Is Mercedes the right move for Hamilton?

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Lewis Hamilton has shaken up the F1 driver market by announcing he will drive for Mercedes from 2013.

The 2008 world champion has ended an association with McLaren which lasts beyond the six years he has driven for them in Formula One. He first introduced himself to Ron Dennis in 1995, aged nine.

Hamilton made several costly errors on the track last year. Having got back on top of his game this year, has he just made an even bigger mistake off the track?

For

Three years after their return to F1 as a full manufacturer team, Mercedes show the potential to become a competitive force in Formula One. They scored their first win earlier this year in China with Nico Rosberg, and probably should have had another in Monaco where Michael Schumacher would have been on pole position but for a penalty.

Last year Ross Brawn assembled a highly experienced technical team including Bob Bell, Geoff Willis and Aldo Costa, who have had time to gel over the course of 2012 in preparation for Hamilton’s first year with the team.

Leaving McLaren at a time when they have the most competitive car in F1 is a calculated gamble. Mercedes’ arrival in F1 in 2010 relegated McLaren to the status of engine customer having previously been the focus of Mercedes’ efforts. With a major change in engine rules coming in 2014, Hamilton’s move could turn out to be very well-timed.

His new team mate, Nico Rosberg, is a known quantity as the pair raced together in karts at Team MBM (ironically, standing for Mercedes-Benz McLaren) in 2000. Rosberg, who has won once in 122 starts, is likely to be a less challenging team mate than Jenson Button.

On top of that, Hamilton’s Mercedes deal is reported to be more lucrative, with greater opportunities for him to increase his earnings through personal endorsements, which are tightly restricted by McLaren.

Against

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Hockenheimring, 2008McLaren have given Hamilton a race-winning car in every season he has driven for them, and a potentially championship-winning car more often than not.

Switching from them to Mercedes, who have won one race out of the last 52, invites comparisons with other world champions who made ill-fated moves: Emerson Fittipaldi to Copersucar in 1976, Niki Lauda to Brabham in 1978, and Jacques Villeneuve to BAR in 1999.

The potential of Mercedes’ technical team has not yet been reflected in their car, which has fluctuated in performance and suffered more reliability problems that most.

In the short-term, Hamilton’s impending departure from McLaren is not going to help his flagging championship hopes. The team will have to keep him out of the loop on any developments that relate to their 2013 car, which is only going to make it harder to maintain their current level of performance.

And he can kiss goodbye to that McLaren F1 LM he was promised if he won three drivers’ titles with McLaren.

I say

On the surface it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that Hamilton has switched to a less competitive team because they are offering him more money. There is obviously more to it than that. Asked at Monza what was his priority when choosing a team Hamilton responded simply: “I want to win.”

But moving to Mercedes is a considerable risk. This is a coming-of-age moment for Hamilton – a severing of the McLaren umbilical cord. The question is whether it makes or breaks him.

Mercedes’ performances suggest there is untapped potential along with their enviable resources and manpower. But they’ll have to raise their game considerably if Hamilton is to overcome the combined might of Vettel at Red Bull, and Alonso at Ferrari – not to mention Hamilton’s old team.

You say

Will Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes bring him another world championship by 2015? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Will Hamilton win the drivers' championship with Mercedes in the next three years?

  • Yes (39%)
  • No (61%)

Total Voters: 657

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273 comments on Is Mercedes the right move for Hamilton?

  1. Jake (@jleigh) said on 28th September 2012, 12:55

    I just hope this doesn’t affect any late title charge this year. I suspect it’s a good choice, Mclaren rarely follow up a great car with another. It’s usually a good, but not good enough car. Mercedes on the other hand will probably switch all focus to 2013 and with the new technical team they should be able to start just as competitively as the did this year (I reckon Hamilton would have done just as well in a Mercedes in the first few races as he did in the Mclaren. With all the teams understanding the tyres by next year, Mercedes will be far less likely to lose there way mid-season.

    Another key question is…what does this move mean for Mclaren’s near future. I have a feeling next season will be a weak one for them. Whilst Button has been there or thereabouts the last few years, he has never really looked like winning the championship, and I doubt that will change. I think Perez will probably struggle against Button at least in his first year; let’s not forget he has often been outqualified by Kobayashi this year.

    • panache (@panache) said on 29th September 2012, 17:33

      “Mclaren rarely follow up a great car with another. It’s usually a good, but not good enough car.”

      I would argue that since Hamilton joined Mclaren he has had a great car every year except for approximately a half season lull following a major shake up of the technical regulations heading into the 2009 season. Hardly a level of performance deserving of criticism.

