Lewis Hamilton finds himself in a Formula One predicament many before him have discovered. The irony of the iconic lyrics from The Clash will not be lost on the 7 times F1 driver world champion who has to decide, ‘Should I stay or should I go?’.
Total honesty from Lewis and his management has to lead them to the conclusion that Hamilton has no other moves left in his career that will take him to a title winning team.
Hamilton’s best hope of 8th title with Mercedes
To maximise his opportunity to win the record 8th drivers’ world title Lewis has to stay at Mercedes.
Conversely Fernando Alonso is in a different place. He has not raced for a team capable of being a title contender since leaving Ferrari and being replaced by Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso’s gamble on Aston Martin is that they could be able to do a Brawn – and be a one season wonder that brings the Spaniard his 3rd F1 drivers’ title.
But this is not the kind of risk Lewis can take.
There’s no room at either the Ferrari or Red Bull inns for Hamilton and he can’t play a moonshot move because in reality the odds of title success favour him remaining at Mercedes.
Mercedes to be ‘also ran’ for years
Yet the chances of Mercedes overhauling the uber dominant Red Bull and better placed Ferrari are the same as those faced by Vettel and Ricciardo back in 2014 when the German brand began its near decade long domination of the sport.
Jenson Button appears to agree with this analysis and as TJ13 has suggested for some time the apparent lack of a new Hamilton contract with the Brackley F1 team speaks volumes.
Both Lewis and Toto Wolff have previously led the world’s F1 media to believe a new contract is a mere formality. Hamilton talked of a “multi-year deal” with Mercedes at the 2022 Mexican grand prix.
Hamilton contract no longer ‘a breeze’
This was followed by the Mercedes team principal being adamant last month that it was just a question of “sticking our heads together, wrestling a bit, and then leaving the room with white smoke after a few hours”.
However in an about turn at the Mercedes W14 launch two weeks ago when pressed over the issue of Hamilton’s contract Wolff in an about turn replied, “it’s not important for Lewis nor for us at this stage”.
Jenson Button has now waded into the Hamilton/mercedes contract delay debate.
Button admits he isn’t sure where Hamilton’s ‘head is at’, but rules out the British driver moving to another team.
Button reveals Hamilton’s difficulties
Jenson questions, “Is he going to sign [for Mercedes] if the car is uncompetitive because he wants it to be quick again before he retires?
“Or is he thinking, ‘If it’s not better, I’m just going to retire’. Who knows?”
The problem Hamilton faces is Toto Wolff has accepted the pleas of Mercedes Tech team and continued with the so far flawed concept for the new ground effect car design regulations as was epitomised in the failed 2022 W13.
Even if Mercedes abandon ship mid season this year for a more Red Bull/Ferrari car design philosophy, as Sky F1 Ted Kravitz suggests they are ready to do, they will have no chance of competing at the very front until the regulations change again for 2026.
Russel could finish Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton’s choice is simple. Be an ‘also ran’ for 3 more seasons and hope Mercedes get the jump on the rest of the competition as the new power unit regulations come into force 3 years from now.
Eve if Lewis is prepared to sacrifice another 3 years in the pursuit of his 8th drivers’ title, he has the matter of team mate George Russel to contend with.
During his first season with the Brackley team Russel easily outperformed Hamilton for most of the year.
Jenson Button believes this season again the Hamilton/Russell battle is one to watch.
Button: ‘A tight fight at Mercedes’
“I think it’s a great fight,” said Button, who was team-mates with Hamilton for three years at McLaren from 2010-2012 and outscored Lewis in points over that period.
“You know, they’re both so talented. One’s obviously got more world championships than anyone else. But George, you know, he’s just great, he really is, in terms of his driving, in terms of his engineering skills. I think he’s a great talent.”
However for Lewis any inter team battle is an irrelevance. His sights are set on the 8th drivers’ world title and as Jenson Button suggests Hamilton may just be running out of road.
“It’s something we all go through in our careers,” said Button when discussing Hamilton’s difficult 2022 season. “It’s a reason why a lot of people retire, they are not in a winning car anymore. That’s why I left.
Hamilton retirement still favourite
“You can deal with the pressure you put yourself under and the calendar, if you are in a winning car. When you are not, you are like ‘I’ve had enough, I want to get out’. Mercedes have given him a winning car for so many years. Last year obviously didn’t but the car did win a race last year, so you would say at the end of the year they were strong.
2023 testing has revealed Mercedes are not in a strong position for the year and so Hamilton again has a years racing ahead of him where his only goal is to beat George Russell.
Who knows what the world champ will decide over his retirement, but if he’s to have a chance of the record 8th championship its likely to involve 4 years of patience without the glory.
Is lewis capable of that?