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I've matured, says Hamilton as he uses Ferrari as a negotiating chip

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I've matured, says Hamilton as he uses Ferrari as a negotiating chip
Mar 9, 2015, 11:05 AM

World Champion Lewis Hamilton believes that as a 30 year old and with all the experience he has gained down the years, he is now mature enough to d...

World Champion Lewis Hamilton believes that as a 30 year old and with all the experience he has gained down the years, he is now mature enough to deal with anything F1 and life may throw at him.

There have been many question marks on the eve of the new Championship, including whether the apparently permanent split with his on-off partner of seven years Nicole Scherzinger will undermine his performance this season at the wheel of the Mercedes. But Hamilton clearly wants to send out signals that he is in control both of himself and his destiny.

He took over managing his own career, having split with Simon Fuller's XIX agency last Autumn and he is in deep negotiations with Mercedes over a new deal. It is close, but the cigars aren't out yet.

Lewis Hamilton, Nicole Scherzinger

Inevitably, Mercedes has a strong hand as it is currently providing him with the best car in F1. As with his negotiations three years ago, which took him away from McLaren, it is always vital to have an alternative team to go to, a bargaining chip. In this case, there has been some messaging from Hamilton's side recently that Ferrari is a possibility. This was the only obvious possibility all along.

In the Gazzetta dello Sport's weekend glossy magazine SportWeek, Hamilton said that he has always had a love affair with Italy and the Italians and enjoyed great support from fans who recently have been saying to him, 'Come to Ferrari, come to Ferrari'.

It is well known that Kimi Raikkonen may leave the team at the end of the season, unless things change dramatically and the most famous team in F1 might well suit a two, possibly three times world champion as he may be at the end of this season when his Mercedes contract expires.

He is known to be asking for a huge retainer from Mercedes, part of the reason why the negotiations have been going on for so long. Using Ferrari as a bargaining chip makes perfect sense and Hamilton partnering Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari super team would certainly be a box office smash for the sport.

Mercedes's strategy has been to try at almost all costs to retain Hamilton, but Fernando Alonso was in the background as a back up, if the team were to lose him. Alonso committed himself to Honda and McLaren, with McLaren boss Ron Dennis saying that the Spaniard was tied in for the long term, but there are likely to be performance clauses in the deal which McLaren could struggle to meet this season if things don't improve.

There are question marks about Alonso's fitness to race and his long term prospects, of course, following his mysterious accident in testing. These will only go away once he is given a clean bill of health to return to the cockpit and when he finally opens up to the media about what happened.

The Hamilton deal with Mercedes appears to be close to signature; it's taken something out of Hamilton to assume responsibility for the minutiae of negotiating with skilled and experienced opponents, but one senses also that he has drawn a certain confidence from this process too, which has made him feel stronger,

“Have I enjoyed it? I’m not too sure I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been an experience. I’m glad I’ve done it. If I’d gone through my whole career and not done something like this then I would have always been wondering if I could or not. But it’s been a very nerve-racking experience," he told newspaper reporters last week.

Lewis Hamilton

As for Hamilton's state of mind going into the new season, he wants it to be known he feels comfortable with where he has got to 'as a driver and as a man', as his hero Ayrton Senna used to say,

"You mature over the years, " he told SportWeek. "I have grown. I've had to reflect a lot and I understand now much better what is happening to me. I have things in perspective much more now. My passion for racing has increased, if anything.

"I can think back to decisions I have taken behind the wheel which were wrong. They were based on a poor understanding compared to today. I'm more experienced.

"But even today I'm making some choices and I hope in five to ten years they don't turn out to be wrong."

One decision is where to race after 2015. The smart money is on him staying put at Mercedes for another three years, aiming to win at least one more world title. After that, one never knows.

Another is how to play the competition with team mate Nico Rosberg for the world title this year, as undoubtedly the pair will fight it out again between them unless either injury or an FIA ban on some fundamental part of the Mercedes car intervenes.

Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton

Based on last year's competition, Rosberg needs to work on his race pace and tactics, Hamilton on his qualifying pace. Controlling the race from the start is going to be key, although Hamilton did manage to come through from behind to beat Rosberg on at least four occasions last season.

Experience suggests that Hamilton's extra confidence from the second title win should lift him as a driver to another level, as it did with Schumacher, Alonso, Senna and a few others. But Rosberg showed his capacity to surprise last season and one hopes for the sake of the competition that he has another gear in him too.

Certainly his other card last year, in addition to qualifying consistency, was his ability to undermine Hamilton mentally, which he showed from Monaco until Spa last year, when the tables turned on him. He'll need to do that again to have any chance of beating the Briton this year and he has served notice that he thinks some tough times between them are inevitable again this year.

But Hamilton's message appears to be that it won't work this time.
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Series Formula 1
Drivers Lewis Hamilton Shop Now
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