So it's finally happened. Lewis Hamilton is leaving McLaren at the end of the year, and I'm not in the least bit surprised. Relationships can be difficult to manage, and some don't last especially long. Not that a short relationship can't be a fulfilling or successful one, in fact I think it was Bruce McLaren himself who said that life isn't measured in years, but by what you do during yours.
I've heard a few comments from people slating Lewis for being disloyal to McLaren by leaving. Well sorry to those guys, but if teams want loyalty from their drivers, they should sign them up on 10 or 20-year contracts, and they don't.
I still can't work out why McLaren, with all its experience, would have allowed Lewis to enter the final year of his contract without having sorted something out for the future. You're inviting rivals to come along and have a chat when you fail to take decisive action. Perhaps, after the Twitter fiasco at Spa - or perhaps before - it didn't think that Lewis was indispensable any more.
McLaren's a strange team in some respects. It has all the passion and history of Ferrari, but there's often a disconnect between the senior management and drivers. I spent nine seasons there and I still feel like a stranger every time I go back to Woking. If anyone should feel welcome, it's a driver who was there for nine years, so you have to wonder whether Lewis is experiencing the same thing.
I wasn't particularly surprised to see Sergio Perez get the vacant McLaren seat. It looks to me like the team has shaken the British tree commercially with Jenson Button and Lewis and decided to take the talent and financial opportunity of Perez, which leaves Paul di Resta with fewer opportunities. Perhaps Ferrari for the Scottish-Italian?
What it does mean is that Jenson has to step up to be the undisputed team leader, because if Sergio beats him regularly, it will be a much bigger hit on his reputation than when Lewis does. With McLaren looking like it will be Jenson's last team in F1 he will now have a different pressure to deal with.
Frentzen (l) could never repeat his Sauber form with Williams © LAT
There is an unknown with Sergio though, and it's that he's never raced for a top team in F1. Some guys have looked outstanding lower down and never moved on a step to be a world championship contender. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was a perfect example of that when he left Sauber for Williams, and probably Jan Magnussen too when he reached F1.
Jan was just about the fastest driver I've ever seen in a kart or an F3 car, but when he became McLaren test driver he suddenly developed a smoking habit and just seemed to not realise the wonderful opportunity passing him by.
Unlike Jan, I don't see a motivation problem with Sergio, but the jury will still be out on him until probably halfway into next season.
What next for Michael Schumacher?
I'd never have said it before now, but I think Michael had to stop. Mercedes was a perfect fit for him on his return to F1, but I don't think Sauber or Williams - which I'd heard were possible destinations - would have been. Neither would have completed the Michael Schumacher legacy in the right manner.
Personally, I think now Michael's stopped F1 he will stop racing completely. A drive with Mercedes in the DTM or in GTs will probably be offered to him, but I doubt he'd take either.
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