Hamilton's best bet is to stay in Woking

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am


This Sunday at Hockenheim, Lewis Hamilton lines up for his 100th grand prix. He's come a long way since he made his bow in motor racing's top tier in 2007. He was a world champion a year later, but right now it would seem his career is, if not at a crossroads, at a point where some big decisions have to be made.

His contract with McLaren runs out at the end of this year and the Briton say he wants to sort his future out over the August summer break. The big cheeses at McLaren's Woking factory may be feeling a little uncomfortable at such news. After all, his musings come off the back of two awful grands prix by their high standards.

Hamilton and Jenson Button could only manage eighth and 10th in their home grand prix last time out, and the team are only fourth in the constructors' championship, the same place Hamilton occupies in the drivers' rankings.

What will comfort them is that Hamilton's options aren't as many and varied as he would like. Mark Webber has just penned a new deal with Red Bull, which blocks off the most attractive escape route. Ferrari are not a feasible option given that Fernando Alonso has the power of veto over teammates. The two clashed in 2007 while teammates at McLaren.

Another possibility could be a move to Mercedes. When Hamilton arrived on the scene in 2007, Michael Schumacher was recently retired. The German will also spend the summer break deciding on his future - whether to retire again or to take another contract. With improving fortunes recently he may be tempted to stay on. Even if he doesn't, would Hamilton really want to throw his lot in with a team who have been performing disappointingly this season?

The curveball in this situation could be Lotus. Five podiums this season have seen them scrape above McLaren in the standings. Some stand-out performances in the next two races could certainly give Hamilton some food for thought.

In the end you suspect Hamilton will stay put, and not just because he's been with the team in one guise or another since he was barely a teenager. The other options open to him won't land him another world title just yet and for all their lack of pace and pit stop predicaments, he is still within touching distance of championship leader Fernando Alonso. Far better to wait a year and see what is on offer for 2014.

He will buoyed by the upbeat pronouncements of teammate Button this week. Since winning the first race of the season, the wheels have fallen off his year. His only other podium was in China in April. Eighth has been his best since and that's where he sits in the world championship. Unlike Hamilton, he is adrift of the leaders - more than three race wins behind Fernando Alonso.

He has often cut a forlorn and frustrated figure in post-race interviews, unable to put his finger on why the car has been behaving so badly. The car was lightening quick when he won in Melbourne in March; at Silverstone there was no heat in the tyres and no chance of winning after qualifying 18th.

The team are convinced the problem is with the way the car is set up, not the car itself. Button seems to agree too - up to a point. He feels that Silverstone and Valencia weren't truly representative of the team's pace. He says that the next two races are crucial for McLaren and has underlined how important a problem-free build-up to the race this weekend is. You feel that McLaren either turn their season around in Germany, or they are facing a very tough rest of 2012.

It's good to hear Maria de Villota is recovering well after her accident in the Marussia car. Recently this column hailed her arrival as a test driver for the team as part of a new wave of women in the sport. Her car hit a truck in a low-speed accident at Duxfield airfield. Two operations later she's lost one eye and her career is over. A reminder this sport is still a dangerous one.