• Ecclestone doubts Hamilton will end career with McLaren
• F1 supremo wants to see Michael Schumacher at Red Bull
Lewis Hamilton will split from McLaren if he repeats last year’s disappointing season, according to the Formula One principal rights holder Bernie Ecclestone.
Last year was Hamilton’s worst in F1. He finished fifth in the world championship, even though McLaren had the second best car, and had a series of run-ins with other drivers and officials. His contract at McLaren ends this year but he has been positive about his prospects for this season following two solid days of testing in Spain this week.
Ecclestone said: “If he doesn’t perform this year he’ll be looking to move on. And the team, maybe, will also be looking to him to move on.” Asked whether Hamilton would see out his career with McLaren he said: “I doubt that.”
Ecclestone has been an outspoken critic of Hamilton’s decision to sign with Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment agency, which also manages David Beckham and Andy Murray, and he added: “I don’t agree with the people he’s got surrounding him and so-called managing him. He doesn’t need that sort of management.
“He needs somebody with his feet on the ground. It’s a people’s job. They don’t have to know anything about technical issues. Someone where if you’ve got a problem you can talk to the guy. His dad was good wasn’t he? His dad was the right person. I spoke to [Lewis] the other day. I think he’s got a bit more focused.”
The McLaren driver admitted the feeling this year was completely different to the 2011 pre-season, when the team struggled with their car. “Last year I think I struggled to do 30 laps. I think we struggled to do 10 laps without the exhaust failing,” Hamilton said. “To do a whole day and to do 120 laps, I can’t remember the last time I did that many laps. Definitely we feel in a much more comfortable place and confident that we can be at the front fighting with the guys at the top.”
Ecclestone also said he would like to see the seven-times former world champion Michael Schumacher driving for Red Bull. Schumacher, 43, has been a major disappointment with Mercerdes since making his comeback to the sport two years ago. His agreement is up for renewal at the end of the year.
Ecclestone said: “I’d like to see him in a good car. I’d like to see Michael in the second Red Bull. I don’t think Sebastian Vettel would mind. It would be nice to see him in a car where you know full well that if he doesn’t win it’s his fault, not the car. He’s still capable of winning.”