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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276 comments on Is Mercedes the right move for Hamilton?

  1. alan93rsa (@alan93rsa) said on 28th September 2012, 17:54

    If Lewis should want to stand at an elevated position following a race next year he’ll most likely have to do so by sitting on Ross Brawn’s shoulders.

  2. Despite all the speculation part of me felt that Hamilton would stay at McLaren, or at the very least the decision would drag on for a few weeks, so reading the headline when I logged this morning was bit of a surprise.

    Having said that I can see why Hamilton decided to sign for Mercedes. And I don’t think money was the main factor.

    While it hasn’t gone as far as Alonso and McLaren it seemed that Hamilton was not on as good terms with McLaren as he used to be, and the Spa tweets wouldn’t have helped.

    Also on the performance side of things I don’t think it as big a gamble as some make out. He probably would only have been offered a multi year contract. So he couldn’t have signed a one year deal at McLaren and waited to see if Vettel goes to Ferrari in 2014 as some have suggested.

    Although McLaren challenge for victories almost every season in the last decade they have only won one WDC and no WCC, they have to start paying for engines from next year so that means less money on the rest of the car and then there is the big rule changes in 2014.

    I would have thought this deal should silence those rumours suggesting Mercedes may quit F1, and considering some of the people at the team, mainly Ross Brawn, in the medium term Mercedes could be the better bet.

    2012 has been the first season while Hamilton has been at McLaren that they have had the overall fastest car, for me 2007 and 2008 Ferrari and McLaren were about the same and if I had to pick I would have said Ferrari, yet through various operational mistakes and reliability problems it looks as though they won’t win the WDC and if they win the WCC a large part of it will be down to Red Bull’s reliability problems.

    I think Hamilton has almost as good a chance of winning a title in the next three years at Mercedes as he does at McLaren, whether he does win one or not will be hard to say as I think it will be hard to predict which drivers and teams will be on top in the next three years.

  3. Bobdredds (@bobdredds) said on 28th September 2012, 18:02

    I believe it is the right move for Lewis and I dont believe the nonsense that protrays him as immature or greedy or the rest. I accept that McLaren and some fans will be ****** off and will want to believe the worst but the fact is that Lewis is a rare and exceptional talent and I am a Schumacher/Ferrari fan. Before people jump to let me know that Schumi drives for Mercedes I would like to point out that I like both whether or not they are together. Lewis as a McLaren driver was my “natural enemy” in sporting terms and I watched him very closely in the early years to find weaknesses and criticisms but all that happened was that I became a huge fan of Lewis too. McLaren are a great team, the history and results attest to that but trying to play hardball with Lewis over his contract extension was not the smartest move they have ever made. Lewis did his talking on the track and that has meant that he has a better deal and a new start. Mercedes seem very serious about the future and all the if’s and buts are just that. F1 history is too short and has gone through too many technical changes both good and bad to come to any conclusions from percieved patterns in the past as suggested by some blogs. Right now most fans can judge for themselves what any given situation in f1 can bring without the extra padding that certain commentators and writers feel is necessary to add in to show their “inside knowledge”. One thing is clear, the only one that seems to have his finger on the button in that respect is Eddie Jordan, he got it right while the rest were still muddling about right up to the announcement from Mercedes this morning and even then it was the Daily Mail and not the F1 news sites that broke the story. I believe it will be a good fresh start for both Lewis and McLaren and even better for the fans in the long run. And of course Checo. Roll on the next race.

  4. Love the pure conceit on the part of “fans” implying that they have a genuine right to pass judgment on whether or not Hamilton’s move was a “good one” for him. Obviously he believes it’s the best move – or else he wouldn’t have made it. Will he win a WDC in the next 3 years? Sure, why not? But if he doesn’t – oh well, at least he had the guts to radically-alter his situation when it became clear that things were broken for him w/ McLaren. Good luck to Lewis, I say!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th September 2012, 18:23

      @joepa

      the pure conceit on the part of “fans” implying that they have a genuine right to pass judgment

      Lighten up, people are just wondering whether this is going to work out for him, we’re not condemning him to death for daring to leave to leave the silver team for the other silver team.

      things were broken for him w/ McLaren

      In six seasons with McLaren Hamilton has won at least two races per year plus a world championship.

