Lewis Hamilton is the prodigal son at McLaren, but he is
pondering whether the grass could be greener elsewhere.
Words Mark Hughes Main Image Andy Hone/LAT
Legend has it that back in the early 1930s blues singer Robert Johnson, frustrated at how things were not
panning out the way he wanted, went
down one night to the deserted
crossroads, the intersection where evil
lay. There he made a Faustian pact and
his career thereafter was electrified, his
dreams fulfilled, albeit at a price.
The first part of Lewis Hamilton’s
dreams – getting to Formula 1 and
becoming World Champion – were made
true with the helping hand of McLaren,
but his expectation of then dominating
the sport in the way his hero Ayrton
Senna did is not happening. And he’s
questioning whether he can cut the tie
that binds. He’s at his own crossroads,
certain that if he ever got into a Red Bull
his career would indeed be electrified.
Improbably gifted, totally confident in
that sublime talent, but with a restricted
life experience, there’s a turmoil within
him as reality fails to match up to his
arguably naive expectation. If that Red
Bull opportunity were to open up, he’d
surely choose to go down that road, such
is his evident frame of mind.
Hamilton took a peek at the crossroads
in Montreal a few months ago. For all
that his initial contact with Red Bull was
ham-fisted, the motivation is easy
enough to understand. Since Hamilton’s
world title of 2008, we are into the third
year of the Newey RB series being F1’s
gold standard, during which time
McLaren has provided Hamilton with: a
turkey that took until midseason to
attain respectability (2009), a car that could challenge the RB6
only on tracks with long straights (2010) and this year’s
machine that has sometimes been the fastest on race day but
which often cannot get close to the RB7 on Saturdays. For a
driver of such towering talent in what should be his golden
years, it’s a worrying picture and Lewis’ frustration has become
increasingly evident as Sebastian Vettel racks up the race
victories and potentially a string of titles.
Vettel has already taken one record of Hamilton’s that Lewis
can never regain – that of youngest World Champion – and Seb’s
victory (his 16th) at Valencia in June took him ahead of Hamilton
on career race wins for the first time. Make no mistake: Hamilton
is keenly aware of such key statistics. They matter to him.
“It would suck if I only ever won one title,” he said recently.
In that quote is contained both his supreme belief in his own
standing and his doubts about whether he is in the right place.
“ The World Championship’s like a gold medal,” he expands.
“It’s great to have but doesn’t last very long. You move on. I
never think about my one very small World Championship. In
the past, not many people won the championship – it was the
same guys winning them. But now everyone has them. There