As the F1 rumour mill cranks into gear it has already thrown up one of the juiciest stories in recent years. The news that was broken a couple of days ago suggests that McLaren have contacted both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso regarding a possible switch to the team from next season.
McLaren are desperate to claw their way back to the front of the grid after 18 months in the wilderness and are seeking a high-class driver to lead them next year. Alonso and Hamilton both have issues with their current teams, Ferrari and Mercedes, which might mean they become available for next season. Here we take a look at the positives and negatives surrounding both drivers:
Questions are already building around Hamilton’s mental state, should Nico Rosberg pip him to the world championship. The feeling is that Hamilton would struggle to remain in the same team as the German as it would be a serious dent to his pride and confidence. The Brit is clearly faster than Rosberg, and only Sebastian Vettel on the current grid can make a serious claim to be naturally faster. That would make a potential championship slip up calamitous for Hamilton.
However, is McLaren the right move for him, if Rosberg does manage to convert his 29 point advantage into a maiden world crown? He would be sacrificing the best car on the grid for hope that McLaren and their new engine suppliers, Honda, hit the ground running. It would be a risk.
It would also represent a failure on Hamilton’s part. He left McLaren in 2012 in search of a new challenge. His exit had a similar feeling of a man leaving his parents to live on his own for the first time. Going back would be admitting defeat.
And what about McLaren? What would they be getting? Would the same problems that saw the relationship between team and driver break down in 2012 still be there just two years later? Time is a great healer but is 2-and-a-half years enough?
Hamilton brings baggage. He is an emotional character who is difficult to contain. And with the only foreseeable circumstances that this move would happen, being a failure to beat a less talented team-mate, Hamilton could be more riled than ever. Would he be fully committed to the cause or still reeling from a heat-breaking defeat? McLaren have become an inner-sanctum of peace in the last 18 months. But then look where that has got them.
Fire and passion is exactly what they need. Hamilton is, and always be, blindingly fast. He can produce moments of magic that surpass all other current drivers. If Lewis is committed, then he is worth it all. McLaren don’t look like champions, with Hamilton they have a chance.
If Hamilton’s relationship break down with McLaren was a gradual deterioration over time, then Fernando Alonso’ was swift, brutal and final. The fact that the Spaniard may consider a return to McLaren shows just how frustrated and disillusioned he has become with Ferrari.
Alonso would represent a safer bet for McLaren then Hamilton. He would guarantee consistency and brilliance. Alonso won’t cause a stir with comments in the press and his behaviour. He has become nothing short of the model professional as he has matured at Ferrari. Widely considered to be the best driver on the grid, but time is running out for him to add a third world title.
On paper, if Alonso is available then McLaren would be wise to pursue him. But would he be wise to pursue McLaren?
As discussed, McLaren have no guarantee of being near the front of the grid next year. Honda hasn’t had the bedding in period of Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes with their engines. However, Ferrari has failed for each of the past five years. A side-way move to McLaren would undoubtedly be a risk for Alonso, but at the age of 33 it could a risk he has to take. If it comes off, you wouldn’t bet against him in a fast car, while he has shown before he can drag slower cars to the brink of titles. However, being 33 and with other ambitions to be fulfilled, Alonso’s time in the sport is shrinking all the time. Do McLaren really want a short-term solution?
For McLaren, a big decision needs to take place regarding Jenson Button. If Kevin Magnussen flourishes in the second half of the season, it will be difficult for the team to get rid of the young Dane in favour of the consistent Button. Hamilton and Button have been team-mates before and their relationship became strained towards the end, but Button would be the perfect foil for Alonso.
The potentially biggest F1 story of the summer is now gathering pace. Who would you sign if you were McLaren? Let us know below.
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