The “where will Lewis drive in 2013?” debate has been raging since Eddie Jordan launched the “Mercedes to sign Lewis” story like a grenade between Spa and Monza.
The response of fans and F1 writers has intrigues me. Many are focusing on the pragmatic attitude that no better options to win are open to Lewis so he should stay put. Joe Saward for example saying only Ferrari (27), McLaren (32) and Red Bull (30) have consistently won races since Lewis joined F1; the next best was Brawn (8) who became Mercedes F1 AMG.
From a logical point of view this is incontrovertible. Yet in F1 politics logic doesn’t always prevail. I believe Lewis is being pushed and I’ll explain why.
I know for a fact from friends I have working at McLaren, the group management was extremely frustrated and unhappy with Lewis’ petulant behaviour last year. He had a very public, Balotelli like, “why always me” attitude to his consistent visits to the stewards and of course there was his infamous Ali Gee comment in Monaco.
This year however, Lewis has been “born again”. Smiling and happy for Jenson in Australia, forgiving of his team for short fuelling him for qualifying in Barcelona and until twittergate in Belgium, the model employee driver.
Many have accredited his Zen like re-incarnation to the fact that he now has a Jenson like “bubble” (Lewis’ words), has more of his family around and of course made up with Nicole. I find this not credible, and reading the stream of happy tweets extolling the beauty of life, friendship and the oneness of the universe in general the sceptic in me is smelling a rat. Here’s a couple from the past 2 weeks…
“Never give up. No matter how hard the situation is, always believe that something beautiful is going to happen”, and
“The only person I have to be better than today is the person I was yesterday. So, Past, thanks for all the lessons. To my Future, I’m ready!”
These are endearing and touching sentiments and most eloquent by comparison to anything we’ve ever heard from Lewis before. So if Lewis has undergone a personality conversion from 2011, it is as radical as the light on the Damascus road.
The unfolding events were broadly as follows
Lewis signed with XIX and Simon Fuller (Beckham’s agency) in 2011, and if I were representing him in corporate land last season, I would have been weeping into my foie gras and Cristal champagne.
Any agent worth their salt would need to advise their client that in the year when you are looking for a new contract, the sponsors will be focused on the kind of person being signed to market their brand. Seeing as “Bad Ass Jeans” are not in the XIX portfolio, something clearly needed to change; hence the new and improved 2012 Lewis.
Ron Dennis has been surprisingly vocal on the matter of Lewis and a new contract. He said in a Radio 5 live interview before the summer break there was “no reason Lewis won’t be driving our cars in the future”. However, he added: “I think people get the wrong impression though, as when I last looked at the contract – I was paying him. It’s a question of whether we employ him, not the other way around.”
It’s pretty clear Ron is saying it’s not Lewis’ decision whether he drives for McLaren in 2013.
Earlier in Canada, Dennis told Sky TV, “He [Lewis] is on the end of a contract which was signed at a time when the economy was somewhat different. Now there has to be a balance…He’s very highly paid…He’s certainly paid more than I am.”
I suggest this means, Lewis will be offered less money.
Then when asked what he thought of Dennis’ statements, Lewis replied “It has nothing to do with me particularly, what he [Dennis] says…Martin is my boss.”
This is not a particularly smart response, if you know anything about how McLaren F1 is run.
And then we have twittergate. Lewis puts confidential information up on twitter. One of the McLaren guys was telling me in Monza his phone never stopped beeping with text after text thanking them for their disclosure. Okay, even if the material was not that secretive, the humiliation and ridicule heaped onto many McLaren team members by competitors would be hard to take.
The final piece of the jigsaw is XIX. They have been recruited to make Lewis a mega world brand and more money. It’s not going to look good if all they can get from McLaren is less money than Lewis old fella’ got last time around. Add to this their fee would be smaller, even if Lewis paid them.
So who leaked the Mercedes story? It’s a story that has been given credence; it’s not just a rumour. McLaren have accepted it wasn’t Lewis or his representatives. Mercedes say they’ve said nothing, so who does that leave. The McLaren group?
James Allen, who does not write speculative pieces, recently suggested, that it would not be surprising if McLaren were “tired of the pantomime of life that surrounds Lewis”.
So McLaren may have had enough of Lewis, XIX need to justify their existence by getting him more money, McLaren refuse to pay more – gridlock.
So there are 2 parties with incentives to give poor Lewis a shove.
The alternatives are:-
1) McLaren back down and pay more – is this like big Ron?
2) Lewis stays and takes less money – why pay XIX for that, they’d be redundant.
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