Tag Archives: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

The speculation surrounding Lewis Hamilton

Let us firstly put this into perspective. Lewis Hamilton is contracted to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes until the end of this current season. That is highly unlikely to change.

He has entered into talks, and is in ‘advanced stages of negotiations’ with the team to move forward and negotiate an ongoing contract. Which, one would suspect, would be similar to the ‘multi-year’ contract teammate Jenson Button is currently enjoying with the team.

‘Silly season’ really does seem to have got out of hand once again this year; the two main ‘victims’ appear to be Hamilton and Schumacher. The latter appears to be the victim of a Freudian slip of the tongue from Bernie Ecclestone, the former; it appears, is the victim of sensationalistic comments coming from someone who is not necessarily regarded as the most credible.

The common denominator between the two ‘stories of the season’? Ladies and Gentleman, I give you, the one and only, Eddie Jordan.

Everyone in Formula One regards him as the ‘Paddock Jester’, his colleagues never miss an opportunity to either discredit his theories, nor mock him in front of millions on the TV.

Asked about comments Jordan had been making in the lead up to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this weekend, McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh said “I’ve heard a range of speculation this week but any sentence that begins ‘Eddie Jordan understands’ is immediately questionable, isn’t it?”

In addition, it is apparent that Whitmarsh himself is not even involved in the seemingly ongoing process himself. ‘My understanding is that we are in talks with him [Hamilton]’.

Eager to jump on the bandwagon, many journalists of questioning ability, and credibility for that matter; have continued to blow the story out of all proportion, despite all involved (understandably) refusing to add fuel to the fire. In a statement, Mercedes said that they “do not comment on speculation”, but added “Until we are in a position to confirm our full driver line-up for next season, it is inevitable that there will be speculation around this topic.”

Whilst some of the points made by certain journalists do seem to make some logical sense, I would point out that this is nothing more than conjecture and have absolutely no factual basis whatsoever.

Predominantly, none of these sensationalistic stories have even touched upon the amount of time, effort and money that has been expended during the development of Hamilton himself, from his career in Karting through to his rise to the upper echelons of the sport he loves; Formula One.

From a commercial standpoint, McLaren will almost certainly be reviewing the return on investment in Hamilton. Admittedly, he has delivered a World Championship, along with twenty wins, forty eight podiums and a total of 865 points during his F1 career.

This suggests that both parties are merely trying to negotiate a mutually beneficial value for what each brings to the table, and have yet to agree what this is.

During questioning this weekend, Hamilton made it abundantly obvious that he was not even involved in the talks himself. This was being left to his Management Team, XIX Entertainment and Simon Fuller.

This itself begs a question. If a company who is more used to managing the likes of the Spice Girls and David Beckham is managing the process, they are bound to be as creative as they possibly can be, in order to not only increase the profile of their client, but to get the maximum value from negotiations for their own commercial and financial gain.

Admittedly, I am a fan of both Lewis Hamilton and the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, but what has annoyed me about this so-called story, is the lack of factual or evidential material to support any of the claims being made.

Speculation is bound to continue and could potentially escalate, but there is one thing that is certain; until negotiations are complete and either the ink is drying on the contract, or both parties have agreed it is no longer beneficial to continue; speculation is all that it will ever be.

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2011 Australian Grand Prix – Race

The curtain-opener to the 2011 Formula One World Championship finally got underway early this morning. The testing, speculation and hype was put to one side as the Class of 2011 went head to head in Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel dominated the race throughout, and took the win from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, the surprise package of the day being Lotus Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who commendably finished in third place.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day though was Christian Horner’s revelation that neither of the Red Bull’s had been running KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) for the entire weekend. “We felt Kers was a potential risk, and we made a decision not to run it. It didn’t look like we needed it.” And he was right, Vettel had built a lead of 2.6 seconds over Hamilton by the end of the first lap, and Hamilton WAS running KERS.

Hamilton was able to match Vettel’s pace for a period however, the McLaren driver was also better on his tyres than Vettel, who was heard on the radio to be complaining of a loss of grip on several occasions. Both drivers ran two-stop strategies in a race where the hype was that as many as four stops could be expected from the front-runners.

Lotus-Renault’s Vitaly Petrov had an astounding start to the race, he was the beneficiary of Jenson Button in the other McLaren hanging out Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso into turn one at the start of the lap. Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber, driving in his home Grand Prix, had managed to maintain third off the grid, but he was first to blink and change tyres, Petrov then moved into third and maintained that to the finish.

“I’m very happy to be alongside Sebastian and Lewis on the podium, but from first practice the car has looked very strong, we focused on the race, and the team did everything perfectly,” said Petrov.

