Former Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has had his say on the speculation that Lewis Hamilton’s new Mercedes contract will contain a clause giving the seven-time world champion a say in the identity of his future teammate(s).
It’s been a long, drawn out saga but it appears we are in the final stages with reports emerging that a deal extending Hamilton’s time at Mercedes is to be officially announced next week. However, Ecclestone appears less than impressed with the reported stipulation the Brit has requested.
"I would have made it quite clear to Lewis," Ecclestone told F1-Insider.com. "Either you take what we offer you now or you leave it. Everyone is replaceable.
"Only one person decides who drives here, and that’s me!"
The 90-year-old experienced most situations during his long history in the sport and likens this particular scenario to the one he faced as team boss of Brabham in 1983.
"We became world champions with Nelson Piquet, and I had to decide who would drive alongside him in 1984," Ecclestone continued. "We had an extremely good test with a young Brazilian driver called Ayrton Senna. I wanted him but when Nelson heard about it, he really got upset and reacted like a defiant child. He did not want Senna as a teammate, but I didn’t care."
Despite this, Ecclestone opted against hiring Senna, choosing instead to keep the peace within the team as the main sponsor at the time, Parmalat, didn’t want two Brazilian drivers partnered together.
And Senna was on the receiving end of a similar snub 10 years later when his fierce rival Alain Prost signed for the dominant Williams team in 1993. The Frenchman drove alongside Senna for two seasons at McLaren before leaving for Ferrari when their relationship had broken beyond repair. And after a year out in 1992, he returned under one condition: Senna was not to be his teammate.
"Frank Williams was desperate," Ecclestone continued. "His plan was to start with both of them, but I advised him to race with Prost for one year, give him the title and take Senna the following year. That’s how it turned out."
And the situation with Michael Schumacher during the glory days at Ferrari was even more extreme, according to Ecclestone.
"Michael didn't even need a contract clause for that," he added. "He was the clear number one and Ferrari wanted to return to the glory days. That's why Jean Todt always asked him in advance who he would like as a teammate.
"Michael could live well with Eddie Irvine, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa. If Michael had objected, they wouldn't have ended up at Ferrari."