If Mercedes aren’t able to give Lewis Hamilton a definitive plan to revive his dream of an eighth World title, Martin Brundle wonders if he’ll be open to doing “a Michael Schumacher” and leaving for Ferrari.
After 2021’s disappointment, Hamilton returned to the Formula 1 grid adamant he wanted that eighth World title and has more recently said he wants to leave as a champion.
But two years after losing the crown, there’s very little sign of that happening as Mercedes have not given him a car capable of fighting Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for race wins, never mind the World title.
This year’s W14 appears to be heading towards the scrapheap with the team talking about making “radical changes”, changes that may not have been needed had they heeded Hamilton’s advice.
Speaking on the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast after Bahrain, he said: “Last year, I told them the issues that are with the car. Like, I’ve driven so many cars in my life, so I know what a car needs, I know what a car doesn’t need.
“And I think it’s really about accountability, it’s about owning up and saying ‘yeah, you know what, we didn’t listen to you, it’s not where it needs to be and we’ve got to work’.”
It’s the first sign of discontent to come from Hamilton, and it has come at a time when he’s contemplating his future with the Brackley squad.
“We have to remember Lewis is in the middle of a negotiation,” Brundle told the Sky Sports F1 podcast. “Now, I’m 100 percent certain Lewis would always follow the performance and not the money, but who’s going to turn down a big pay cheque if you can get it as well.
“And there might be some pressure at Mercedes-Benz to reduce his current pay as it were. So there’s a bit of negotiation and, a bit of gameplay in this as well.
“But I would have thought a lot of Lewis’s initiatives that are very important to him are transportable. You could recreate them somewhere else. I don’t think that would stop him moving.
“But I do think overall, when you look at the picture, and we talk about the devil you know or embedded or whatever, then there’s a lot of good reasons to stay at Mercedes.
“He just needs them to tell him how they’re going to sort this out.”
But, and there’s always a but, if Mercedes can’t reassure their driver that an eighth title is in the making, then Brundle wonders if he could “do a Michael Schumacher” and move to Ferrari.
Schumacher did that in 1996 when, despite having won back-to-back titles with Benetton, he moved teams to build something with Ferrari.
That something led to a run of five Drivers’ Championship titles from 2000 to 2004.
“But,” Brundle continued, “[Ayrton] Senna left McLaren to go to Williams, Schumacher went off to Ferrari and it took a long, long time but he made that work.
“So these great drivers are not scared of going somewhere and then galvanising and getting a lot of new people around them and making something happen.
“I think there must be part of Lewis that thinks ‘do you know I’d love to go to Ferrari and do a Michael Schumacher. If I can’t win my eighth or ninth right now why don’t I go and have some fun there?’
“He’ll be talking to his dad about this as well as his management team about where do we go from here and that will be exacerbated by the dismal performance in Bahrain.”
But while his fellow podcast pundit Jess McFadyen enjoys reading all the rumours about Hamilton and where he’s off to next, she can’t see him racing in red.
Aside from it just looking wrong, McFadyen believes Mercedes offer Hamilton a level of freedom that other teams wouldn’t give him.
“Depending on how deep on Twitter and Reddit you go, I don’t think any team is without a rumour of him potentially going there,” she said. “That is good fun reading all the kind of weird theories that come out about where he could potentially go and find his eighth. They make for great reading.
“But Lewis has quite a unique relationship in that team. It’s almost like they coexist, they are dependent on each other almost, and it would be quite unfathomable to think of him anywhere else.
“I’ve seen all the photoshops of him in red, and it just doesn’t look right, it just looks odd. In a similar way that Max is interweaving himself into Red Bull, it’d be very difficult to imagine Max anywhere else.
“Lewis does have this very unique position that he’s got so much freedom as well with Mercedes because of who he is and what he’s achieved and the way that he likes to operate. He gets this ability to do all these things like Mission 44, and to walk away from that would probably be a lot more difficult for him then had he not got that.
“So there’s a multitude of things keeping him at Mercedes. And I think it’s better the devil you know right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s open to hearing of opportunities.
“I mean any team up and down the grid would probably break off their arm to have somebody like Lewis Hamilton driving for them. But yeah, he’s only going to move if he believes it’s going to be competitive.”