Lewis Hamilton has finally made a date to have what will probably be one of the most difficult conversations that he will ever have. He has agreed to meet up with McLaren CEO, mentor and benefactor Ron Dennis in Abu Dhabi next week, according to ESPN F1.
It has been a source of some interest that Hamilton has not spoken to Dennis since announcing that he will be joining Mercedes GP for the 2013 season.
Dennis was the man who guided Hamilton’s career from an early age, nurturing him and then, in 2007, giving him the unprecedented opportunity to drive in a car capable of securing a world championship.
It was an audacious move that had a number of pundits scratching their heads and wondering if maybe Dennis had lost his marbles.
History, of course, shows us that Hamilton came within a whisker of taking the championship in his first year and comprehensively upstaged his two-time world champion teammate Fernando Alonso.
He won four races, and were it not for a handful of silly mistakes—both by himself and the team—he would have comfortably secured the title.
What initially appeared to be a risky move suddenly proved to be a stroke of genius.
Hamilton went on to secure the title in 2008, becoming the then youngest Formula One champion. There seemed no limit to what Hamilton could potentially achieve in a McLaren.
2008 was, however, the high point for McLaren and Hamilton and the combination has failed to deliver another championship—either driver or constructor—since.
When Dennis and Hamilton have dinner, there will be an undercurrent of disappointment and missed opportunity.
The combination is capable of unmatchable brilliance. The team produces consistently reliable cars, have produced pit stops of breathtaking speed and precision.
Hamilton, on his day, is without peer and capable of speed and commitment that cannot be matched by any driver on the grid. When he’s on song, he’s unbeatable.
But both the team and the driver have a dark side.
The 2009 McLaren was simply dreadful and Hamilton had no chance of defending his 2008 title. After producing pit stop of less than three seconds, the team has managed to mess up wheel changes so badly that Hamilton has spent 15 seconds sitting on the jacks.
Fifteen seconds is death in F1.
Not that Hamilton is always the innocent party. His decision-making has, on occasion, been questionable, and he has had some big lapses in judgement.
Silly errors such as switching to slicks at Nurburgring in 2007, speaking out about team orders (banned at the time) or driving like a lunatic behind the pace car in the rain affected Japanese GP resulting in Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel crashing.
In 2008, he did his best to throw away the championship by hitting Kimi Raikkonen in pit lane in Canada, passing Raikkonen in the closing stages of the Belgian Grand Prix after cutting the chicane, and that insane start in Japan. All cost him points and credibility.
2010-2012 has seen Hamilton and McLaren have and miss their championship chances. It has been a frustrating period and it has increasingly shown in Hamilton's demeanour. By halfway through this year it was clear that it was time for Hamilton to move on.
A world championship is a rare and valuable thing, and that can never be taken away from Lewis Hamilton, but both Hamilton and Dennis will feel that it could have been so much more.
Perhaps it will be different at Mercedes.
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