Hamilton’s move to Mercedes stunned the Formula One world at the time, having spent his whole career with the front-running McLaren team, with news of his transfer to the Silver Arrows considered as a step back at the time, given McLaren’s edge over Mercedes. He won a race in his first season with the team, before the turbo hybrid era, and his decision was validated, with driver and team breaking practically every Formula One record since.
The seven-time World Champion recounted how his mind worked at the moment of his career-altering move. “Obviously, I spent so much time with McLaren. “I was nearing the end of my contract for the first time,” Hamilton said in an interview with Sky Sports F1 alongside MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi. So I was thinking, ‘OK, what are the next actions I need to take?’ I had mangers at the time, but I wanted to make the choice myself, you know?
“I considered my alternatives and put down the pros and disadvantages for each squad: ‘Where is this team going?'” ‘Where is that group going?'” Hamilton went on to say that, while it was a leap into the unknown for him at the time, there were some similarities for him given the current McLaren-Mercedes partnership. But it was the influence of Brawn and the late World Champion Niki Lauda that convinced him to take that move.
“Mercedes were formerly a member of my team.” “Throughout my racing career, it was McLaren and Mercedes, and then they went and bought their own team,” Hamilton explained. “However, they were truly suffering. They were like the fifth-best squad, but Ross Brawn came to my house, my mother’s house, and we drank tea in the kitchen. He’s telling me all the many things they’re doing as a team to grow, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘this is incredibly bizarre,’ because I was watching the Grands Prix at the time.
If you recall Magny-Cours, Michael [Schumacher] did four pit stops, and you were just following the championships when Michael was dominating. Now the guy is in my kitchen, or my mother’s kitchen, begging me to join the team, which was pretty cool. He went on to say, “It was Ross and Niki Lauda who encouraged me to join the team.” ‘Hey, you need to come to the team,’ Niki said. This is the location!’
“‘But Niki, you’re not winning races?'” ‘How is it going to happen?’ ‘Oh, go meet Ross!’ he exclaimed. He’ll tell you.’ So it was a collaborative effort between the two.” By Mercedes’ lofty standards, the current season has started terribly for Hamilton and Mercedes, with the Briton finishing outside the points in Imola and team president Toto Wolff apologizing to him after the race for providing a “undriveable” vehicle so far this year.