Suggestions of Hamilton moving to Mercedes were initially dismissed as sensationalist rumours, but the idea seems to have caught the imagination of the motoring world. Could it be true?
Twitter is currently abuzz with supposed details of the Hamilton-Mercedes contract, including a reported value of £60 million pounds. The rumour mill reckons that Paul Di Resta is a likely replacement for Hamilton at McLaren, which seems plausible in the event of a Hamilton move.
The big question that arises from all of these rumours is, of course: What does all this mean for Michael Schumacher?
Nico Rosberg has a contract at Mercedes that includes 2013, at the very least, but Schumacher’s contract expires at the end of 2012. It seems fairly certain, therefore, that Schumacher would be the driver to make way for Hamilton. That leaves him with two options – retire from the sport, or join another team.
Retirement does not seem all that likely. Schumacher is driving well in what is easily the most competitive year of his comeback. He has stood on the podium, topped the times in qualifying at Monaco (although he did not start from pole position due to a grid penalty) and generally looked quick despite having a car that is a little off the pace of the front-runners. The seven-time champion returned to Formula One to win another title, and he has not yet achieved that aim. There is no good racing-related reason for him to retire.
That leaves the option of a move to another team. The most likely team is, fairly obviously, Ferrari. When Felipe Massa was sidelined for the latter part of 2009, Schumacher attempted to stand in for his former team-mate, but was unable to do so due to a lingering neck injury. He was clearly in favour of the idea of a return to Ferrari at that point, which makes perfect sense – Ferrari became his family away from home during the most successful period of his career. His achievements at Ferrari ensure that he will always have a close relationship with the famous Italian team.
There is an enormous amount of support from F1 fans for the idea of Schumacher returning to Ferrari. Who would not want to see the most successful driver in history back in the most successful team in history? And consider who his team-mate would be. Fernando Alonso is arguably the number one driver on the grid at the moment. The idea of Alonso and Schumacher at Ferrari conjures up images of Prost and Senna at McLaren or Fangio and Moss at Mercedes. It is a pairing made in racing heaven.
At this point, it’s all speculation. Nothing will become certain until the teams start to announce their driver line-ups. Ferrari typically make their announcement at the Italian Grand Prix, but Stefano Domenicali has ruled out an announcement at Monza on Sunday, which suggests that decisions are still being made, particularly regarding the form of Massa, who has struggled to match the performance of Alonso over the past couple of seasons. In the absence of team announcements, the rumours will continue to fly, which is a normal part of this stage of the season.