Lewis Hamilton calls time on Mclaren career

September 30, 2012 1:07 pm

Britain’s Lewis Hamilton ended his fourteen year association with the Mclaren Formula One team today as he announced a new deal to drive for the Mercedes team next season.

The 2008 World Champion faces six more races with the Woking-based squad before he turns his back on them and joins his close friend Nico Rosberg at the German team.

Lewis Hamilton moves to Mercedes to replace Michael Schumacher

Hamilton found easy fame and fortune in 2007 when he graduated to Formula One from the GP2 feeder category, instantly making an impression with an impressive string of podium finishes and four victories before missing out on the title at the final round in Brazil. He rectified the disappointment in 2008 as he took the world championship in a stunning final race, but 2009 brought a serious drop in form and although he has won nine races since, he has failed to claim a second championship crown.

Hamilton has been lured to Mercedes by a reputed £15 million deal, worth £60 million over the three seasons he has signed up for with the ex-Brawn GP team. Also on offer was the brilliant technical and strategical expertise of ex-Ferrari genius Ross Brawn who steered Michael Schumacher to five successive World Championship victories between 2000-2004, the man who Hamilton is due to replace at the end of the 2012 season.

The team Hamilton is joining was initially formed in 1999 as the British American Racing team, but failed to live up to the hype of its launch during its maiden years. Bought out by Honda in 2006, the team took a surprise victory at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix courtesy of Jenson Button before lapsing into mediocrity when Honda took full control. Avoiding extinction in 2008, the team was re-born as Brawn GP and swept all before it in 2009, and Mercedes (who had been engine suppliers to Brawn) bought the outfit from Ross Brawn at the start of the 2010 season. Michael Schumacher’s comeback has failed to deliver the result wanted and needed by both the German legend and Mercedes, but the development work done by Schumacher and Rosberg on the track and the ‘backroom boys’ at the factory in Brackley is all geared at producing a competitive car for 2013. Lewis Hamilton will be hoping that car is the one he will be stepping into next year.

Hamilton claimed the 2008 World Championship with Mclaren…

While the Mercedes offer was attractive to Lewis and his management, there is a school of thought that believes the 27-year old may have been driven away from Mclaren to some extent. His mentor and the man who bought Hamilton into the team fold, Ron Dennis, guided Lewis through his two maiden F1 seasons and reaped the benefits, but after the lying-scandal of the 2009 Australian Grand Prix Dennis resigned from running the Formula One team to focus on Mclaren’s roadcar sales. His departure seemed to signify a new era of frustration for Hamilton as he shared a somewhat neutral relationship with new Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh through a very difficult 2009 and 2010 seasons. Whitmarsh brought 2009 Champion Jenson Button into the team and although on the whole 2010 was a successful beginning for the British ‘dream team’ Hamilton seemed to resent the regularity with which Button outdid him, the older man presenting a much stiffer challenge than Lewis’ former teammates Fernando Alonso and Heikki Kovalainen. Without Dennis’ guiding hand he appeared lost and 2011 was a shambles by his high standards, with Button outscoring and outracing him at the majority of Grand Prix.

…but was beaten by Jenson Button in 2011

There is some belief that Hamilton has been forced from the Mclaren team by the sustained challenge from Button, and it is understood that Hamilton’s new Mercedes contract gives him unequivocal ‘Number One’ status over new team-mate Nico Rosberg that perhaps signifies the Stevenage-born driver is something of a control-freak, having been unable to assert any authority over his senior team-mate during their time together. Lewis may well have number one status at Mercedes next year, and it may well be that he arrives in time to reap the reward of the three seasons of work put in by Nico Rosberg; but that’s how F1 works sometimes.

Whatever his reasons for moving on, Lewis Hamilton will leave Mclaren as one of their champions and could potentially leave them with another title if he maximises his performance in the final six races of this year. At the end of the day, the racing is more important than the gossip…

Anthony French

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