September 20, 2021

Hamilton opens up on Merc doubt & ‘leap of faith’

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Lewis Hamilton admits he never expected to be so successful with Mercedes but delighted he took ‘leap of faith’ by leaving McLaren in 2013; Hamilton can win record-equalling seventh F1 title at this weekend’s Turkish GP

By Matt Morlidge

Last Updated: 12/11/20 5:36pm

Lewis Hamilton has revealed that he wasn’t initially convinced about joining Mercedes back in 2013 before taking a “leap of faith” which – as he bids for a historic seventh Formula 1 title – has led to an unprecedented run of success that was “beyond my wildest dreams”.

Hamilton can match Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles at this weekend’s Turkish GP, a tally which the Englishman never looked likely to get close to as he, in his own words, “trundled along” with McLaren after winning his first crown in 2008.

Things came to a head in 2012 when the one-time champion Hamilton was approached by Mercedes, who had an unspectacular F1 record after three years back in the sport but had big hopes for the next big rules change in 2014. It was widely reported that Hamilton was won over by the Silver Arrows – and influential team personnel Niki Lauda and Ross Brawn – after a disappointing race retirement at the Singapore GP, but Hamilton said contact was initiated before then, and he wasn’t too keen at first.

“It wasn’t in Singapore that Niki ‘sold me a dream’,” explained a reflective Hamilton. “I had spoken to Niki [when] I was back home in Monaco. I’m pretty sure he was the first one I’d spoken to and he’s like ‘you’ve got to come to the team’. And I wasn’t too convinced necessarily at the beginning.

Lewis Hamilton explains why the work he is doing away from the race track to help to improve equality means more to him than winning titles.

Lewis Hamilton explains why the work he is doing away from the race track to help to improve equality means more to him than winning titles.

“I think the convincing stage, which really made me look into it more, was when Ross came around my mum’s house, and sat with me in the kitchen and we had tea, and showed me what the plan was for the team.

“That was the real, in-depth insight into what the team was planning and the changes that they were trying to do. So that was really the ‘selling’ point.

“After that, with Niki we worked on the layout of the deal. Good memories. I think the important part of Singapore was that Niki and I, perhaps more so for him, I think he realised that we had a lot in common and I think that was the start of our friendship because I remember him saying to me, ‘you’re a lot like me’.”

Hamilton in F1: Year by year

Season Team Championship finish
2007 McLaren 2nd
2008 McLaren 1st
2009 McLaren 5th
2010 McLaren 4th
2011 McLaren 5th
2012 McLaren 4th
2013 Mercedes 4th
2014 Mercedes 1st
2015 Mercedes 1st
2016 Mercedes 2nd
2017 Mercedes 1st
2018 Mercedes 1st
2019 Mercedes 1st
2020 Mercedes ?

That decision – leaving an established powerhouse for a relatively raw outfit – was seen as a big risk by most, but Mercedes have sealed seven consecutive clean sweeps of F1’s championships since 2014, with Hamilton collecting all but one drivers’ title in that time to leave him on the brink of history.

He can claim that seventh crown if he avoids being outscored by Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas this weekend at Istanbul Park, with Sunday’s race live on Sky Sports F1 at 10.10am.

“I could only have dreamed – I say it time and time again – it was far beyond my wildest dreams thinking that anyone would get to seven,” said Hamilton. “I dreamt of trying to do something that Ayrton [Senna] had done.

“Getting one world championship was great and then it was very tough obviously to get the second. And I spent years trying to help the team win another world championship. And then I had to make a big decision about whether I stay put and keep trundling along or go and do something more adventurous.

“Obviously I took that leap of faith and then we’ve gone one after the other here. I really just after each one try and count my blessings because you have to be grateful for what you have, not what you might have, so that’s what I generally do.

“Naturally I knew I made a very good decision, when I made the decision, I knew it was the right thing for me. But, jeeze, did I know we would win six world titles? No.

“I think what it says is that in life we’ve got to definitely make sure we take that leap of faith. Do what you think is right for you and not what people tell you to do. Do the homework so you have the pros and cons and then go with it, and go with it all in, whether it’s good or bad.”