In one of the most prolific driver transfers of recent years, Mclaren driver Lewis Hamilton is to replace Michael Schumacher at the ailing Mercedes team next season, and will be replaced by the up and coming Sauber driver Sergio Perez. And as I write this, rumours of Vettel moving to Ferrari in 2014 are beginning to gather momentum, and lower down the grid (but only just, after a recent leap in form) Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg is reportedly replacing Perez at Sauber next season. It’s like musical (racing) chairs.
Vettel looks set to replace Ferrari driver Felipe Massa after his extended contract runs out in 2014
But onto what is arguably the most crucial transfer; Hamilton. After the initial sensationalist stories came out about about ‘Greedy Hamilton sells out team in £100 million F1 deal’, other points started to be raised about the move. With new engine regulations apparently being implemented in 2014, would a place in a team as renowned for engine superiority as Mercedes be a crucial move in winning that elusive second title? Or would the recent lack of success from the Mclaren garage have been a reason for Hamilton to leave?
Lewis Hamilton has signed a contract with the Mercedes F1 team, replacing Michael Schumacher
Heightened tensions between Lewis and his team may also have been an issue, with several pit stop errors costing Hamilton points and his mistakes on social networking site Twitter angering the Mclaren bosses.But one thing’s for sure; he’s taking a massive gamble. Mercedes have only won 1 race in the last 3 years, and although it’s clear that under Ross Brawn Mercedes has a good technical team, it is sometimes up to 24 months after joining a new team that a driver fully returns to form (due to a new engineer, car, team mate etc). Personally, I think the move is right for Lewis. His results have not been exactly spectacular recently, and maybe a new start in a team with such a huge global influence as Mercedes could do a lot with his media potential (of which there is lots). Lewis and his current team mate Jenson Button are not on the best of terms either. Jenson has made no secret of the fact they are not friends, though after Lewis’s (immature and trivial) outburst over him never following him on Twitter, he says they do have a good working relationship. I don’t think pay comes into it; he has to do what he feels is right. And although I can see why some are angered that Lewis has left the team which has supported him since his Karting days, there is no point driving for a team you are not happy in. Will this move pay off? Only time can tell.
Promising young driver Sergio Perez has scored two 2nd place finishes this season, and will be joining Jenson Button at Mclaren next season
But on the other side of this driver transfer, there are equally interesting points being raised. Sergio Perez was clearly a man on many F1 team’s wish lists this season; he was the Mercedes team’s ‘Plan B’ if the Hamilton deal did not work out. Perez is also a very rich man, and over recent years, teams employing a young driver who is not necessarily the fastest but whose money can help the car and team develop has become increasingly common. This is almost certainly not as important in the eyes of a rich, globally successful team like Mclaren as it is to a much smaller team like Sauber F1. Could Sauber’s results fall next season as a result of this?
A point which really surprised me regarding this transfer is the fact that Perez did not go to Ferrari, and Force India driver Paul Di Resta did not move to Mclaren! Perez is part of Ferrari’s Driver Academy, and it is common knowledge that Ferrari are looking to replace Massa; why did Perez not take his place, instead of going to arch rival Mclaren? Sauber also use Ferrari engines, to complicate matters further. It is strange that he was not picked instead of Perez; he has also shown very promising form this year, and although he can’t bring the money that Perez maybe can, a British driver is good publicity for a team as British as Mclaren. Also, Paul Di Resta is part of Mercedes equivalent young drivers scheme, and as Mclaren are partnered with this Mercedes Academy, he seemed a likely choice.
F1 is a complicated world of money, sponsorship potential and yes, more money; what happens on the track often just translates directly into results on paper for some teams. But a new driver line up for the 2013 season is very welcome for a sport which has been relatively stagnant with regard to teams swapping drivers for several seasons, and I’m sure that these changes will make a big difference to what happens on the track next year.