McNish: I fear it’s end of the road for Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton will Monday drive the car on which he is gambling his racing career – facing a devastating warning that he may never win another race.
|Hamilton at the Mercedes museum|
The British driver begins life without McLaren for the first time in 14 years when he takes the wraps off his new Mercedes at the Jerez track in Spain.
But as Hamilton prepares to drive the W04 for the first time since his shock £60million switch last September, there comes the fear that his quest to regain the drivers’ crown will end in failure.
Former grand prix driver Allan McNish, 43, warned: “I don’t see Lewis winning races in 2013 – and there has to be doubts that the car will be good enough in 2014.
“And it is easy for a lean couple of years to develop into something longer. Just look what happened to Jacques Villeneuve after he joined BAR having won the title in 1997. He never won another race.
“Lewis has got a tough task ahead of him at Mercedes. It is a gamble.”
Hamilton, 28, will be restricted to about 30 miles in the cockpit tomorrow as he shares a filming day with new team-mate Nico Rosberg before the first pre-season test gets under way on Tuesday.
Hamilton insists he is in it for the long haul with the German car giant as he looks to add to that 2008 title success. But since he made the switch, his long-time friend Norbert Haug, Mercedes’ motorsport director, has gone as part of a major management upheaval in Stuttgart.
And at their British base at Brackley, there is also uncertainty over the future of team principal Ross Brawn, with the new season starting in Melbourne, Australia, in just seven weeks.
It was Brawn who guided Michael Schumacher to his seven world titles before emerging from the wreckage of Honda’s shock exit from Formula One to buy the team for £1, name it after himself, and help Jenson Button power to World Championship glory in 2009.
But after selling out to Mercedes in a reputed £100million deal, the team have managed just one win in three seasons and have also seen Schumacher make a hugely embarrassing comeback.
In those same three years Hamilton has notched up 10 of his 21 career wins, having never gone a season in F1 without at least two victories.
But since his title-winning year, he has finished 5th, 4th, 5th and 4th in the succeeding World Championships and had to watch on in frustration as drivers he considers inferior battled for the trophy.
And McNish, a respected pundit for Sky F1, added: “Lewis drove like a world champion last season and he still sets the benchmark, especially in qualifying.
“But he must have been wondering why if he was driving so well he was so far away from figuring in the championship battle with Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
“He must have thought it was time to move on.
“I imagine the contract discussions with Mercedes started last April when Nico Rosberg won in China and Michael Schumacher was doing OK.
“But there has been a lot of changes at Mercedes since.
“There has been a lot of talk about all the changes to the regulations in 2014 working to level out the playing field.
“But what you find in F1 when there are changes is that there is one man who is ahead of the game and that’s Adrian Newey at Red Bull.
“The rest are usually playing catch-up.
“Maybe Lewis would have been better off waiting another year to see what the driver market was like then.” Sunday Express