Date:Saturday November 10 2012
Was Lewis Hamilton's move from McLaren to Mercedes solely based on money?
When it was first muted that Hamilton could be contemplating a move to Mercedes most people thought that BBC pundit Eddie Jordan had finally lost his remaining marbles.
But as the weeks went on and there was still no resolution in regards to signing a new contract extension with McLaren, people legitimately started to question if Jordan had a point.
The British press started quoting various financial figures in regards to the deal while the 2008 Formula One World Champion remained tight-lipped about the situation.
When the announcement finally came that he would be making the switch it came just a week after McLaren appeared to think that they had wrapped up the contract talks.
Couple that with McLaren being the in-form team on the grid, capable of providing a car that Hamilton could go on and win his second world championship with in 2013 and the deal looked all the more confusing. Just like players rewards card you won’t know how it will end until the last minute.
Mercedes of course have hardly pulled up many trees since their return to the sport as a manufacturer, they purchased the Brawn GP team following their successful double taking the 2009 Formula One drivers and constructors titles and then failed to really put together any success under the all German team of Nico Rosberg and returning star Michael Schumacher.
Three podium finishes for Rosberg in 2010 was all the team could manage on route to finishing fourth in the constructors championship, 2011 was even poorer with a fourth place finish for Schumacher in Canada their best result as they ended the season 49 points worse off then in their first season.
This year Nico Rosberg's maiden career win was the obvious highlight in China, but overall the team have again struggled and will finish the constructors championship in fifth place [assuming they don't lose out to Sauber over the final two races].
So Hamilton's move clearly wasn't performance related, or at least not based on recent history.
There is an argument that with the engine regulation changes in 2014 that perhaps manufacturers will dominate the sport, that certainly appears to be the opinion of Red Bull's Adrian Newey, so if that proves to be the case then in a couple of years time it could prove to have been a smart move.
But the likelihood is the move was down to either one of two other options, or perhaps even the combination of the both.
The need for Hamilton to sample Formula One in a different team to the one he first linked up with as a 13-year-old boy and money.
Those factors certainly appear to have played their part, especially in the view of McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
"If I were speculating there are a number of factors and the prime one, I think, is that there comes a time when a man feels he has to flee the nest. I think it was a bit of that and a range of different emotions. He has been with us for so many years that I do not fully understand it. he told formula1.com.
The other factor of course is money.
Hamilton's contract negotiations were being handled by XIX entertainment, the same company that represents the likes of David Beckham, Andy Murray and The Spice Girls.
They wanted Hamilton to have more time available to concentrate on his own sponsorship deals and 'brand', whilst at McLaren the corporate side is more based towards the team.
Wages were also an issue, with McLaren becoming a customer team in 2013 following Mercedes selling their stake in the company, McLaren offered Hamilton a reduced contract.
His expiring contract saw him earn £15 million a season including bonuses, but McLaren's first contract offer this season was based on £12.5million a season plus bonuses.
When Mercedes placed their first offer on the table they started negotiations at £17.5million plus bonuses.
Once McLaren realised that they could lose out on their prodigy they upped their bid to £13.8million plus bonuses, still falling way short of Mercedes offer, but still enough to make him the highest paid driver on the grid in 2013.
Mercedes however were not done yet and they bettered their original offer according to BBC sources to a mammoth £19.4million a season, plus bonuses and that was when Hamilton signed on the dotted line.
Whitmarsh continued: 'We made Lewis an offer - an offer, which I believe is more money than any other driver at the moment is being paid. That leads us to suspect that our competitor and our partner Mercedes-Benz offered a bit more money. I don’t know that, but I think for Lewis made his decision. I am disappointed in one sense, but you have to focus on going forward.'
So will Hamilton regret making the move based on other factors other than simply being competitive?
'He is not going to say ‘hey, they offered me more money’. He is also not going to say that he’s made an awful mistake. I hope he thinks today that he’s made an awful mistake and I hope he thinks that next year. He’s made that decision and he has to live with that decision.'
But despite the fact that Whitmarsh and Hamilton are about to partways in just two Grand Prix's time, the team boss is still committed to getting results.
'Right now we still want to win races. We are motivated by that and our conversation circles around that. And maybe he is completely dispassionate about it, but my guess is that we both will have very emotional moments in Brazil. When the separation has arrived.'
Date:Saturday November 10 2012
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