With the race developing, Jenson Button was having a battle of his very own with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. He was heard over the radio asking “How’s he getting away from me?”, despite Button using the new DRS (Drag Reduction System). But the nightmares did not end there, in trying to pass Massa, Button had used a run-off area and was adjudged to have gained an advantage, a move that was penalised by a drive-through penalty.

After emerging from the pit-lane in twelfth, Button drove well and managed to bring his MP4-26 home in sixth. The McLaren team will be happy that the hard work they had put in back at the MTC in Woking has paid off. It was abundantly clear that the MP4-26 was not all that had been expected of it, testing showed it was way off the pace, but the updates they bought to Melbourne, a new floor and exhaust system, seemed to have done the trick.

There were losers in the race too. Michael Schumacher suffered a puncture at the start, and was eventually retired from the race as a precaution. His teammate Nico Rosberg had a coming together with Rubens Barrichello, for which Barrichello was punished with a drive through penalty. Unfortunately for Rosberg, it proved fatal and neither Mercedes finished. For me, Barrichello had a terrible weekend, spinning out of control during Qualifying, and driving terribly during the race, to me, someone who has driven in 307 Grands Prix, should know better.

Sauber were the other talking point of the day. Having only made one stop throughout the race, Sergio Perez managed to raise a few eyebrows. However, it was shortlived. Scrutineering highlighted some technical infringements with both Sauber cars, unfortunately they were stripped of seventh and eighth places, which promoted Felipe Massa into seventh, Adrian Sutil in to eighth, Sebastian Buemi into ninth and debutant Paul di Resta into tenth and a final points paying position.

With Perez and Kobayashi disqualified, Timo Glock not classified, Barichello, Rossberg, Kovalainen, Schumacher and Maldonado made up the long list of retirees from todays race. Next stop Sepang in Malaysia.

Australian Grand Prix – Race

McLaren Media Centre

Jenson Button bought his MP4-25 home to win in Australia, ┬ámoving within six points of the Championship leader Fernando Alonso. With the media and fans bemoaning the boring race in Bahrain, Melbourne’s Albert Park had much to live up to. And we were not disappointed.

The elements had their say at the start of the race, and the whole grid started on intermediate tyres. Alonso had a poor start falling from third on the grid and managed to tag Button into the first corner and found himself pointing the wrong way. Kamui Kobayashi, Sebastian Buemi and Nico Hulkenberg had a heavy crash, and inevitably, the safety car was deployed.

Lap five saw the safety car come in, and a lap later Button made an inspired choice to pit for slicks. His decision seemed premature as he had an off after rejoining the race, but just two laps later the whole field seemed to think it a good idea to join Button on dry-weather tyres, by now running a second behind race leader Sebastian Vettel.

But on lap 20, Vettel’s Red Bull went off into the gravel at turn 13 with a ‘wheel related failure’, after looking as though he was comfortably going to win the race. So two races, two pole positions and, unfortunately a failure to win both times for Red Bull’s Vettel; hardly the start he would have wanted to his season.

Lewis Hamilton was being held off in fourth by Kubica’s Renault, but Hamilton would have to stop again for tyres and would need to fight through the field again, catching Massa and Alonso. But it was Webber that was pushing behind Hamilton, so much so that he ran into Hamilton and took them both off into the gravel. Webber later apologised to Hamilton for the ‘racing incident’.

Jenson Button’s call to change to slicks before anyone else, had clearly won him the race, a gamble that had paid off. Robert Kubica’s Renault eventually came in second, with Massa third and Alonso in fourth. Nico Rosberg finished fifth, with Hamilton recovering from his off with Webber to finish sixth.

Australia - Jenson and Team

Lewis Hamilton was publicly critical of the team’s choice of strategy, bringing him in a second time for tyres; but Whitmarsh defended the action, saying that Lewis’ tyres were graining and he would not make it to the end of the race. Would his tyres have lasted? Who knows. Had he stayed out on the tyres, with his pace he would have probably caught Kubica’s Renault and secured a McLaren one-two, but again, we will never know.

I was impressed with McLaren’s performance in Australia. Jenson Button proved that he could win with McLaren and, despite suffering a forced crash from Webber, and the team’s decision to two stop him clearly stopped him from taking a step on the podium, Lewis Hamilton drove the race of his life, making him my driver of the day.

So the World Championship, after a thrilling race, is lead by Fernando Alonso on 37, Massa on 33, Button on 31, Hamilton 23 and Rosberg on 20. In the constructors’, Ferrari lead with 70 from McLaren on 54, Mercedes 29 and Renault and Red Bull on 18.

And so the Formula One circus moves on to Malaysia this week. Early reports suggest that we may well see more of the wet stuff come race day on Sunday. That will surely make for an interesting race. Some big questions for me this weekend; will Vettel be able to finish a race? Can McLaren win again? Will Lewis recover from the situation in Australia?

Pictures courtesy www.mclaren.com with thanks to the McLaren Media Centre