Would Lewis Hamilton go to Red Bull?

Lewis Hamilton - Melbourne 2011
Photo: Dan Campbell

The usual Formula 1 rumour mill regarding driver seats has started getting some legs recently. There have been reports circulating about Lewis Hamilton having a chat with Christian Horner of Red Bull in Montreal at the weekend. This has of course sparked more rumours that Lewis might switch to the current Champions.

Now while Lewis will do what he thinks is best for his career, moving to Red Bull may not in fact be the brilliant decision it may seem. I have huge respect for what Red Bull have done and they do have the best car out there at the moment, certainly in qualifying. While McLaren may not always have the fastest car out of the box, they do have the resources and knowledge to develop their cars. The 2009 car was a testament to this. They turned a car that was only able to run mid pack into a race winner by mid season. They are also the only team to win so far this season so they’re hardly struggling for pace.

In addition to the way McLaren build their cars, the team themselves, the name and the history are all important to Lewis. His hero is Ayrton Senna, who drove for McLaren from 1988 to 1993. Senna left McLaren for Williams who had a superior car in the previous seasons, a move that would be his last team change before his untimely death at Imola but also a move which proved ill timed due to the Williams being less dominant than in previous seasons. Lewis would not forsake his career to stay with the team just for sentimental reasons but while the car may not be the outright fastest currently, the rules are being revised and things can change rapidly in F1.

The current technique of using Exhaust Blown Diffusers (EBD) is currently being revised by the FIA. The idea behind the EBD is to blow the exhaust gasses over the diffuser to create additional downforce, the main problem the FIA have with this though is the practice Renault pioneered where the diffuser is continually fed exhaust gasses. This happens even when the driver is off throttle by using clever engine maps to continue to burn fuel and exhaust the gas from the engine while not providing drive to the wheels. Changes to effectively ban the use of off throttle EBDs would be in place from Silverstone onwards this season. This will effect almost all the teams, only the teams with Cosworth engines don’t use this technology. This may well produce a change in the top order. Suggestions are that Red Bull and Renault may lose out the most with this as they appear to be using the more extreme versions of the technique. All teams will be developing solutions to combat the loss of this technology though so we may see very little change; certainly at the front anyway.

Next season the FIA intends to remove the EBD effect completely by changing the rules regarding exhaust placement, length and shape. McLaren may well find they are top of the order again. Looking even further into 2013 (by which time Lewis’s current contract will have ended) the new engine regulations are due. Moving from a Mercedes engine to Renault could be costly or beneficial. Depending of course on how the engine manufacturers deal with this change. Mercedes arguably have the best engine in F1 at the moment and it’s unlikely their new one will be poor.

In addition to these points there is the fact that Lewis would be moving from being the golden boy of McLaren to the team where Sebastian is the chosen one. Lewis is a racer and he is experienced at being paired with world champions, Fernando Alonso in 2007 and Jenson Button 2010-Current. I’m sure he would relish the chance to prove himself; much like Jenson did moving from Brawn/Mercedes to McLaren in 2010. The question is, Would Red Bull be able to manage the two drivers while keeping things fair? Could they avoid another Silverstone 2010; where they handed Mark Webber’s front wing to Sebastian Vettel. Would Lewis handle it as well as Mark did?

At the end of the day only Lewis really knows what he’s going to do, while it would be a shame to lose him from McLaren, maybe his departure would open up a seat for Paul Di Resta to move from Force India, although it looks like he’s destined for a set of Mercedes team overalls soon. Lewis vs Sebastian would be an intriguing battle with two of the best drivers in the field in the same car and should Red Bull be dominant again we may even see a little less of The Finger.