Lewis Hamilton signs contract with Mercedes?

Lewis Hamilton Driving - Formula 1

At last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix Bernie Ecclestone made clear that he believes Michael Schumacher will be leaving Mercedes at the end of this season – so who will replace him?

The rumour mill has been intensely speculating since Ecclestone’s comments and on Wednesday Eddie Jordan, former team owner and BBC analyst, revealed that Lewis Hamilton is due to finalise a contract with Mercedes to replace Schumacher.

Since joining Simon Fuller’s XIX Management, Hamilton is increasingly being turned into ‘Brand Hamilton’ as Fuller has done with his other high profile clients, including David Beckham and the Spice Girls.

A Global brand like Mercedes would certainly be better aligned to the plans for ‘brand Hamilton’ than the niche McLaren motorsport marque.

McLaren have made it clear that they are unable to continue Hamilton’s current $15 million deal which was agreed before the Global economic meltdown – so are his motives purely monetary? Even with their widely publicised performance issues this season McLaren are still out-performing Mercedes, with the seat Hamilton is rumoured to be taking over having seven non finishes in 12 races.

Hamilton is fiercely competitive and always quick to vent his anger and disappointment when things don’t go his way, however, Mercedes team principle Ross Brawn is unlikely to tolerate this type of behaviour so Hamilton will have a tough learning curve with the German marque.

But what of his Twitter faux pas during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend? Posting pictures of confidential team information on the internet is clearly a sign that he is not happy at McLaren, has certainly done little to endear the team to him and provides ammunition to speculation that he’s on the move from the McLaren team.

So who could replace Hamilton at McLaren? With McLaren focussing their team dynamic around being British, the hot favourite is Paul Di Resta. The Scot was until recently represented by Hamilton’s father Anthony, however, he now shares the same management team as McLaren’s Jenson Button.

As Force India are rumoured to be having financial difficulties at present it is unlikely that they will fight too hard to keep Di Resta and could benefit from McLaren buying him out of his current contract.

Is this the end of Schumacher’s second Formula one career? Ecclestone certainly hinted that he sees Schumacher retiring, however, the German has made it clear he has made no decision on his future.

With Massa struggling at Ferrari for the second successive year, and Ferrari rumoured to have a contract option with Vettel for 2014 they could need a driver for a one year contract which could provide a poignant swansong for Schumacher, returning to the team who helped him win five World Driver Titles.

The Formula One circus is infamous for rumour and counter-rumour so the truth remains to be seen over whether Hamilton will commit to Mercedes? Will Massa retain his Ferrari seat for one more year? Will Schumacher return to the prancing horse? It all remains to be seen.

image: © McLaren