Sporting Deal | Sports News | Lewis Hamilton appears to be on his way to Neverland, not Mercedes | Paul Weaver

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Lewis Hamilton appears to be on his way to Neverland, not Mercedes | Paul Weaver

6th September 2012

Although a move across the F1 paddock from McLaren to Mercedes is not fantasy, Lewis Hamilton’s recent behaviour appears erratic and ill-advised

There was only one topic of conversation among the paddock motor homes that glinted in the warm Lombardy sunshine this morning: will Lewis Hamilton join Mercedes or stay at McLaren?

There has been so little movement among the drivers in the past two years – at least, at the sharp end of the grid – that when a big name like Hamilton is linked with a monolith like Mercedes it will dominate all other gossip. And, appropriately for a world which is part sport and part showbiz, there is an awful lot of gossip in Formula One.

“He’s daft enough to go to Mercedes,” said somebody, which may sound like a casual, off-hand remark but which, in fact, was nearer the truth than a lot of other comments.

That is not to insult Hamilton’s intelligence. As Martin Brundle told the Guardian at the start of the season F1 drivers – at least, successful F1 drivers – tend to have plenty of intelligence, since there are so many things they have to get their head around.

But in this bizarrely self-obsessed sport Hamilton is the speedster from Neverland. If you go down the bewildering burrows of his recent tweets you encounter not a man of 27 but an adolescent, someone who is still going through the painful process of self-discovery.

Is he really being advised by his agents, XIX Entertainment and employers at McLaren, or is he listening to the spirits of JM Barrie and Lewis Carroll?

It is easy enough to construct a scenario in which Hamilton’s heart will switch from Woking to Stuttgart. After all, he’s not going to Ferrari, where Fernando Alonso is resident and will be for a long time. And Fernando still has unhappy memories of his time with Hamilton at McLaren in 2007.

And he’s not going to Red Bull, where Sebastian Vettel’s kingdom is just as powerful as Alonso’s, and where important people, while admiring Hamilton’s great talent, also wonder if he’s more trouble than he’s worth.

Mercedes is the only other gig in town for Hamilton, and if Michael Schumacher does decide to quit the British driver would join up with Nico Rosberg. The pair were pals way back in their karting days at Mercedes and the team could give Hamilton both the money and the love for which he craves.

Also, there are people within the McLaren team who have the same sort of reservations about Hamilton that some England cricketers have about Kevin Pietersen. If a lowly mechanic had tweeted confidential information about McLaren’s set-up just before a race – as Hamilton did in Belgium a week ago – he would have been fired on the spot.

And the more strangely Hamilton behaves, the greater the contrast between him and his team-mate, the friendly and more grounded Jenson Button. That makes Hamilton feel worse still.

But even in the middle of his daft days, Hamilton must ask himself a serious question. Is he content to go down in history as a one-title wonder, or does he really want more championships, as he says he does? Does he go for the money or does he stay with a team that has sheltered him since he was only 13?

There can only be one answer to this. He will surely remain at McLaren, where negotiations have only just started.

His advisers will be serving him badly if they allow him to go anywhere else. But no one can blame them if they are using Mercedes as a bargaining chip. Or blame the sport’s old ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone if he is trying to broker a deal between Hamilton and McLaren.

If Hamilton really is thinking of joining Mercedes, a team that might even walk away from the sport in the near future, since they are still negotiating the Concorde Agreement, it will be an adventure more surreal than any of his incomprehensible tweets.


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