After Michael Schumacher’s retirement, the hottest topic in Formula One today is Lewis Hamilton’s switch to Mercedes, where he will be replacing the seven-time world champion next season.
There have even been instances of critics pouring their derision on the McLaren driver, saying he has already tuned into Mercedes now that his chances of winning a second world title look remote.
That Hamilton has already thrown in the towel, there is little doubt. “My chances of winning the drivers’ championship are realistically far away, barring a miracle,” he said at the end of a promotional event for one of McLaren’s sponsors on Wednesday. “Now I want to try and help my team win the constructors’ championship,” he added.
McLaren, incidentally, is third in the team championship with 284 points, six behind Ferrari and 83 behind front-runner Red Bull Racing.
What went wrong?
What really went wrong for McLaren, which had put in a very strong performance in the first half of the season before the summer break?
“It hasn’t been a great year for us. We haven’t been fighting enough upfront; we lost a lot of points in races we should actually have done well,” lamented Hamilton.
Speed and power hasn’t been McLaren’s headache as much as reliability. Winning by a mile or losing by a mile — that has been the Woking-based outfit’s story so far this season.
“We had our highs in Montreal and Hungary, while Monza and Spa (Francorchamps) were a low-down. Had problems with DRS and gear box that undermined the car’s reliability,” Hamilton said.
The 2008 World champion also conceded that a few of his pit stops were quite messy, leading to a loss of crucial points in some races. “And then, we struggled with the tyres. By the time we learnt to handle them, faster teams began to do well with the tyres,” he added.
It’s very strange that in the case of Hamilton people have already started envisaging his prospects in Mercedes next year (nobody wants to even hazard a guess as to what Sergio Perez would do at McLaren next season).
“I have Michael’s (Schumacher) very big shoes to fill. You know, he has achieved more than anybody has in Formula One. I hope to do my best in McLaren,” Hamilton said.
A good friend of Nico Rosberg, Hamilton doesn’t expect driving alongside the German to be complicated.
“We have been racing together since we were 13. We were teammates before (they raced together in junior formulae) and at that time we had talked how cool it would be to team up in Formula One,” he said.
As if to hammer home the fact, Hamilton said, “Even though I am moving to Mercedes, I still feel that I am with the same team. I came through the Mercedes system (McLaren is backed by Mercedes even in the junior formulae), so it won’t be any different (for me) next year.”