      2007-2008 Mclaren progression was good and both cars were front running title contenders with practically bullet proof reliability.
      2009 Mclaren was generally extremely poor for the first half a season but came on strong from Hungary onwards. At the final race in Abu Dhabi Hamilton outqualified Vettel by 6 tenths of a second for pole position. Incidentally this race marked Hamiltons first retirement caused by a reliability issue on the car, 52 races into his F1 career.
      2010-2011-2012 Mclarens were/are all very competitive cars, each one comparatively better than the previous when measuring against the competition. The 2010 Mclaren contended 2nd/3rd fastest car throughout the season with Ferrari, the 2011 Mclaren was the 2nd fastest car by a comfortable margin and probably at least equally matched with Red Bull in the final stages of the season and the 2012 Mclaren is the fastest car in the field.

      There has been an obvious upward trend ever since the major overhaul of technical regulations for 2009. As such it could be said that Mclaren do follow up a great car with another in recent times. The problem is Red Bull have had two truly exceptional cars during this same period so Mclaren have had to settle for best of the rest until they finally overcame the defecit this season.

      I think that perhaps Hamilton himself doesn’t fully appreciate just how competitive Mclaren have been since he started racing for the team in 2007. In at least half of his seasons with the team he has had the fastest, joint fastest or close 2nd fastest car at his disposal to contend the drivers championship (2007, 2008, 2012). In 2010 he came very close to winning the drivers championship despite Red Bull having their most dominant pace advantage to date as Red Bull blundered operationally. Hamilton could perhaps have won the championship in 2010 if not for his own costly errors (Monza first lap and Singapore vs Webber come to mind). In 2011 he had the 2nd fastest car at his disposal but finished 5th in the championship and behind his teammate who finished 2nd.

      All told, Mclaren have provided highly competitive race cars for Hamilton since he entered the sport and have won more Grand Prix wins than any other team on the grid since he joined in 2007. Going forward, Mclaren are likely to produce another front running car next season considering the current stability of technical regulations and incremental performance improvements since 2009.

  2. the_sigman (@sigman1998) said on 28th September 2012, 13:10

    Hamilton probably wants to be No.1 driver to any of the strong teams. He will have one or two years to show them the way to improve enough to win the title.

  3. Big B (@firebits) said on 28th September 2012, 13:11

    Pop quiz, who was the last driver (other than Kimi Raikkonen) to become an F1 World Champion after leaving McLaren?

  4. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 28th September 2012, 13:13

    Not if the car looks like that ^

    Honestly though, if I had to put money on it, I’d say he’d take the team forward this year, results wise – and then there’d be a chance in the or two after that. 2013 WDC? Not sure. 2014-2015 double? Perhaps.

  5. carbon_fibre (@carbon_fibre) said on 28th September 2012, 13:14

    This will turn out to be bad for Hamilton AND Rosberg.He will definitely become a Number 2 driver.

  6. ScuderiaVincero (@scuderiavincero) said on 28th September 2012, 13:16

    All depends on Hamilton’s ability to synchronize with the Brackley squad. If he manages it well, a la Schumacher, we probably will get performance a la Schumacher. Even if it gets a bit bumpy along the way, the Mercedes design team surely wont let him down.

    And I have to agree on your words Keith, on this being a coming of age move for Hamilton.

  7. Come on, everybody. Give me your predictions for Hamilton’s prospects for 2013 WDC. It’s got to be one of these three finishing positions: 8th, 9th or 10th.

    I’m leaning towards 9th!

    Perez 2nd or 3rd.

    What do you think?

    • stirper said on 28th September 2012, 19:34

      Hamilton will not be 9th… he will win races not the championship…perez will finish lower than button. Button will not fight for the championship. Vettel and Alonso will fight for WDC next year

      • Francuis (@francuis) said on 29th September 2012, 9:05

        If Schumacher goes to Sauber, he will be higher up the driver championship in 2013 than Hamilton. Perez will be higher than Hamilton. Schumacher was brought to Mercedes to help develop it. Hamilton has never been good at developing a car. Very good at driving anything that is given to him, but not in developing one. With Britney and Hamilton tougher who are going to develop the car since with no regulation changes to this year and still more than 1 second off the pace were will they find it?

    • In the next 3 years Perez will win a WDC Hamilton will not!