      Was being at McLaren really that badly “broken” for Hamilton? Has any other driver had more consistently competitive machinery over the same period?

      • It’s disappointing on one hand to see Hamilton leave a team that he’s synonymous with, but on the other, we have to accept that the relationship was broken, or else he wouldn’t have left.

        What I would be interested to know is for whom the relationship was “more” broken. Obviously yes McLaren tried to keep him by offering to renew his contract, but how badly did they want to keep him? One hears claims that Whitmarsh favors Button over Hamilton and that Dennis’s departure from role of principle altered the team’s “viibe” such that it somehow impacted Hamilton’s sense of “comfort” there.

        Perhaps a more interesting question would’ve been along the lines of “Did McLaren need Hamilton more than Hamilton needed McLaren, or vice versa?” ??

        Not implying that everyone is conceited in commenting on this, since you’re obviously not and have it in perspective. But the folks “judging,” attacking, or mocking Hamilton or otherwise pronouncing this to be themselves need to lighten up and keep it in perspective.

        It must be scary/troubling to some degree to commit to a team whose car would appear to not be the equal of McLaren’s, to put it mildly. But… “Ordinary men avoid trouble. Extraordinary men turn it to their advantage.”

  5. AT LEAST Lewis will get to keep all his trophies now.

  6. astonished (@astonished) said on 28th September 2012, 18:09

    A difficult day for this blog and Keith…

    The poll does not reflect the title of the article. Lewis might win this year at McLAren…. and any of the following 3 ones with at least the same chance he will have at Mercedes so even if you answer yes, it might be a wrong move. Freudian slip?

    Don’t really know if it is good or bad move for Lewis, but it is for McLaren. They have not capitalised (at least, fully capitalised) on their last most strategic investment: Mr Hamilton. An extremely talented driver they lose before he has reached his peak performance.

    I don’t see fireworks out of Woking for outsmarting Ferrarii “snatching Perez under their nose”. Without going into how much you can dis/like Ferrari, this is a bit of an overstatement.

    I don’t know if it exists in English, but in Spanish, my mother tongue, there is a saying that goes : “if you kill by the sword, you die by the sword”

    I think it applies to McLAren, the only, Perez permitting, only clear loser so far.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th September 2012, 18:14

      @astonished

      A difficult day for this blog and Keith…

      Why?

      For what it’s worth, two big driver moves in one day is great for me, I’m a pig in muck*.

      The poll does not reflect the title of the article. Lewis might win this year at McLaren…. and any of the following 3 ones with at least the same chance he will have at Mercedes so even if you answer yes, it might be a wrong move. Freudian slip?

      I think you’re over-analysing it to a considerable degree. Hamilton wants to win championships. The ultimate measure of whether his move to Mercedes is successful is whether he wins championships. He’s signed a three-year contract. Hence the poll question.

      *If you don’t have that one in Spain, we say ‘as happy as a pig in muck’ to mean you’re pleased.

  7. Michael Brown (@) said on 28th September 2012, 18:34

    I didn’t answer the poll. We’ll see if 2014 puts Mercedes forward, or if Hamilton becomes the next Jacques Villeneuve.

  8. I’m sorry for both of them but Mercedes have failed to significantly improve thir car in three years. With the rule changesthey could do like Red Bull in 2009, i.e. jump to the front, but I personall doubt it.

  9. -billadama- (@billadama-2) said on 28th September 2012, 18:51

    I don’t think Hameilton can win the championship with Mercedes.
    Mercedes has a long way until they can fight for title let’s bee honest.
    Let’s see!!!
    But Perez at McLaren no way man no way, bad move.

