Welcome, one and all, to that time of year when the rumour mill begins to churn and teams make their first tentative steps towards confirming their driver pairing for the next season. Tentative is also the best way to describe McLaren’s situation. They have been rumoured with a number of scenarios for 2015, such as maintaining their current driver line-up, signing their third driver, Stoffel Vandoorne as a race-driver, or making a bold decision to resign Fernando Alonso. However, recent rumours have emerged that Lewis Hamilton has also been approached by McLaren in recent days. While this is unconfirmed, it does prompt some interesting questions. Would Lewis entertain the idea of rekindling his relationship with McLaren?
Would we be surprised if McLaren confirmed that the rumoured approach was in fact true? Probably not. Lewis Hamilton was McLaren’s Golden Boy and as their last champion, a reappearance a Woking would certainly prove a moral booster. Moreover, whether it is coincidental or otherwise, McLaren’s form took a nose-dive as soon as the Brit made the move to Brackley. It might just be the tonic that the team would be looking for.
However, why would Lewis want to go back to McLaren? Well, in truth, there are a number of reasons. Firstly, McLaren’s dire form of the past 18 months is predicted to end in 2015 as they reacquaint themselves with Honda. This is a hugely significant step, if only physiologically, as Honda’s previous affiliation with McLaren brought about the glory days in the 1980’s. In addition, Honda will have been able to observe the mistakes made by Renault and the advantages gained by Mercedes this season in order to improve their own powertrain. There is a potential that Honda power could be even better than Mercedes power next season – Although, to make a switch to McLaren on that basis would be a massive gamble.
Meanwhile, feelings at Mercedes could be decidedly hostile when the chequered flag falls in Abu Dhabi. They may have announced that they intend to maintain the same driver line-up next season, but if tensions continue to rise as the championship crown draws ever closer, they could reach breaking point in the closing stages. IF, Nico manages to beat Lewis to the championship title, Hamilton may feel as though the balance of power within the team could switch in the German’s favour. We have no idea how the team would react to a drivers title as it has not happened for them before. I doubt Hamilton will slot into a number two role without resistance.
McLaren seem very content at the moment with their driver line-up – or at least they are playing happy families in front of the cameras, (which was not the case in 2007.) Jenson Button looks likely to resign and while Sergio Perez fell out of favour with the team at the end of last year, I doubt the same would happen to young Kevin Magnussen. As Ron Dennis’ personal choice, you would imagine job security is pretty high. So, this approach, if that is indeed what it is, could well be McLaren merely identifying potential contingency plans. Hamilton is a very good contingency plan!