Hill: Lewis was ‘caged bird’ and ‘performing seal’ at McLaren

Former Formula One driver and British world champion Damon Hill has weighed in on Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes for 2013. The elder statesman says hamilton had to move as he was like a caged bird at McLaren. Hill told the Daily Mail:

‘I could never get my head around the logic that the team takes the driver’s trophy,’ said Hill, who won 22 Formula One races.

‘It’s the principle, not the trophy, that is at stake. After you have won a championship, and jumped through a lot of hoops, there is a point when you think: “This is my life”. You can have a bellyful of becoming a performing seal. You don’t want to be on probation for your whole career.

‘Of course, you still have to fight inside the car; but there is a time when, surely, you have proved you can motivate yourself. These are things Lewis has tried to balance.

‘This is quite a shift in the power balance in Formula One. It shows a driver is a more important ingredient in the sport than the teams like to think.

‘Formula One would do well to remember the public relates to a driver’s career path more than any team with the exception of Ferrari. The rest are just operations. To the public, the sport is about the drivers.

‘There is a huge disconnect between the philosophy of a team and a driver. Drivers just want to race, they don’t see Formula One as a marketing exercise or product development. To a team, a driver is a hired hand. But drivers have a right to a career path. They don’t belong to a team.’

In essence, Lewis was a performing seal at a circus under those conditions and had no leverage for personal gain through the medium in which he made his profession. No personal sponsorship, no winners trophies, no personal sponsor appearances and effectively no way to capitalize on his personal brand and wealth potential.

We’ve discussed this before but this is, indeed, where XIX Entertainment come in. this is the reason you hire a group to maximize your earnings potential and McLaren were not too keen on giving up these particular areas of revenue generation. That’s probably more common amongst the top teams that we even know if we had the opportunity to look at one of the contracts.

There is another side to this equation…namely the team. McLaren said that no man or name is bigger than McLaren and they have every right to feel that way. They have a tidy and massively impressive track record in Formula One. Many fans scoff when we mention that a driver drives for Ferrari and it will never be any different. In fact, McLaren fans have slated the Italian juggernaut for this archaic and egoistic view where team orders are born and the team means everything. I’ve read with novel amusement the comments of McLaren fans when they lambaste Ferrari for this team-over-all attitude and chuckled because McLaren is no different. In fact, I’d say they may be a tad more staunch on this point than Ferrari these days.

McLaren CEO ron Dennis has amassed a fortune through micromanaging every aspect of his empire and what an empire it is. That attitude is set from the top down. Leaders who micromanage are not developing the best management program if they subscribe to Bernie Ecclestone’s sentiment that delegation is the art of accepting second best. then again, it’s his team and he can run it the way he wants. The team has to capitalize on every possible revenue source they can and a driver’s personal sponsorships is simply revenue the team should be making…or so goes the thinking.

It’s a bit like a Spiff item in sales. The manufacturer pays an additional 10% to the sales person that sells their particular model and that incentivizes the sales people to move their product. The problem is, the company for which they work pays them to sell the right product and develop those opportunities so the spiff should go to the company that employs the sales person and enables them to make the sale in the first place…or so goes the thinking. Lewis wouldn’t have the chance to be sponsored by something cool like Beats headphones, Samsung Galaxy II or Pepsi if it weren’t for McLaren giving his the opportunity to be the star he has become…or so goes the thinking.

What do you think? Was Lewis a performing seal or caged bird? Should McLaren lighten up on their big brother stance on company overview and allow drivers to be drivers with multiple revenue options? Schumacher and even JV had personal endorsement opportunities…shouldn’t Lewis?


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