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GP Week : Issue 169
F1 >>> NEWS Lewis Hamilton has broken his 14-year tie with McLaren, and will be joining Mercedes under a three-year contract beginning in 2013. While it may be good news for the silly season, with the game of driver musical chairs now firmly under way, paddock opinion is divided when it comes to whether or not this move will spell good news for Hamilton’s career. Having elected to jump ship with six races remaining in his championship campaign, Hamilton will find himself increasingly isolated in the McLaren garage as the team attempts to limit the amount of 2013-relevant knowledge the Briton will carry with him to his new employers. While Hamilton and McLaren have both vowed to keep fighting for the 2012 drivers’ and constructors’ titles, the final round of races will see a very different atmosphere within the team, and one that is sure to prove detrimental to Hamilton’s often vulnerable emotional state. By moving to Mercedes Hamilton is taking a serious gamble with his career. If Mercedes comes up trumps in 2014, we will all be crowing about his foresight and ambition. But if Mercedes continue in the competitive but not race-winning rut that has plagued them since the Silver Arrows acquired then-champions Brawn GP, Hamilton will have signed away three years of peak physical fitness to a team unable to deliver the Briton with the race wins and championships he claims to crave. In their press release confirming the news of Hamilton’s signing Mercedes were keen to emphasise that the Briton had, in fact, been racing under Mercedes power for much of his career. “Lewis' career has been supported by Mercedes-Benz and McLaren since its earliest days,” the release read. “In 2000, he and Nico Rosberg were team-mates at TeamMBM.com in Formula A karting. Lewis drove with Mercedes-Benz engines during his two seasons in the Formula 3 Euroseries, winning the 2005 championship, and every one of his 104 Formula One starts so far have been powered by the three- pointed star. “Lewis is one of four drivers, along with Juan Manuel Fangio, Mika Häkkinen and Jenson Button, to have won the Formula One world championship with Mercedes- Benz power. With 20 Formula One victories, he is equal with Mika Häkkinen as the most successful Mercedes-Benz Formula One driver.” Also worthy of comment on the press release was a small note at the bottom, informing editors that Hamilton is managed by Simon Fuller’s XIX Management. As if we needed reminding... For more on Lewis' move to Mercedes, see Adam Hay-Nicholls Opinion column on page 21. Somewhat overwhelmed by the major announcement concerning Lewis Hamilton’s arrival, was another from Mercedes that former world champion Niki Lauda is to take on a ‘non-executive chairman’ role at Mercedes F1. That’s an interesting development in more ways than one. It does suggest that any future Mercedes role for Michael Schumacher will, as Ross Brawn has hinted, perhaps be in the performance road-car area – after all, too many world champions in one spot can get uncomfortable. The second, and potentially most fascinating question, is how the pragmatic and bullshit-free Lauda will relate to the pair of ‘hip’ youngsters piloting the Mercedes F1 cars ... It may end up being the reality check that the celeb-conscious Hamilton needs. I can’t think of anyone less likely than Niki Lauda to be impressed by the bling and cool-speak that characterises Lewis. Mercedes 2013-spec is going to be worth watching from more than one perspective! – Chris Lambden LEWIS MAKES HIS MIND UP AT LAST THE RAT IN THE HAT COMES BACK Opinion 4 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: