One of the big background stories about Fernando Alonso’s plans for the 2015 season has been whether he could get a seat at Mercedes. Back in August during the fallout from Nico Rosberg and Hamilton’s crash at the Belgian Grand Prix it looked briefly as though there could be a spot opening up at Brackley, but that’s all changed with the team on a much more stable footing.
The rumours in the summer were that Lewis Hamilton felt that he didn’t have any support at Mercedes, and that he was looking for an exit from the team. Back then, Ferrari and Red Bull were both sniffing around as Hamilton’s not only fast, he’s also young enough to commit to the team long term and help with development. There was also a rumour around the paddock that Ron Dennis had been in touch with Hamilton about a return to McLaren.
Alonso was thought to have seen the opportunity at Mercedes as being the fastest way to get himself a 3rd world title, and getting a seat there for 2015 onwards was a possibility.
Of course, more recently all that has changed, and things are a lot more stable for Hamilton. He’s now leading the championship, and the team are openly stating that they want him to stay on beyond his current deal.
That puts Hamilton in a pretty strong position. The chances are that when the season ends he’ll be a two time world champion, and the only British driver on the grid. That’s going to make him a pretty compelling magnet for sponsorship, and in turn, add quite a bit onto what he perceives as his value.
Now, Hamilton’s rumoured to be earning around $16 million from Mercedes – a bit more than Rosberg, and that’s going to be inflated with performance bonuses. That makes him a fairly expensive asset for the team, and raises 2 questions:
Firstly, could someone else win as many races in his seat given the quality of the car.
Secondly, would that person cost the team the same amount of money.
Given the dominance of the W05 this year, and the likely performance in 2015, it’s probable that other drivers including Rosberg could also deliver a world championship at a lower cost, and probably with less drama.
That of course puts the ball firmly back in the team’s court when it comes to salary negotiations. Any of the current grid would probably give up their salary to drive the Mercedes, and probably half of them could win in it.
Hamilton’s Management Quandary
Lewis recently parted with his management company XIX and has said that he wants to negotiate his own contract beyond 2015. That means that he won’t have the level of experience around him that he would have done in the contract discussions, and might lead the team towards making a “realistic” offer for his services in 2016.
Whether deserved or not, Hamilton’s got a reputation for being more headstrong and emotionally led than other drivers. An offer based on the market value of the seat and the demand for driving at Mercedes might be a long way below where Hamilton values himself, and ultimately might be a trigger in him departing. Either way, it’s unlikely that the final figures will be anywhere near agreed before the middle of next year.
There’s been a fairly protracted silly season since the middle of 2014, but with more seats up for grabs at the end of 2015 including Raikkonen at Ferrari, it could be the time where we see Hamilton move to the Maranello team to test himself against Vettel (should he eventually go there to replace Alonso).