Mailbox: What if Hamilton had stayed at McLaren?

Date published: January 11 2021

Lewis Hamilton

A spot of alternative history pondering with regards to Sir Lewis Hamilton, plus Jacques Villeneuve re-opens the talent v money debate.

Here is what a selection of PlanetF1 readers are discussing as we all patiently waiting for Formula 1 to return.

Would Hamilton have won seven WDCs at McLaren?

George Bascomb: Lewis is a very good driver, but if we’re to be totally honest Mercedes is Mercedes and primarily because of Toto. The trinity might be Toto, Mercedes, and any capable driver, and that driver could most definitely be Lewis or someone like George Russell.

That isn’t to say that Lewis hasn’t been an important element, but I think Lewis knows to be thankful for the organization he’s teamed up with. Do you think he would be a seven-time WDC if he would have stayed at McLaren?

SwanRonson: [In] 2009, 10 and 11 the car was nowhere near the Brawn/Red Bull so no driver would have won in that machinery. 2010 the table flattered McLaren as Red Bull/Vettel reliability skewed how dominant they were. 2012 Lewis would have won the title if he didn’t retire three times from the lead plus many other incidents which contributed to him losing upwards of 130-140pts due to bad luck alone.

Badger: Hamilton didn’t design the engine. If Hamilton stayed at McLaren, Rosberg would have been a seven-time world champion, if he also had a wingman team-mate.

Boss: McLaren would have been in a better position in probably all the years since he left. Top Engineers/Strategists may well have moved to McLaren due to Hamilton being there. They may well have had a WDC worthy car by now, due to that. It’s likely McLaren wouldn’t have got rid of the Mercedes engines if he had stayed on, thus making their Honda years much better.

F1 teams will choose talent with money

Derran: If you got talent on one side and talent with money on the other, who would you choose? For us, it’s entertainment, for them, it’s business and businesses need money to run. Sure, I personally wouldn’t have given a seat for someone like Mazepin this quickly, but all the other newcomers have proven they are very capable drivers.

Stroll might be a meme now, but he’s beaten Russell in F3 and won the championship there. They all deserve to be there, but there are only so many seats, so teams will choose whoever brings the most money.

Srga91: JV’s argument is nonsense. No driver is racing because of their talent alone. Every driver needs money to race in karts, F4, F3 etc. Without any financial backing they wouldn’t even come that far to be spotted by Ferrari, RB, Mercedes etc.

Yes, Mick might’ve made it to F1 even without the help of Ferrari, but I doubt the other current Ferrari Driver Academy drivers would’ve. I can’t imagine Ilott, Armstrong and Shwartzman having that huge of a financial backing, before they became FDA-members.

Stephen Szikora: I think you missed the point, in part because JV did a poor job explaining it. The Ferrari Academy essentially sells places in the Academy. Several of the junior teams/academies do the same thing.

Only Red Bull and Mercedes seem to identify talent and actually pay for their juniors to race, and even Mercedes is not above selling a test to the likes of Mazepin.

It is not simply, as the article suggests, the case that Ferrari juniors have the financial backing to race without support. They do have that, but they also pay Ferrari to be in the system. Red Bull takes a lot of heat for their treatment of their junior drivers, but they deserve credit for actually finding these juniors and actually paying for them to race in the first place.

JazzyJ: Recent FDA policy seems to suggest that they chose whom they believe is the best of the bunch or has the highest ceiling in terms of development, which showed in the F2 championship standings this year: three drivers in the top five with or without the financial backing. So I would take JV’s comments with a grain of salt.

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