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Twittergate could hurt Hamilton’s contract negotiations


By Berthold Bouman

It wasn’t a smart move when Lewis Hamilton expressed his frustrations on Twitter during the Belgian Grand Prix, and it was plain stupid of the 2008 World Champion to post a photo of the telemetry of his qualifying lap at Spa after his team mate Jenson Button had grabbed pole position. Hamilton wanted to ‘prove’ that his bad qualifying performance boiled down to the fact Button had a new rear wing, and he had not, which was by the way, not even the truth.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren - Photo: McLaren

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren

Certainly not a smart move as the 27-year old McLaren driver is currently amidst negotiations for a new five-year 100 million pound contract with the Woking-based Formula One team.

McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh was furious when he found out Hamilton had posted valuable car data on Twitter and ordered him to immediately remove the information. Later Hamilton apologized for the breach of confidentiality, but it was too late as the damage was already done. Whitmarsh said in a BBC interview, “He was asked to take it down and he did it immediately. So he misjudged that situation. He wasn’t thinking clearly, obviously.”

Hamilton has a million followers on Twitter, but McLaren’s Technical Director Paddy Lowe tried to play down the damage, “The data in there isn’t any great use to anyone, so I don’t think there is much damage done. The actual mistake Lewis made, which he understands, is he didn’t really appreciate the nature of that information.”

Button, who cruised to victory at Spa, was disappointed by his team mate’s immature conduct, “Very surprised and, yes, disappointed. We work so hard to improve the car and to keep things like that secret and private. I didn’t want to see it on Twitter. It was the whole telemetry from qualifying!” Button was also sure it was irrelevant to point out the difference between the old and new rear wing, “He should be gaining it back in the corners because he’s got more downforce on. And I was eight tenths quicker in qualifying anyway.”

Rumours have now emerged that Hamilton might change teams and could replace Michael Schumacher at Mercedes, or even move to Ferrari to replace Felipe Massa in 2013. The rumours about the move to Mercedes came from BBC pundit Eddie Jordan, who firmly believes ‘a deal is imminent’, which would mean the end of a 13-year career at McLaren. Jordan said on BBC TV, “I believe Hamilton and Mercedes have already agreed personal terms and a deal could be imminent.”

“Some weeks ago I said on TV that I felt Lewis was on the move and I had an idea at the time he had been speaking to Ferrari, which we now know is true,” added Jordan. “But I can now confirm his people have had meetings with Mercedes.” Jordan is adamant Schumacher is leaving Mercedes, mainly because FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone said to him in Spa, “I’m sorry that he’s leaving us not being a winner, because he is a winner.” But in his comments Jordan ‘forgot’ to mention Ecclestone had indicated he wasn’t sure he would leave, when Jordan asked whether he was sure he answered, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Schumacher has also insisted he has not made a decision yet, “As I told Ecclestone yesterday, I have not made a decision.” Schumacher is still a valuable asset for the Mercedes team from a technical, promotional and marketing point of view, and they will be very reluctant to let him go.

A Mercedes spokesman firmly denied Jordan’s speculations, “Until we are in a position to confirm our full driver line-up for next season, it is inevitable there will be speculation around this topic. We would ask for your understanding, however, that we do not comment on speculation.”

McLaren also denies the speculations, “We have been told by Lewis Hamilton’s management team [XIX Entertainment] the story is untrue.” And a spokesman from XIX Entertainment said in his turn it is highly likely Hamilton will sign a contract with McLaren, “As mentioned in the past by all parties, we are in advanced discussions with McLaren about a new deal. More importantly, at the moment, Lewis is focused on Monza and competing strongly for the championship.”

If Hamilton would leave McLaren the British team has a few options for 2013, the name of Paul di Resta, a Mercedes protégé, has been mentioned to succeed Hamilton, but also Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen and Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen who both previously raced for McLaren are in the race for the seat.

But it must be said, why would Hamilton go to Mercedes if his current team is one of the fastest this season, while Mercedes is not even in the race for the championship? But on the other hand, it could also be McLaren now finally had enough of Hamilton’s escapades on and off the circuit, and after Twittergate could decide ‘enough is enough’ and simply could dump Hamilton, and if Schumacher stays at Mercedes, Hamilton has nowhere to go.

2007 Canadian GP – Hamilton and Alonso, McLaren

Ferrari is certainly not too keen on the idea to pair Alonso with Hamilton, as the two were not able to settle their differences in 2007 when both drove for McLaren, which led to the premature departure of Alonso, who now very much feels at home at Scuderia Ferrari, and it is highly unlikely the Spaniard is willing to welcome back his old adversary.

But back to McLaren, during the Canadian Grand Prix, Ron Dennis said that Hamilton’s current five-year contract was signed in ‘a very different economic climate’, which means Dennis thinks Hamilton will certainly not get £100 million for a new contract, which would mean he would have to accept a substantial pay-cut.

Hamilton said about Dennis at the time, “Ron is a very tough negotiator. He was very tough when they negotiated the contract that I now have and I expect him to be the same when we go back in … I just have to wait for things to fall into place. At some stage they will.”

Indeed, Hamilton could be right, things will fall into place, and with Twittergate still fresh in Dennis’ mind, Dennis could become an even tougher negotiator, even tougher than Hamilton can ever imagine …

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