Bernie Ecclestone last week offered the distinctly controversial view that Lewis Hamilton was likely to leave McLaren once his current contract was up at the end of 2012, perhaps because he feels that he can capitalise on better opportunities elsewhere or because the team has decided it has had enough of him.
In particular, Bernie signalled that he was unimpressed that Hamilton’s management company, headed by entrepreneur Simon Fuller, had appointed veteran F1 manager Didier Coton as the British driver’s personal manager attending all the races.
Coton, an immensely experienced and shrewd operator, looked after Mika Hakkinen during his world championship years in 1998 and 99, in turn working for Keke Rosberg’s management company which was originally instrumental in securing Mika a place at McLaren as a test driver in 1993.
I always find myself wondering what practical reason motivates F1 drivers towards having a ‘minder’ when the teams for which they drive already have their own extensive management structure which, one would have thought, offered all the services and support a driver might need.
Perhaps it panders to their sense of self-importance. More likely it is the belief that a semi-independent sounding board can offer a worthwhile benefit in terms of reassurance when the going gets tough and the driver perhaps feels he is not quite carrying the team with him.