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. I said ‘yes’, he will win a championship by 2015. I believe he could get one in 2014 or 2015. But if he stayed with McLaren I believe he could get 2 championships- next year and maybe 2014 or 2015. So overall I think this move might not be a good one, but that wasn’t the actual question. However, if he is more comfortable there and they eventually become competitive perhaps it will be best in the long run. Time will tell.

  2. paulipedia (@paulipedia) said on 28th September 2012, 15:11

    Has everyone forgotten what Ferrari were like when Schumacher joined

  3. He certainly has the talent, we know that. As for the car… I don’t really know. Let’s see what happens, that’s all I can say.

  4. ben (@dubaemon) said on 28th September 2012, 15:29

    50/50 split at the mo on whether Lewis will win WDC in next 3 years,and it unlikely to change much.
    that made me smile. perfect disagreement.
    i voted yes coz he has proven himself able to win WDC and the team backing him up is strengthening and composed of proven engineers/ designers/ managers…..

  5. TribalTalker (@tribaltalker) said on 28th September 2012, 15:38

    Hamilton leaving McLaren – My first reaction was surprise and shock. It’s like your first-born child leaving home.
    On the other hand, Hamilton isn’t daft. He knows that the engine manufacturers will have a pivotal role in the changes coming to F1 soon. He knows Ross Brawn’s track record. I’m sure that being brought in to replace a 7-time WDC feels pretty sweet, too. Hamilton is known to get on well with Rosberg. Moving to Mercedes has got a lot of positives.
    Also, had McLaren made fewer botched calls and pitstops, Hamilton would have been close to the top of the WDC standings right now. He wouldn’t have risked losing focus in the team by moving out, under those circumstances. McLaren lost Hamilton by not being as good as they promised.

  6. He is a very overrated driver. Simple. But it’s a shame about someone like Gary Paffett, who has been waiting for an F1 drive and will now have to continue to wait. If Lewis had vacated his seat earlier, then time and money wasted on LH would not have been in vain and Gary could have managed to get serious results with McLaren. In fact Mercedes would be better going with Paffett (and a lot, lot cheaper).

    • Malibu_GP said on 28th September 2012, 16:03

      You mention Paffett, so it can’t be that You don’t know what sport You’re talking about. Overrated? Surely You jest? Wow, it takes all types I guess…

  7. Reminds me of when Rossi left Honda, everybody thought it was a baffling move and look at how that turned out. Lewis is better off. Merc aren’t better than Mclaren right now, but now he has no.1 status and the opportunity to build a team around him to his liking I can’t see him doing badly especially with the 2014 rule changes. Switching to a struggling team didn’t hurt Michael in ’96

  8. Good Decision from Lewis. I think it is important to come out of the cocoon and go out in open . Well, Lewis is young, it is a small world. When will he take chances if not now ? For him he has the talent and speed on his side. That is is what matters the most. If you have the talent teams come to you. It is very simple. Who knows Lewis could be the Silver Bullet for the Silver Arrows and the next chapter in History that he is going to write together with Ross Brawn.

    Not to mention, Michael Left Benetton , Fernando Renault and Button Brawn GP after winning a world championship and had not done all that bad at all.

  9. jochenrindt78 (@jochenrindt78) said on 28th September 2012, 16:15

    Hamilton has his career back to front, he started in a top drive back in 2007, has had one difficult season car wise in 2009 – which to his credit he turned around, I wonder if this move will be the part that most drivers get out of the way early on i.e. struggling in a uncompettive car. Of course Brawn is a genius and the team (Merc) seems to be getting more professional every year so anything is possible… I believe 2013 will be a write off for hamilton and perhaps he can be back up there in 2014.
    either that or he’s finished…

  10. I believe Lewis is a rarity in that his natural talent is in the same bracket as Senna and Jim Clark, I don’t feel he will be able to show this at Mercedes.

  11. Jason (@jason12) said on 28th September 2012, 16:41

    If I were to choose between Ross Brawn and Whitmarsh; and the future prospects of Mercedes vs Mclaren’s looming financial woes. I think the choice is obvious.
    Well done Lewis!

    • thatscienceguy said on 29th September 2012, 6:15

      Instead you have the very real risk of Mercedes pulling the plug on the team entirely. McLaren aren’t going to go backwards financially that much, this isn’t a Williams situation I don’t believe.

  12. One point of analysis Keith did not put in is the prospect of continued Mercedes commitment. It’s a rich company. It’s not a Peugeot or GM. But the world auto industry is not stable now. Europe obviously is in bad shape. Mercedes is a niche/luxury brand in the U.S. The only major growth market is China, and that is one scary tiger to ride now. Probaby the key to Hamilton’s fortune now is commercial real estate prices in Beijing. If things start looking tight for Mercedes, and if the car looks poor out of the box in 2014, they could do a Toyota.

    Which brings up another nuance here for Hamilton. He doesn not have to stay at Mercedes. That’s obvious but a key point here is the branding. If he is able to roll up a lucrative personal portfolio of sponsors, he could walk back into McLaren or anywhere with 8 figures of personal sponsorship if things go sour at Mercedes. He won’t need to be quibbling about 20m or 30m in contract sallary. He’ll have 100m in personal income to play with.

  13. Was expecting Lewis to stay at Mclaren so this was surprising for me but i don’t think it is a bad move. Mercedes have recruited some leading engineers and off course have a great team leader in Ross Brawn. Mercedes have 2 opportunities to do better first in 2013 and again in 2014.
    2013 Opportunity:
    (i) so many new top engineers will show their effect
    (ii) struggling for 3 years must have taught them important lessons and identified new directions
    (iii) stabilized regulations for 3 years now, so teams will naturally get closer performance wise as we have also seen this year with many teams winning and achieving podiums.
    (iv) stabilized Pirelli tyres.

    2014 Opportunity:
    (i) All New Engine
    (ii) Significant changes in regulations.

    Being a Lewis fan i hope Lewis and Mercedes win big at least once in the next 2 years. Best of luck to Lewis and Mercedes.

  14. Imre (@f1mre) said on 28th September 2012, 17:43

    No. Because of Rosberg :P

  15. charles (@charles) said on 28th September 2012, 17:52

    why would he do this, Mclaren have backed him since he was 10 and have given him a world championship. He has a career in that team. also at the moment he can win in the Mclaren but not in the Mercedes although Mercedes should have a good car when the rules change. THIS IS FOOLISH LEWIS!
    good luck to Perez ( world champion of the future)

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