Hamilton facing ‘hardest task’ after ‘risky’ Mercedes move

Lewis Hamilton has now been with Mercedes for a decade

Lewis Hamilton has now been with Mercedes for a decade after a move from McLaren

Lewis Hamilton feels he is facing his “hardest task” with Mercedes a decade on from what he recalls was a “risky” move to join the F1 team in 2013.

This weekend’s Australian Grand Prix represents a return to where it all began for Hamilton with Mercedes 10 years ago, with the then 28-year-old scoring a fifth-place finish at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

N0w 38, Hamilton is the most decorated driver in F1 history, claiming 82 of his record 103 grand prix victories with Mercedes, and adding a further six drivers’ championships to equal Michael Schumacher’s overall landmark of seven.

Looking back on his move from McLaren, a team that had given him his breakthrough in F1 in 2007 and helped him win his first title a year later, Hamilton said: “Did it feel like a risk? Of course.

“When you make decisions, you go through changes and it’s always going to be a risk. But I would feel like I’m not living if I’m not taking risks, not constantly challenging myself and those around me.

“It was the inevitable direction I had to go, and it felt right. I wanted something new.

“I was excited to work with new people and enter a team that had struggled. Taking everything that I had learned and seeing if I could apply it somewhere else.

“I was excited by the plans I had heard were being put in place to scale up the team and going all in to become champions.

“I went with what I felt in my gut and in my heart. It led me to this amazing team and this incredible journey we are on.”

Hamilton had no second thoughts

It was then three-time champion Niki Lauda, operating in his role at the time as Mercedes’ non-executive chairman, who convinced Hamilton to make the switch.

And Hamilton needed convincing as he claims “so many people told me it was wrong”.

He added: “I knew that if I didn’t make the move though, I would have regretted it.

“I didn’t have any second thoughts…although I do remember around Christmas sitting outside in the cold looking over the snowy mountains and thinking ‘Shoot! I hope I’ve made the right decision’.

“I had a moment of reflection and thought, ‘We’ve done it so we’re going to give it everything’.

“I focused on training the best I could and bringing the best I could to the team.

“I also thought about how great it would be to get a win in that first season – something we managed to achieve.”

Hamilton hints at extended Mercedes stay

Hamilton celebrates his first win with Mercedes in Hungary in 2013

Hamilton celebrates his first win with Mercedes in Hungary in 2013

That first and only victory in 2013 arrived in Hungary before Hamilton and Mercedes went on to dominate F1 from 2014.

Over time, there have been a number of contract extensions, with the British driver currently engaged in talks with team principal Toto Wolff over another new deal.

Hamilton has now indicated he has no apparent desire to leave, in particular, given the support afforded to him by Mercedes over the past few years since embarking on a quest to improve the level of diversity and inclusivity in F1.

“If I don’t feel like I’m being challenged, I’m not progressing or I’m not evolving, that is where you start thinking about your next move,” said Hamilton. “And I just haven’t felt that in these 10 years.

“I feel like the whole team has been evolving, with new people, new structures being put in place, new targets being set.

“I feel that I’ve had the right team to grow. Not only as a driver but as a man. I’ve been given the ability to be myself and (have) been accepted by Mercedes.

“And look what we’ve accomplished together – not only in results on track but things we’ve accomplished off-track and the steps we’ve taken. The changes we’re making through Accelerate 25 and Mission 44, where we are really starting to impact people.
“It makes me so proud because we hold ourselves to the highest standards and highest levels in everything we do.”

Hamilton focused on next great challenge

It is now 25 races without a win for Hamilton, the longest drought of his F1 career after Mercedes took a wrong turn following the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations at the start of last season.

Persisting with its philosophy has again cost the team dear so far this season as it has fallen further adrift of Red Bull in terms of overall lap time.

It is providing Hamilton and Mercedes with the ultimate challenge of his 10 years with the team to date.

“We know we’re not perfect and we can always be better – that’s what we are always trying to do,” added Hamilton.

“We don’t have a great car right now but we’re putting one foot in front of the other, and we know we can get back to the front.

“It’s going to be the hardest task we’ve faced together to get back to where we want to be and catch Red Bull.

“But what an accomplishment that will be.”

Join the discussion below in the Speedcafe.com comments section

Please note: Speedcafe.com reserves the right to remove any comment that does not follow the comment policy. For support, contact [email protected]