Its been the hot topic in F1 for the past…forever. What is Lewis Hamilton going to do in 2013. It is a multi-million pound game of musical chairs, and he had his finger hovering on the pause button. Today it got pressed, and against most people idea of sense, Lewis Hamilton is leaving McLaren to go to the floundering Mercedes team for three years for 2013. I for one think its exciting.
There has been a lot written on various blogs, news articles, and especially comments sections over the past 12 hours, most of it griefing and trolling. It doesn’t help that his cool image attracts a lot of fair weather fans, who tend to be more akin to boorish football fans, than your usual tempered Motorsports fans. This in turn seems to antagonise traditional fans against them, and Lewis, so its lead to a bit of a flame fest.
I have heard a variety of nonsense from his detractors and former fairweather fans; ‘he’s betraying his country’, or ‘the team that put faith in him’. As well as other gems like: ‘McLaren will be better off without him’, and ‘its all about the money and fame’. Some have had the temerity to suggest that now we’ll see what a poor driver he is when he is in a slower car.
Questioning his ability is, quite frankly, ridiculous. McLaren are clearly are not better off without, and that is why they tried so hard to keep hold of him, and he has beaten enough of his team mates in the past, including double world champion, and this years probably champion Fernando Alonso, to be pretty clear he has a phenomenal ability.
As for the fame, money, and lack of loyalty? Well, for a start you could level half these accusations, and worse, at pretty much any F1 driver you’d care to mention, but for some reason he gets it in the neck worst. I still can’t fathom why. I have heard plenty of explanations; ‘its racism’, ‘he’s arrogant/spoilt/petulant’, ‘overrated’… so on. Yeah perhaps, but I’m not buying most of it. I think a lot of the time people like to judge others harshly to show themselves in a better light, in sports especially.
Does he owe McLaren loyalty? Well they certainly gave him chance and opportunities, and he repaid them with an amazing first year with a phenomenal record of podiums and wins, and nearly becoming world champion, and in his career with them; 20 wins, 48 podiums, 24 pole positions, and the world drivers championship in 2008. So I would hardly call it an altruistic gesture on McLarens part, had he been a potato that struggled to get a podium, he’d have been out on his ear. The last three years he has consistently performed better that his team mates and won races, with the exception of 2011, where Button beat him by 43 points (270/227), but not by wins or outright speed.
As for the money, I for one will not begrudge him it. (Nor will I harp on about him being a tax dodger for moving abroad like some, because A) I probably would if I was that rich, and B) every damn person on the F1 grid has done this with the exception of Mark Webber, who lives in the U.K, and he’s Australian! and C) its his life and money. Where some people get off with their sanctimonious attitude towards other people money and affairs I do not know). Besides, I don’t think this motivated him much anyway, and Ross Brawn has indicated he hasn’t been offered more.
On the flip side, we have had some down right silly fan boy defences of the move ‘McLaren let him down’ and ‘he is under appreciated’, puurlease. The relationship went sour, sometimes it does. James Allen of Sky and the BBC nailed it; if he had signed for another year or more, it would have been the equivalent of staying together for the kids.
Lewis needs a new challenge, perhaps he will find out he’s not the fastest, perhaps he will regret seeing his old team out qualify him, but he will be able to be proud of what he achieves in the way that Schumacher did after moving to the flailing Ferrari in 1996. Perhaps the accusation that he never had to work for it will go away, but I doubt it. I think he is looking to move his career along, and to work with the likes of Ross Brawn, to create something for, and of, himself. McLaren have drivers, Alonso is Ferrari, as Schumacher was before him, and I think Hamilton wants that too, to build HIS team.
I am looking forward to next year. It will be fantastic to see Mexicos Sergio Perez in Lewis’s old seat I think that was a brave and inspired choice by McLaren, his performance in the Sauber this year has certainly earned it. At Mercedes, I think it will be a learning curve for Lewis, Nico, and the team, a chance to develop as a partnership and pick up a few wins with any luck, and my eyes will be on 2014 (when there are new car and engines regs) and 2015 with some optimism to seeing the Silver Arrows at the front. I’ll still be a McLaren fan, and pleased when Jenson wins a race too, the beauty of motorsports fans (outside of Italys tiffosi) has always been their ability to appreciate and applaud performance above and beyond theri own personal preference. I am, and will remain, a huge Lewis Hamilton fan, his driving and racecraft is exciting, sometimes its not always the cleanest or the best, but often the lows and the mistakes make the highs even better.