So the saga is (almost) over; as I write this at half eight in the morning Lewis Hamilton’s move from McLaren to Mercedes Benz is all but confirmed. Has he made a mistake, or is this an inspired move? Anyone who has spent a long time in one job will surely have sympathy with Lewis: McLaren may have nurtured him since he was a young teenager, but he’s been in the same place for his entire working life. A change, so it is said, is as good as a rest. Critics of the move will point to the results – or lack of – from the Mercedes team so far. This is all very well, but Hamilton is not joining Mercedes 2011 – he’s part of Mercedes 2013.
The difference could be colossal: during the latter part of last season, and across the winter, Ross Brawn and his team invested heavily in some seriously talented technical staff. Bob Bell, the technical director, has plenty of experience, and Aldo Costa – a man with experience working alongside Brawn – is a known quantity. The team snapped up Geoff Willis when he became available – another canny move – and it doesn’t stop there. Hamilton, then, is joining a team that displays serious intent.
Signing Hamilton shows a change of attitude for Mercedes, one brought about by the relative disappointment in achievements in the 50 races the team has so far entered. Bringing Michael Schumacher back from retirement was a brave move, but clearly much more was expected of the veteran multiple champion. In truth, he’s been matched and generally beaten by his younger team mate Nico Rosberg, and there must have been considerable frustration that the figurehead – Schumacher – proved to be making up the numbers in the main.
Bringing a known quantity in to replace Schumacher – as is expected to happen – is s sign of very serious intent, as is the salary they are seemingly willing to pay Hamilton. It’s easy to write off a team that has won just one race in its present guise (don’t forget that this is, essentially, the Brawn team that was victorious in 2009) but F1 is not a fixed target. Just a few years back it was difficult to envisage Red Bull’s dominance of the sport over the past two seasons – until, that is, they invested heavily in technical staff. Hamilton’s arrival at Mercedes will be a major boost to the team- unless, that is, you are Nico Rosberg.