    • @billadama-2

      I don’t think Hameilton can win the championship with Mercedes.
      Mercedes has a long way until they can fight for title let’s bee honest.

      How do you figure that??? Mercedes is Brawn which was a dominant team… they now have money coming in from Mercedes which is not a small time car dealer… and just to add a little bit…. It didn´t take long for the “beverage” team to win championships…. so if a “beverage” team can make it fairly quickly, why can´t an automotive giant, that will probably have the best engine on the grid, be able to accomplish it soon?? Not to mention that it has a team of exceptional people covering all different aspects of the sport onboard? They don´t have Newey but he´s been beaten before…

      But Perez at McLaren no way man no way, bad move.

      I totally agree with you on that one…. that was a bad move… I hope i get proven wrong though.

  10. dcjohnson (@dcjohnson) said on 28th September 2012, 19:32

    I said yes, for 3 reasons
    a) I wondered what Bernie would want ?….hmmm….maybe a LH as champ would convince Merc’s to stay in F1 ?? Bernie needs Mercs and known LH generate more interest than any of drivers.
    b) Fixed rules ! Next years cars will be similar in terms of performance, so the Merc’s won’t be too far behind McLaren…etc anyway…. Championship will be won by one of the faster drivers.
    c) 2014 rules changes will place Merc drivers in box seat.

  11. I’m not as knowledgeable as most of you lot, but to me it seems more of a decision made by Lewis’s management company, than his will to win. Which is odd to me and more the sort of move an older driver might make to build himself up for retirement. I like the move though, Perez will do good i’m sure and with Button beside him, better.

  12. Is Mercedes the right move for Hamilton? We can agree or not. Mercedes may have a future project.
    Is for McLaren the right move to change hamilton by Checo? OBVIOUSLY NOT
    Why McLaren can let him??? For a young driver like PĂ©rez
    Can McLaren win the championship in 2013 , 2014 OBVIOUSLY NOT

    • Francuis (@francuis) said on 29th September 2012, 10:15

      I think that the Checko and Button line up have a good chance for the constructor championship. Good racer and point scores. Bad on Saturday, good on Sunday.

      • +1
        WDC ? can’t see it ;with 2 drivers racking up the points like alonso is doing this year ? if they can sort out reliability the car is liable to be good enough and the constructors championship would be a real possibility !

  13. Nickpkr said on 28th September 2012, 20:15

    Well there is guy who won 7 WDC and couldn’t make it work, hope this pop star with 1 WDC by a mere point can show them how is done….

    On the other side 20 million a year, heck I drive HRT !

    One thing for sure don’t need to worry about thropies anymore, sometimes money is not enough to win, ask Redbull ….

  14. Hardbrakingmike said on 28th September 2012, 20:22

    I just wonder how well Mclaren would have done if Lewis was already out of the team before the start of this season, leaving Button as their ‘main’ hopes of a WDC. It wouldnt look too great i reckon. I’m sure Perez will do well at the team, who knows, he may very well give Button a run for his money. But in terms of their chances of a WDC (let alone WCC), I’d say it would have been dramatically lowered than it already is.

    I dont know if Lewis going to Mercedes is the right choice, but Mclaren losing Lewis is certainly the wrong one

    • I’m sure Perez is the third best driver in the world, after Alonso and Hamilton, and will acclimatise very well in the car which is an all rounder, and fast in qualifying, and in all conditions.

  15. If Kovalainen moves to Sauber i will become a huge Sauber fan. i love the Caterham team, but the Sauber team just seems so uber-cool and fresh, and with Kovalainen and a crazy Japanese i would become a real fan.

    • thatscienceguy said on 29th September 2012, 6:34

      I seem to remember Alguersuari was saying a few weeks ago he had exciting news about next year, I’m guessing it’s a contract with a silver S at the top.

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