|Lewis Hamilton – racing driver and global superstar (but in which order?)|
Once upon a time there were two footballers. Lets call them Paul and David. They were about the same age and both were very good at football. In fact, they were so good that a really big football club signed them up. Although Paul and David were quite young, they both played so well and scored so many goals that soon they were playing every week.
Paul and David helped their team win lots of trophies and for a while everyone was very happy. But David and David’s new wife, Victoria, started to get a bit bored. They wanted to go out more with their famous friends and wear silly clothes. This made David’s manager very cross and one day he got so cross that he kicked a boot at David. In the end, David had to leave the club and say goodbye to Paul and all his old friends.
David played for a while in Spain but they didn’t win very much as they had a lot of managers. David then moved to a country where they don’t like football much and he doesn’t play very often now. Paul is still at the same club and has won 9 more big trophies since David left. All of Paul’s team-mates still say he is the best player they have ever played with. Paul doesn’t have any famous friends, he doesn’t have an agent and he doesn’t go out very much. He just plays football.
The moral of the tale? Be careful what you wish for. True sporting greats don’t have distractions or tend to embrace the celebrity scene. But it’s a free choice – you can decide to go down that whole ‘global brand’ route or you can focus 100% on your sport.
|Take a bow, EJ. He broke the Lewis to Mercedes story weeks ago!|
And so today, it was announced that Lewis Hamilton is leaving McLaren (replacing The Great Michael Schumacher) at the end of the season and moving to Mercedes. Huge kudos to Eddie Jordan who called this weeks ago (and was derided by many when any announcement failed to materialise). He might have a penchant for a loud shirt but he is supremely well-connected in Formula 1.
The next giant-sized piece in the 2013 jigsaw was an announcement by McLaren that Sergio Perez will be joining McLaren to replace Hamilton. No news (as at the time of writing this piece) on Schumacher’s future. There is speculation linking him to Sauber although I would give ANYTHING to see Schuey have one final year at Ferrari. Surely it has to be worth a punt! P45 and pat on the back for Felipe Massa and bob’s your uncle!
|Ah Lewis and Ron in happier times|
Apparently Lewis wants a ‘new challenge’ –
spawned mentored by Scary Ron Dennis from a very young age, things at McLaren have been going sour for a couple of years. A theory of the husband’s (which I increasingly think is bang on the money) is that Lewis, a fragile lad with a big ego (never a great combination), didn’t cope too well with Jenson coming on board and…er…pretty much matching him point for point. Don’t believe me? Well since they became team-mates, Lewis has scored 609 points and Jenson 603 points. There is no way on earth that Lewis would have expected Jenson to be so close. And to rub a bit more salt into the wounds, lovely, charming Jenson has won the hearts of the team. Compare and contrast to Lewis stomping around and whinging and oh sticking all his confidential telemetry onto Twitter for the whole world to see. The most revealing thing about Telemetry Gate is that it showed that Lewis was prepared to stick two fingers up to his team, who had been his boyhood team since the age of 14.
Controversial I know but I think McLaren will be better off without Hamilton. They have supported him through thick and thin (but mainly thin since 2008). I actually think that Perez is a superb signing for McLaren and I’m quite surprised that Ferrari didn’t tie him up for 2013. Did Fernando Alonso veto it? Or maybe they have a ‘Vettel’ shaped iron in the fire for 2014 so they’re biding their time? Anyway the husband will be beyond esctatic as he loves Perez so its pretty much Team McLaren all the way for him next year.
Another big winner in the latest F1 merry-go-round is Jenson Button. He showed big cojones moving to McLaren (when everyone sniggered their head off and predicted huge humiliation at the hands of Lewis). And now he has seen off their long-term protégé and most recent world champion. Jenson is pretty much the perfect team-mate for new-kid-on-the-block Perez (who is a racing driver foetus – still only 22!) with all his years of experience and they both have a similarly smooth Prost-esque driving style.
|Brand Hamilton coming to a billboard near you soon|
But back to Mercedes. The Lewis apologists (mentioning no names!) will come out with a whole load of reasons why Lewis is right to move:
- He needs a fresh challenge – Well he’s sure going to get that at Mercedes.
- Ross Brawn – Undoubted genius but in 3 years, Mercedes have done sweet FA. One win and the odd podium is scant return for the gazillion pounds of investment they have made.
- The huge change in regulations for 2014 (ie. teams will need to develop brand new engines) – Mercedes might be good at making engines but their chassis is rubbish, their aerodynamics are crud and different bits of the car seem to break down at every race. They have a very long way to go before they can even think of challenging for the title.
But I think there are deeper reasons for the move (that won’t ever feature on any official statement). Money is one of them – clearly a $100million salary (brain implodes while trying to calculate monthly take home pay) is not to be sniffed at – but more importantly, Lewis and his advisors wanted much greater control over personal sponsorships and endorsements. These days in sport that is where the seriously BIG money is made. So in a way it is about money. The driving force behind all of this? Simon Fuller naturally. The man behind Brand Beckham is now turning his attention to Brand Hamilton. God help us all.
Global megastardom may await Lewis Hamilton but time will tell whether any more titles shall come his way.
I suspect along with Perez, the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen are feeling pretty chipper today. But the smiliest of them all has to be Bernie. As ever. In 2013, we will have 5 world champions at 5 different teams. But will we still have 6 world champions racing? The suspense is KILLING me.