The Formula 1 rumormill has been on overdrive this evening. According to a number of British newspapers, Lewis Hamilton has agreed to a 3 year $100 million contract with Mercedes. The other half of the story is that Sauber’s Sergio Perez will be replacing him at McLaren. The official announcement is expected tomorrow. As of right now this is all still speculation but lets think about this for a second.
There have been rumblings that Mercedes wants to pull the plug on their F1 program. It would make sense considering the team have amounted to little in the 3 years since their return to the sport. Michael Schumacher has been rumored to be retiring again at the end of 2012. For Mercedes to justify staying in the sport, they would need to improve their chances at winning and bring in some star power. From their perspective it makes perfect sense to bring on Hamilton. The driver has had another up and down season with McLaren. A slew of botched pit stops, bad strategical decisions and mechanical errors have had a major impact on his WDC hopes. It has also been said the McLaren were
unable unwilling to match Mercedes’s contract offer. All parties considered, a Hamilton move to Mercedes would greatly benefit the German team as well as Hamilton’s representation, XIX Entertainment. There have been reports that XIX could pocket up to 50% of Hamilton’s deal with Mercedes. Also included in a move to Mercedes would be increased sponsorship freedom for Hamilton, which would allow him to make more money and build his ” brand”. The driver has made numerous claims that winning is all that matters but it’s tough to agree when Mercedes have been at best a midfield contender for 3 seasons.
Sergio Perez was rumored to be next in line for a drive at Scuderia Ferrari. Felipe Massa is more than likely done with the team after another tough season and Perez seemed the likely replacement, being part of Ferrari’s young driver’s program. On the surface it all seems to fall into place except for the fact that Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel is said to have signed a pre-contract with the Scuderia for 2014. Apparently it’s the worst kept secret in the paddock and for all we know, Vettel is already learning Italian. This would explain Luca di Montezemolo’s reasons for claiming that Perez “isn’t ready” for a drive at Ferrari. Why would the team sign him for a 1 year contract? With all things considered, the game of musical chairs is beginning to make a lot more sense.
Throw in a potential new Mercedes sponsor, Monster Energy (owned by Coca-Cola) and things make even more sense. The talk is that the deal is being heavily pushed by Bernie Eccelstone in order to keep Mercedes in the sport. Hamilton is the missing link to keep them interested. However, there are 1 or 2 questions. What if Schumacher isn’t prepared to retire? Would Mercedes keep him and ship Nico Rosberg off to Ferrari for 1 season? Is Jenson Button prepared to lead one of Formula 1’s premier teams? Who would replace Perez at Sauber?
Good thing McLaren’s got the P1 to worry about because tomorrow might be a tough one.