As Lewis Hamilton starts his career at Mercedes, replacing Michael Schumacher, his former team believe it was all circumstantial and that the departure was their choice as much as his. Speaking with CBI, McLaren boss Ron Dennis said that the team could have kept Lewis but felt it wasn’t the right thing to do:
“Whatever people choose to do at the end of a contractual period, the professional thing to do is to be supportive of the other side,” he says. “We don’t wish him every success at Mercedes – that’s understandable, as he’s obviously going to be a competitor – but we don’t wish him anything negative.”
“I think it’s wrong to portray that Lewis left this team. At the end of the day, you end up with a situation where you’re going to separate if the circumstances aren’t right.”
He adds: “Life isn’t about one person deciding anything. It’s never that way. It’s about circumstances. Everybody says: ‘Am I bitterly this or bitterly that?’ What? I’m a realist. Did we have the ability to create a situation where we could have stayed together? Categorically, yes. Would that have been the right thing to do? We didn’t think so.”
Fair enough. I suppose the team could have ratcheted up the salary and allowed for all the contractual desire Hamilton wanted but to do so would have been a compromise on McLaren’s part if you read between the lines and make a few assumptions. Hamilton has never know another Formula One team as his entire career has been working with the Woking-based team. His victories and failures have all had a McLaren stamp on then.
McLaren, like many teams, wants the best drivers they can get but money is an object and they have a particular way in which they want their drivers contractually obligated to the team. There is little doubt they would have liked to have kept Hamilton but Dennis is right when it comes to circumstances. How much was the team willing to give Hamilton and was it more than Mercedes could offer? Also, if you believe Hamilton’s side of the story, the deal was really motivated by the thought of trying something new…something different…a new challenge. That, in itself, is worth a lot of money if a person is truly committed to seeking new challenges.
Ultimately keeping Hamilton was going to much more expensive than the team was willing to pay and witha tight economy, that doesn’t add up. Dennis made rumblings prior to the negotiations that Hamilton would have to lower his expectations should he wish to stay at McLaren. At this point, McLaren have to field the best drivers/car they can and they feel they have that in Jenson Button and Sergio Perez. While I think a lot of Lewis Hamilton and his skill, I am inclined to agree with Dennis that there is no indispensable man. Even Ferrari survived after Michael Schumacher and so to will McLaren after Hamilton. I also wouldn’t bet against an eventual return to McLaren for Hamilton.