Hamilton: Which way now?
SEPTEMBER 12, 2012
Jenson Button spent most of Tuesday in the simulator at the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC); on the same day, Lewis Hamilton was attending a charity function in London with Olympic champion Mo Farah. One event was shrouded in secrecy, the other held in the full glare of publicity. The two locations are separated by just 30 miles but, in terms of where both McLaren drivers appear to be right now, they are worlds apart.
Or, at least, that was the impression. In actual fact, Hamilton would spend the next few days at MTC in the simulator and holding constructive discussions with his engineers. But the unfortunate juxtaposition of events on Tuesday contributed to an image that Hamilton does not need.
When judging which of the two drivers ought to be the most content, the vote should go to Hamilton after his commanding win at Monza two days before and Button's retirement from the same race. Yet, on the evidence of Hamilton's sombre expression all weekend and Button's cheery demeanour while quietly celebrating his engineer's birthday over lunch in the garden of a Surrey pub on Tuesday, you'd be forgiven for thinking Jenson was the driver closing down the gap to Fernando Alonso at the top of the championship rather than being the man whose loss of fuel pressure on Sunday caused him to coast into the championship margins.
Hamilton's weekend got off to a bad start, courtesy of Eddie Jordan saying Lewis was a candidate for Mercedes in 2013 rather than staying for a seventh season with McLaren. That did little to make EJ welcome for breakfast in the McLaren Brand Centre although, to be fair, Martin Whitmarsh gave the garrulous Irishman an interview for BBC Television.
I don't know the truth any more than you do. But I do know that Jordan, despite his sometimes shambling pronouncements that go precisely nowhere, thinks long and hard before making a rare and uncompromising statement such as this one. Yes, occasionally, he is proved wrong. But, more often than not, he is on the money thanks to sources only a former team owner might have. And, to the best of my knowledge, no one on either side has yet to issue a categorical denial and state unreservedly that Jordan is spouting his usual brand of blarney through his exhaust pipe.
Will Lewis leave? The briefest glance at the 2012 championship tells you he would be mad to walk away from a team that has won five Grands Prix and join a firm that has not come remotely close to adding to that single 'got it right on the day' victory in China. Hamilton says his motivation is about winning rather than money. In which case, for the reason above, the decision should be a no-brainer.
I doubt, however, that his advisor, Simon Fuller of XIX Entertainment, understands the first thing about the joys of oversteer and taking a nervous F1 machine to the edge and bringing it back. Fuller, sitting po-faced beside Judy Murray on Monday night as their young charge won the US Open at Flushing Meadows, is more concerned about 'Brand Hamilton' and his source of income tomorrow than he is about the choice of Prime or Option tyre for the motor race today.
In world-wide terms, Mercedes of Stuttgart is a huge name with greater commercial potential than a racing team/small production sports car maker from Woking. And there's the future to think of when it comes to deciding which team will have the best engine to comply with the all new 1.6 turbo formula in 2014.
Overriding all of that in Hamilton's mind could be the simple fact that he's not particularly happy in his current employment. And, the way I hear it, the feeling is mutual, particularly after Hamilton's extraordinary tweet revealing his telemetry print-out from qualifying at Spa.
Forgetting all the logic, both sporting and financial, perhaps the time has come for Lewis to flee the nest in which he has grown and developed since the age of 13. You know the old adage which applies to all walks of life: if you start work in a company straight from college then, subconsciously or otherwise, you will always be considered a junior by those above you.
It is sometimes necessary to get out there and be recognised and accepted for what you really are; a mature and experienced player. The trouble with the immensely talented Lewis Hamilton is that he has plenty of the latter but you have to wonder about the occasional alarming absence of the former.
Maurice Hamilton , a freelance motor sport writer and broadcaster since 1977, is the author of more than twenty books and contributes to websites and magazines worldwide.
His weekly column for Grandprix.com was Highly Commended in the 2011 Newspress New Media Awards.