season in which Hamilton and then-teammate Jenson Button closed the final two races of the season with victories.
It seems then, that the promise of success could not be instrumental in any possible bid to bait Hamilton back to the Woking-based outfit. Additionally, the 2008 World Champion is locked into a €60 million deal that nets him in excess of €20 million annually when bonuses are accounted for, meaning Mercedes also hold the financial advantage over McLaren.
The only incentive McLaren could possibly use is the promise of unrivalled number 1 status, which Hamilton craves right now more than anything; Tensions between the Mercedes duo have been heated since Hamilton publicly accused Rosberg of foul play at the Monaco GP.
Upon signing with Mercedes, Hamilton had finished the 2012 season in fantastic form, extracting seven podiums – four being wins, on his way to finishing fourth in the championship – all three drivers to finish ahead of him were world champions in their own right. Contrastingly, Mercedes endured the worst season of their comeback. Despite netting a race win, the team struggled to fifth in the constructors standings, with a meagre points tally of 142 – less than Hamilton’s alone.
It is feasible to consider that that losing out to Rosberg in the title fight could prove too much for Hamilton.
Rosberg spent much of the year behind a faded Michael Schumacher, and finished the season a distant ninth, with very little in the way of spectacular performances.
In other words, Mercedes were crying out for an elite driver like Hamilton, and Hamilton accepted – expecting little in the way of resistance from his teammate.
In reality, Nico Rosberg has proven himself to be far more of a worthy adversary than world champions Jenson Button, and possibly even Fernando Alonso ever had been.
Rosberg currently leads the title fight, with Hamilton struggling 29 points adrift. Although this is partly a result of Hamitlon’s 2 retirements, likely costing him 36 points, Rosberg has appeared to genuinely have a noticeable edge over Hamilton in recent races. As the points have started to stack up, and the extent of the Mercedes drivers’ dominance has become more evident, psychology has played an increasingly more prominent role in the title fight, and Rosberg appears to be winning that too, as the German remains calm and composed, seemingly untroubled – Hamilton on the other hand, appears to be fighting against his own demons as he attempts to convince not the public, but himself, that he is still capable of claiming the title.
Hamilton did not expect a consistent barrage of opposition from Rosberg, and he certainly never expected to be relinquishing victories to the German. Hamilton did expect to walk into a complete number 1 position within the team, and therefore fight for world championships against adversaries from rival teams, rather than his own teammate.
If Hamilton allows Rosberg to transform his current minor advantage into an outright championship, Hamilton could quite possibly experience an utter meltdown.
Such a meltdown is the only conceivable situation in which Hamilton could leave the team, in frustration – perhaps frustration towards the team, but likely also towards himself.
If McLaren were to offer Hamilton a contract in which he ruled supreme over his teammate, it would likely force Jenson Button out, and given Magnussen’s lukewarm performance in his debut season, a replacement seems entirely possible. Either way, McLaren’s current setup does not accommodate Hamilton, nor does it accommodate his demands.
Ultimately, Hamilton will not willingly relinquish his position at the sport’s current kingpin – regardless of any commodities McLaren desperately offer. The supposed ‘approach’ to Hamilton from the team is more likely, then, to be a statement to their current drivers to up their game.