Ron Dennis has a very difficult decision to make in the coming weeks – who should get the second McLaren seat alongside Fernando Alonso? Naturally, we want him to pick the young shooting star of GP2, Lewis Hamilton. And, looking at BMW Sauber’s success in finding potential winners in Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel, it would seem well worth giving Hamilton a chance.
Personally, I don’t go for the “he needs more experience first or you’ll spoil him” argument. Most drivers are young when they start in F1 and, if they are going to be any good at all, they survive and prosper. Also, the jump from GP2 is not as great as the difference between F1 and F3, which supplied a lot of drivers in times gone by, and this has a lot to do with Kubica’s and Vettel’s apparently effortless promotion; there is no reason why Hamilton should not adjust just as quickly.
It must be admitted, however, that Pedro de la Rosa has done a good job of stepping into Montoya’s seat after his departure. He has experience behind him and is quick enough to support Alonso in 2007. And Alonso has already said that he does not mind who gets the second McLaren – in typical champion fashion, his goal is the crown again next year and he knows that he will have to work for it, regardless of who his teammate happens to be.
But it matters to Ron Dennis. He has the constructor’s championship to think about as well, after all. And the sensible thing would be to stick with the driver who has proved he can bring in the points – de la Rosa. Common sense would suggest that a place be found for Hamilton in another team until he has won his spurs and I think this is what Ron will try to arrange.
Yet there are not a lot of seats left and, should there be nothing available for the young Brit, Ron still has the problem of which driver to put in the second McLaren. In that scenario, he could go for Hamilton. He must have memories of how Hakkinen stepped up to the plate when Ayrton Senna left and he has seen another young lion, Kimi Raikkonen, go straight to the front when given his chance. I can imagine Ron wanting to prove that Flavio Briatore is not the only one in F1 who can pick a future star.
In fact, Ron’s record of replacing one great driver with another has been just as good as Flavio’s over the years. So I think Ron might well opt for Hamilton in the end – and Lewis seems to think so too.
Now that would be a team to watch – Alonso and Hamilton, a champion and a potential star.