Lewis Hamilton should stay with McLaren
13 April, 2011
Apr.13 (Daniel Chalmers) There have been numerous links between Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull recently, but there is no reason why Hamilton should consider leaving the Woking squad at the end of his contract in 2012.
At a glance a move to Red Bull may seem like a no brainer. They are the current world champions, the 2011 pacesetters and possess a genius in Adrian Newey. Furthermore McLaren have only won one championship in the last decade.
However when you delve in deeper McLaren have given Lewis a chance of winning the title in three out of his first full four seasons in F1. Plus moving to a new team after being with the same people for so long is fraught with dangers.
You get the sense that Lewis is getting frustrated that he has only won one title so far in his career. All of a sudden 2008 seems like a very long time ago.
Hamilton has made it clear that he wants to be one of the most successful drivers of his generation, hence why he might be considering other options at the back of his mind. It’s also likely that his new management might be playing a part in this too.
Hamilton says: “I am not here to race 10 years and only win one or two world championships.
“I want to be one of the most successful F1 drivers of this generation so I do want to win more world championships and I think you have to continue winning and prove yourself time after time for people to really know that you are the best.”
When you look back though, the fact that Hamilton has only won one title is not really McLaren’s fault. In fact Hamilton is more to blame than anything else.
In 2007 McLaren were very competitive. They were never anything less than the second fastest team on the grid, and on numerous occasions were quicker than Ferrari.
Into the last two races Hamilton had his destiny in his own hands leading the championship by 12 points. However it was his own silly mistake in China, when he memorably slid into the pit lane gravel trap, which ultimately cost him the title.
In 2008 he did just win the title at the final race of the season. Although it has to be said that he often made life very hard for himself.
2009 was a very poor year from McLaren as they failed to adapt quickly enough to the new aerodynamic regulations. However their miraculous recovery helped Lewis to win two races later on in the season.
In 2010 Lewis just lost the title by 16 points (first year under the new points system). When F1 left Belgium, two thirds of the way through the season, Hamilton was leading the championship. It was the next two races that derailed his championship campaign.
In Monza and Singapore collisions with Felipe Massa and Mark Webber respectively cost him a bucket load of points. Hamilton also conceded that problems with his personal life had impacted on his championship campaign.
Therefore without these big errors he could well have been a three times world champion by now. His name would already have been up there with the likes of Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Lewis’s all time hero Ayrton Senna.
At the start of 2011 McLaren against all the preseason odds are right up there with Red Bull. If they continue their current rapid rate of development they could well be ahead of the Milton Keynes squad within a few races. Yet again it looks like McLaren are going to give Lewis another chance to win the title.
This means that in the five seasons Lewis has been with McLaren (including this one) he has been handed a competitive car four times out of five. In other words an 80% hit rate, which is pretty impressive.
The important factor about McLaren is that it is Lewis’s team. He has been with them since he was a young boy. Lewis knows the team inside out and how to work with everyone.
Although he has a tough team mate in Jenson Button he knows he can beat him. More crucially it’s unlikely that McLaren would ever favour Button over Hamilton. Importantly he will know what he has to do to get his own way.
Moving to a new team is very much an underestimated challenge. For Lewis, moving to a different team like Red Bull would be something of a culture shock to say the least. Even more so, when he has been with the same team of people for so long.
Plus there is the problem of Sebastian Vettel in the other seat, who has just recently signed a five year extension to his contract.
Red Bull is built around Vettel. The team’s marketing strategy revolves around him. Plus there is the fact that he would be a formidable team mate on the track
We saw in 2010 that Red Bull didn’t cope very well with the season long rivalry between Webber and Vettel. When you mix business with sport problems often have a habit of arising.
Lewis would have a big challenge to assert himself in a team, where everybody is in love with the young German.
Let’s remember how hard Fernando Alonso found it to settle in at McLaren, after five years at Renault. The ways in which the two teams were run couldn’t be more different. Of course the relationship didn’t work out and ended after just one season.
Furthermore moving to a new team isn’t an automatic guarantee of success. For example it took Michael Schumacher four years until he won his first title with Ferrari
It also has to be considered whether Red Bull can continue to produce quick cars in the long term. Whilst Adrian Newey is there the answer is probably yes. However he isn’t going to be at the team forever.
Can Red Bull win championships without Newey? You would probably bet more money on the answer to that question being no. Is it really a good idea to join a team which is reliant on just one man and his drawing board?
In 2013 F1 sees yet another huge set of regulations changes, which will bring a revolutionary change to the cars. This will include the re-introduction of ground effect.
A huge set of regulation changes has a habit of completely changing the F1 pecking order. Newey has often got it right when it comes to big regulation changes. However he has got it wrong in the past too.
It’s always very dangerous to commit yourself to a long term contract somewhere else just before a major set of regulation changes kicks in. If your new team messes up the new regulations, and your old team pull a masterstroke then you are completely stuck, and left kicking yourself.
Back in 2008 Fernando Alonso edged on the side of caution when deciding his future before the major changes in 2009. He decided to remain with Renault for one more year to see how the other teams adapted to the changes, before ultimately deciding his long term future was with Ferrari.
Lewis could also do well to learn from fellow Brit and BBC pundit David Coulthard when it comes to being tempted to moving teams. Coulthard accepted a lucrative deal to join McLaren in 1996 from Williams. However in 96 and 97 Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve respectively won the driver’s titles for Williams.
When McLaren did get up to speed Coulthard could never quite get on terms with Mika Hakkinen. Not only that, but following the Finn’s major accident at Adelaide 1995 he very much became the favourite of team boss Ron Dennis.
In conclusion if Lewis wants to win more titles, then contemplating if the grass is greener somewhere else isn’t the answer.
He already has a team who are giving him competitive cars. McLaren is also still very much Lewis’s team despite the arrival of Button. This wouldn’t be the case at Red Bull or Ferrari for that matter
Looking back at his short career would suggest that it’s making less badly timed errors that needs to change, as opposed to changing teams.