All Hamilton fans: rejoice! The chosen one has penned his signature on a new chapter in his undulating career, by joining the Brawn prodigy, Mercedes GP. Rejoice? You may say, a quizzical expression spread across your face, but why should we rejoice? He has after all left behind one of the most successful and indomitable racing teams of recent history for a team that has yet to win anything of any major standing: I think perhaps a couple of podium finishes between their two German drivers – names, unnecessary – over their short stint in Formula One; a car that has had a season as interminably indifferent as its no. 1 driver – again name unnecessary. Added to that, the McLaren car is only supposed to reach greater heights of racing ferocity, speed, agility, down-force and all the rest that these multi-billion pound vehicles entail, in next year’s championship.
So why leave now then? And why rejoice? Yes I still haven’t answered that. Well as to leaving, it seems as with most men of a singular nature, one just cannot share the figurehead position of a Formula One team. It’s the team that builds the car, maintains and records its performance, changes the tyres, does all that is necessary in preparation for the race weekend, but it’s only that one man in the cockpit who decides the outcome that proves whether all that preliminary hard-work has amounted to anything. He takes all the limelight; he blows kisses to the fans; answers the questions of persevering journalists, puts doubts in the minds of those who support him, and adds fuel to the polemics of his critics – every ounce of what that team does to ensure the race weekend is a resounding success, must be geared towards the team’s no. 1 driver, and at McLaren, Hamilton was sharing that post with a man, who one would say, based on all-round performances, deserved to be his equal.
I, personally, believe, as many do, that Hamilton’s raw talent, undeterred desire, and general charisma in a race car puts him way ahead of most the competition, never mind Jenson Button. But of course, Jenson is also a great driver, and his potential ability to succeed shouldn’t be of any less merit than Hamilton’s. Hence, why I think Hamilton left. He wanted a team all to himself. It has been an ultimately frustrating season of glitches in the car; the Singapore retirement, no doubt led his last smidgen of faith in the McLaren team to float off with the shimmering heat that rises from the tyre-scorched tarmac.
…they’re not quite in the top tier of driver quality…
So pros and cons: well McLaren are generally seen as a better team than Mercedes; their car performs better, their name commands more respect, etc., etc. And Mercedes car reliability is certainly fluctuating between each race, etc., etc. But, what a fresh challenge it offers this lone ranger of motorsport. Ross Brawn is a proven team principal of class and expertise – Jenson can vouch for that. So the car may not be up there with the McLaren, Red Bull or Ferrari, but give it another year of development, and maybe discount the fact that, although Nico and Schumi are both world-class drivers, perhaps they’re not quite in the top tier of driver quality, add a sprinkling of Lauda approval, and round it all off with what I would say is the most determined, talented, racing driver of his generation and I think this move for young Hamilton may be not just what the doctor ordered for his cause, but also for the sport in general. If anyone can raise Mercedes into the upper realms of achievement, it’s our boy Hamilton.
A new element of spice has been thrown into the hot-sauce that is Formula One, presenting us with a new taste for the palate to salivate on. It’s a new dawn for this arena of insatiable adrenalin and peremptory individualism that fans of both Hamilton and Formula One will surely enjoy. So, let us rejoice in the unwieldy grace of Lewis Hamilton; for his decision to take on a new challenge in this spine-tingling, magisterial world of Formula One motor-racing leaves us all in a state of fantastic anticipation.