  8. Actually no one can know performance of Mercedes and their f1 cars we will see by time, but one thing is sure that this was a blow for Mclaren as they lost one of the best f1 driver while other two under long contracts. As a talented human being, performance you will get from Hamilton is almost under guarantee, he will not forget how to race suddenly when he sits in a different car but no team including Ferrari and Mclaren can guarantee a championship winning car for the coming seasons.
    Overall Hamilton may be good or not at Mercedes but Mclaren is sure a loser in this case.

  9. whiskymac (@whiskymac) said on 28th September 2012, 13:30

    I’m not sure it’s the right move for Hamilton, he may be taking the longer view for success after 2014. However I also think it’s great move for the fans of F1, next year is going to be very interesting.

  10. TheJudge (@thejudge) said on 28th September 2012, 13:33

    I’m afraid that it’s not hamilton who has made a mistake,It’s Mercedes. Because it was obvious that Schu wanted to continue,and many of us believe that ,altought there was no success in this 3years time, he just was about to bring them on the top. He was the one for the team.
    I believe they won’t be able to handle Hamilton if some of those Merc made promises in the contract fails.

  11. Jake (@jleigh) said on 28th September 2012, 13:38

    Hamilton’s chances of being better off without Maclaren = 50-50
    Mclaren’s chances of being better off without Hamilton = 0%

    • Shrieker (@shrieker) said on 28th September 2012, 15:10

      This is so true…

      • disagree. mclaren were ok before and will be after.

        Perez is a great talent.

        • Francuis (@francuis) said on 29th September 2012, 9:12

          I think they are better off. They can develop a car for similar driving style and don’t cater for two opposing driving styles. Perez is more humble and does not need to be “managed” the whole time. As a team they will be more focused.

    • @jleigh Yes. The team McLaren, founded by Bruce McLaren, was an unknown in the F1 world until Hamilton arrived.

      • Jake (@jleigh) said on 28th September 2012, 19:14

        @caci99 irrelevant. I said they won’t be better off without him, not that they will go to pot. It’s pretty hard to argue a team can be better without arguably the fastest driver on the grid then they would be with him.

      • davidnotcoulthard said on 29th September 2012, 1:18

        @caci99

        Seriously? Which team did James Hunt, Lauda, Prost, Senna, Hakkinen all won at least a title each with?

        No, you were probably not that serious about that…

    • stirper said on 28th September 2012, 19:39

      this is true for the next 3-4 years …but Mclaren is Mclaren they will find another world chapionship driver like Hamilton again.
      P.S Button and Perez are not enough to win WDC…sure they can win but only if they have a considerable car advantage

      • McLaren will find plenty of world championship drivers… but will any of those drivers win world championships at McLaren? And will McLaren ever win another constructors championship, when they’ve continually struggled to do so despite always having the very best drivers at their disposal? …………………………………….

  12. Knightmare (@knightmare) said on 28th September 2012, 13:39

    This says it all

    On top of that, Hamilton’s Mercedes deal is reported to be more lucrative, with greater opportunities for him to increase his earnings through personal endorsements, which are tightly restricted by McLaren.

    + (I assume) Mercedes AMG will let him keep winner’s trophy.

    Regarding Mercedes performance, I’ll quote Alonso regarding Hamilton

    the one who’s able to clinch a championship with a car that’s not the best

    So don’t count him out even with average performing Mercedes, this guy is absolute brilliant (and I think he’ll be multiple WDC).

    • stirper said on 28th September 2012, 19:44

      Alonso can’t speak for himself, but the best person to win without the best car is Alonso. if you ask me Hamilton can win or not without the best car?? my answer is YES Ham also can win but he need a strong team behind. In 2008 Ferrari was the best car and Mclaren second but Mclaren is a very experciend team in fighting for title Merceds not… look what happend to MCS

    • +1 Well said! Sadly people let personal animosity mist their eyesight. I dont like Alonso’s persona…but he’s 1 heck of a driver and 1 of the best I’ve seen in my long 25 year life

  13. James (@jamesf1) said on 28th September 2012, 13:41

    There needs to be a “No opinion” option on the poll. 2013 is certainly a right off for Hamilton, but the big changes in the rules and regs next year will allow teams to start afresh once more. It’s a silly poll in my mind. In 2006, if a poll were to have been carried out asking if Jenson Button could win a title in the next three years, there will have been a massive belly laugh accross the interwebs and a resounding no.

  14. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 28th September 2012, 13:42

    Maybe he even brings nr 1 along. And clinches it immediately in 2013. But 2014 will be it, I think

  15. I voted NO. Reviewing what Mercedes have done as a Team and to their car, it would just be a susprise.

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