While recent paddock gossip has suggested that Lewis Hamilton’s father and manager, Anthony Hamilton, has been opposed to the signing of Kimi Raikkonen as Lewis’s team mate, presumably because the laconic Finn would challenge Lewis’s supremacy within the team, Hamilton is now making public assurances that nothing could be further from the truth.
As reported by Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat, Hamilton said, “First of all, I must say that neither Lewis nor I have any influence to the driver situation at McLaren, but if World Championships are needed, then Kimi is also needed by the team, in my opinion. Kimi is the best driver that is available. Lewis and Kimi would surely goad each other in the best way to improve their performances.”
If Hamilton’s comments are any indication of McLaren’s intentions, it’s almost certain that Heikki Kovalainen will be replaced in 2010. Said Hamilton,”If I myself made the choice between Kimi or Heikki, I would take Kimi.” It seems unlikely that Hamilton would make that kind of statement publicly if there were much of a chance that Kovalainen might have his contract renewed.
In an effort to be diplomatic, however, Hamilton amended his remarks by saying, “But I’m not against Heikki continuing. We have always liked Heikki. He is a shining team-mate who does his work well.”
While Raikkonen would certainly put more pressure on Lewis than Kovalainen has, Hamilton was candid about recognizing Kimi’s superiority over Kovalainen. “Kimi, however, is such a cool type,” Hamilton said. “In my opinion, he is the best driver that could join Lewis at McLaren next season.”
Certainly Anthony Hamilton’s primary concern is to promote the interests of his son, and, as every lead driver in the sport can attest to, having a mediocre team mate always shows the lead driver to an advantage. If nothing else, Heikki Kovalianen has made Lewis Hamilton look good over the past two years.
But an ideal line-up will pair two drivers who are similar in abilities, with each driver pushing the other, with the net effect that the aggregate performance of the team is enhanced. Anthony Hamilton, publicly at any rate, is acknowledging this by supporting the choice of Raikkonen as his son’s future team mate.
It’s also true that Anthony Hamilton is a savvy character, and he likely knows that it would be bad PR to show any qualms about having his son pitted against a strong team mate. The subtext of his remarks might be expressed as, “Bring it on. Lewis can beat the best.” Only time (and a decision by the Woking brass) will tell if this is empty hubris, or another example of deft career management.
Image by p c w, licensed through Creative Commons.