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Michael Bailey , Formula One correspondent
Friday, September 14, 2012
I’d guess Lewis Hamilton has always been one of those people where drama follows – whether he chases it, or it chases him. Aside from what has happened on the track, the future of the 27-year-old has been the major subject for discussion in recent months – a discussion that is apparently growing by the day.
• GW – Felipe Massa: The Brazilian is starting to look like a Ferrari driver once again – and it’s great to see. Maybe it’s all coming too late to save his 2013 seat – but maybe it’s not.
• BW – Renault: Recurring alternator failures will do the French engine manufacturers little favour with Red Bull after Sebastian Vettel’s weekend ended in retirement.
Of course, last year there was an almost public meltdown from Hamilton as issues in his private life and a falling out with his father mirrored a flawed season in his McLaren.
So at the start of this season the promises were to be fully focused on the racing – and balanced on everything else around him.
And the reality? Well that seems to be a rather public crossroads that Hamilton is now strolling towards – and no one seems to know which way he is going to turn.
Set to be out of contract this winter, the primary question centres around whose car Hamilton will be stepping into for 2013.
"He has definitely learned his lessons and I know he is eager to get back in the car in Singapore"
An entire career as McLaren’s golden boy until now, the non-committal answers to questions and public brinkmanship leave you feeling a new chapter is being lined up – at least by Hamilton’s representatives, whose own incentives may not entirely revolve around championship prospects.
If Hamilton rocks up at Mercedes next year, it will only be about the commercial potential outside F1 – and for me, a dent to his reputation in it.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has stated he wants Lewis to stay – and that thoughts of a plan B to replace the Stevenage racer have not even been considered.
Given some of the noises coming out of Monza at the weekend Martin, it may be worth starting to plan anyway – just in case.
Of course, the paradox in terms of Hamilton’s hairy ride through the press interviews was how smoothly his weekend went on the track.
Hamilton was excellent in qualifying for the Italian GP at Monza, and relentless in Sunday’s race – not issuing reminders, but possibly underlining exactly what he offers.
And I’m sure it has worked the other way too. After a disastrous Silverstone, McLaren have upped their game. Wherever Hamilton drives next season, he could yet be doing it as a double world champion.
In the end, Hamilton’s priorities will take him where he wants to go – or stay – in time for next season. And until that is confirmed, the questions will continue to be asked with increasing fervour. Of course, if the situation was sorted as quickly as possible there would be less chance of any distractions from the job at hand on the track.
But then, you suspect a part of Lewis quite likes the drama.
• Lewis Hamilton may have been the victor in Italy, but there were no doubts over who the big winner was.
Fernando Alonso left another race weekend with the maximum number of points he could hope for – a habit that extended his championship lead as Sebastian Vettel’s alternator made more headlines.
It is also a habit that is going to see him over the line in the title fight, should he maintain his remarkable form for the remaining seven races.
The Spaniard’s record since joining Ferrari in 2010 is nothing short of spectacular.
He has failed to finish a grand prix only three times, and failed to score a championship point just twice more. In fact, it is 42 races since Alonso last came home outside the top nine when finishing a race.
While his championship lead is now 37 points, there is a proper bun fight behind his Ferrari – and that may also do Alonso a few favours as the season runs its course and drivers take points away from each other.
Only two points separate Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, while Mark Webber is also within striking distance. They will all fancy their chances – but it’s hard to look past Fernando now.