Friday, September 28, 2012

Silly Season ends? No wait..

Well , it has finally been confirmed Lewis Hamilton is off to Mercedes AMG Petronas replacing Michael Schumacher. The last Formula One Super Star who had made a big switch was Fernando Alonso from Renault to Ferrari , but back then the move was hardly a surprise and was famously known as the "worst kept secret in Formula One".

This move however although antecedent with many rumours hinting it , does seem surprising even after its official confirmation. It questions the main motive of Hamilton leaving McLaren , a team who have given him the fastest car of the pack circa Hockenheim and in terms of pure performance has been beaten by only the Adrain Newey designed Red Bull Racing in the last two years.

Some say he switched as a result of the change in the engine regulations for 2014 , but this doesn't seem logical. Mercedes supply their engines to Mclaren and surely no matter what I do not not think that 2014 will be an engine dominated season considering that aerodynamics still play such a vital role in the sport.

Caterham can be seen as a good example of this, having changed from Cosworth to Renualt this year , they still are quite weak to challenge Torro Rosso and are currently even behind Marussia in the championship.

For sure engines will play some part in the outcome of the championship but this is definitely no big decision such as Senna leaving McLaren in 93 as a result of the inferior Peugeot engines and going to the much powerful Renault powered Williams. The engines remain the same for him and I would anyday bet on McLaren having a stronger Aero-package for 2014 since the aerodynamic regulations as of now are expected to remain as it is.

And even if this was the case and that he predicts as such;  why move in 2013 and not 2014 ?

With the current pace of Mercedes abysmal and them effectively going backwards in terms of development despite bringing a new Coanda-effect exhaust at the last Grand Prix in Singapore. With no major rule change going in the next season except for the FIA effectively nullifying any advantage Mercedes had and banning the Double DRS system , 2013 predictably will be another disappointing year for Mercedes.

In stark contrast you have McLaren who arrived in Australia with the fastest car of the lot , and currently are  the performance benchmark. Without any major change in regulations , Formula One tends to have the same teams head the level of performance relative to the previous year , since most cars are an evolution of the its predecessor. Ever since 2010, its been a three way battle between Red Bull , McLaren and Ferrari. A championship for Lewis this season albeit possible is hard to achieve , however 2013 would have definitely seen Lewis Hamilton as World Champion had he stayed on in McLaren.

Despite what everyone was hinting at ,Mercedes was quick to dismiss that Nico Rosberg will act as the number two driver to Hamilton, assuring him of equal status. Rosberg might struggle at times to keep pace especially in qualifying but in no way will be a Felipe Massa to Fernando Alonso. Neither will any development favor the British driver , considering his team-mate is after all racing for Deutschland in a Silver Arrows ! Hence any indications of him being the team leader for Mercedes AMG Petronas are all KAPUT.

Great expectations are placed on Hamilton with critics forecasting analogies such as Hamilton reinvigorating Mercedes the same way Schumacher did at Ferrari and what Fernando Alonso is currently doing. I doubt it, his leadership and development skills have been in question in his 6 years at McLaren but despite what may come Hamilton will be quick but will Mercedes be ?

Hamilton's vacant seat has been taken by Sergio Perez , at just 22 years of age this is the perfect opportunity for him to develop into a multi-race winner and who knows fight for the championship. Another driver who will be fighting at the front come 2013.

Analogies between him and Kimi Raikkonen can be drawn up with both moving from Sauber to McLaren and both being relatively young whilst doing so. At McLaren, Perez has Button to partner , not such a threat as compared to Fernando Alonso had he stayed on and ultimately made his move from the Ferrari Driver Academy to a race seat at Maranello.  The "giant killer" of the current season has had heaps of praises for his many great drives this season and I expect him to be strong and probably even win before Button does next season.

A Ferrari Academy driver being stolen by the "garagistes" McLaren surely would have disgruntled the Tifosi but would Ferrari really have given Perez away with such ease ? Or was he simply not in their agenda ; telling signs of a Vettel to Ferrari move in 2014 ? With the silly season at its fever pitch , its anyone's guess.

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