JULY 20, 2005
The problem with Lewis Hamilton
McLaren's Young Driver Support programme has a problem. Twenty-year-old Lewis Hamilton is just too good and if he keeps on winning as he has been in recent months, his success will almost demand a seat in Formula 1.
Hamilton's problem is that he has won nine of the 12 Formula 3 Euro Series races this season, the most recent two victories coming on the streets at the Norisring last weekend. He has a huge lead in the championship over his ASM team-mate, Adrian Sutil.
Winning more than 50% of the races in a major Formula 3 title is a rare achievement and most of the drivers who have achieved that have gone on to leap straight into Formula 1. Back in 1979 Alain Prost was signed by McLaren after winning seven of 12 European F3 events; Ayrton Senna collected 12 wins in 20 British F3 races in 1983 and Mika Hakkinen won nine of 17 in 1990. In modern times Takuma Sato won 12 of 26 British races in 2001 and went to Jordan in 2002 although he was dropped by the midseason.
The best record of all belongs to Jan Magnussen who won 14 of 18 British races in 1994 but after a decent one-off race with McLaren in 1995 he had to wait until 1997 to get a fulltime F1 chance with Stewart Grand Prix and by then he seemed to have lost his edge.
McLaren's problem is that there are simply too many drivers around with two racers and two testers. It is possible that the team might drop either Alexander Wurz or Pedro de la Rosa to make way for Hamilton but if not the Afro-British driver will either have to go to a different Formula 1 team, with financial support from McLaren and Mercedes or divert from his chosen path to race in GP2 or DTM.
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