I have been reading some wild and wacky stories about Lewis Hamilton’s future, including my favourite which is that the McLaren driver will be paid $97 million for a three-year deal with the Mercedes factory team. This would be more than Fernando Alonso is being paid by Ferrari and completely out of sync with the current trends in F1 of bringing down the costs. If Mercedes have made such an offer then they obviously have more money than sense. In fact I would argue that in such a circumstance they need new management rather than Lewis Hamilton. Winning in F1 is not just about having the fastest driver. No-one doubts that Lewis is fast but he is not famed for his set-up skills. What Mercedes-Benz needs right now is someone to fix the car and made it work, rather than someone who will drive the socks of a second-rate piece of machinery. The more intelligent way to deal with the problem is to get some good drivers who know how cars work and to get them to develop a car until it is winning – and then hire a Hamilton to make the most of the potential that has been created. The aim of every Grand Prix team is to win, but the real aim of a manufacturer team is to sell more road cars by showing your engineering prowess. Good engineering must come first. The added benefit of this is that when you have a winning car, the cost of the drivers is considerably less because they all want to join a winning team. Thus it would be wiser for Mercedes to hire a Pedro de la Rosa rather than a Lewis Hamilton, if they are not satisfied with the job that Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg are doing. The people running Mercedes-Benz have been around the F1 block a few times and they know all this sort of stuff which is why I doubt that such huge sums are being bandied about. I continue to believe that the whole Mercedes thing is just an attempt to push McLaren to increase its offer.
Similarly, I tend to think that the rumours that McLaren has approached Sergio Perez are a message to Hamilton that he is not the only game in town and he needs to be careful not to end up getting a hefty elbow from McLaren for being silly. Hamilton does not need money. He needs to win and the team that offers him the best chance of a victory is fairly obvious. If you want any clues go back to the start of Lewis’s F1 career in 2007 and work out which teams have won what McLaren has won 32 races; Red Bull Racing 30; Ferrari 27 and the only other serious multiple winner was Brawn GP, which you could argue as being Mercedes, which won eight races in 2009 and one this year. It is not rocket science to suggest that if Lewis cannot join Red Bull Racing or Ferrari, then his choice is limited to McLaren. The team will pay him what it believes he is worth given his current results and the current economic climate.
One is led to conclude that the advantage of NOT being at McLaren is solely financial and if a driver makes a decision based on money alone then he pay the price for that decision in other ways. If Lewis really does conclude that Mercedes is the way to go, then I admire his optimism. The team has yet to prove that it can really hack it with the big boys, except in 2009 when it had a gizmo that no-one else had. Such advantages will win you one title, but look at the numbers again and see who will win you more than one.
It is there in black and white.