• Hamilton's big gamble - Paper Round

'Mercedes offer him much greater freedom on the commercial side'

ESPN Staff
September 10, 2012 « Japan means a lot - Button | Suzuka should suit Sauber »

There is little doubt as to what is the biggest story in Formula One this week and arguably the biggest story the sport has thrown up in this season of seasons - Lewis Hamilton's decision to up sticks and leave the team that nurtured him from his childhood and turned him into a Formula One star.

Hamilton's gamble to quit McLaren for Mercedes has raised many questions. Did he do it for the money? Was he granted greater freedom at Mercedes or was it simply just time to move onto pastures new?

Daily Telegraph columnist and former McLaren driver David Coulthard thinks Hamilton had little choice but to move to Mercedes as his relationship with McLaren had reached its 'natural conclusion'.

"I can remember him talking to my then manager Martin Brundle towards the end of my time at McLaren, saying that our relationship had reached its natural conclusion," said Coulthard. "He was right. And to me this is exactly the same thing -- Lewis's relationship with McLaren had run its course.

"You don't live your whole life at home, even though the fridge is always full and the laundry gets done for you. At some stage you have to move out. Grow up. Become a man. This is that moment for Lewis."

The Independent's David Tremayne says the move may have been inspired by Hamilton's own desire to build the team around him and develop his own brand, something his restrictive contract at McLaren did not allow him to do.

"Hamilton has wanted greater freedom for some time to develop his own brand, and he was severely restricted in that aspiration by the terms of his McLaren contract. Mercedes offer him much greater freedom on the commercial side, which will enable Hamilton to build something for the future."

Giles Richards, in his column for The Observer, agrees stating that although money may have been a factor, the greater reason was Hamilton's need to grow and develop on his own.

"Money would have been a factor but Watson believes that far more important is what the Mercedes team principal, Ross Brawn, has told Hamilton to expect from their new car - certainly the manufacturer will expect to be strong in 2014 when the new engine rules are introduced. But these are the intangibles debated over the previous weeks of will-he won't-he debate. What seems more concrete is that Hamilton wanted to grow and develop and to do so he simply had to move on."

No matter what his motivation, there is little doubt that Hamilton has taken an almighty gamble in leaving a team of proven winners for one that has only won once and many feel it is a decision that he could live to regret.

"He has looked at the roulette wheel and put everything on silver," wrote Paul Weaver in The Guardian. "He has quit McLaren, a team of proven, habitual winners, and decided to take flight with the Silver Arrows of Mercedes. If he has got this one wrong, he will rue the decision for the next three peak years of his career and probably for the rest of his life.

"It would be simplistic to say that he followed the money. Certainly a basic of £15m a year over three years, with the potential to double that, was a factor. But there is too much going on in the still-maturing head of Hamilton to base his verdict on a single issue, assuming his decision had any base to it all."

But Jonathan McEvoy of the Daily Mail disagrees, thinking Hamilton is taking only a qualified gamble in joining Mercedes.

"One suspects that Mercedes were evaluating what to do: pull out or throw everything into success. Lauda knew they had plumped for the latter and sold that vision to Hamilton, who had spent several weeks looking all the key Mercedes men -- Brawn, Lauda, and Mercedes' head of motor sport Norbert Haug -- in the eye. He was won over.

"That is why Hamilton is taking only a qualified gamble in walking out on McLaren, the 20-times winners of the drivers' and constructors' titles combined."