There is this belief and allusion going around that a move to Mercedes AMG F1 is an inherently bad career decision for Hamilton. I disagree and argue that those individuals aren’t seeing the long game. Whilst on the face of it, Mercedes today don’t have the same capability as McLaren to challenge for driver’s and constructor’s titles, it’s important to remember that Mercedes is a team in development and progression.
The current Mercedes F1 team carries the baggage from its past. Brawn was a team formed from the last legs of Honda, who had decided to move out of Formula One. The team underwent significant downsizing measures & lost a lot of its resources to make itself financially viable. They were downsizing. Mercedes when they entered Formula One had the resources & components the solidly midfield Honda team had. It’s essentially the Brackley squad that produced a series of sub-standard cars until it hit gold in 2009 with the double diffuser.
That one year in 2009 doesn’t change the infrastructure the team has access to. Machining and developing components is a human and monetarily resource intensive task. Top teams like Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren hold a significant advantage here, as is evident by their vastly superior pace of development. It’s the reason why every year Mercedes get their best results at the earlier flyaway races then fall off as those three teams unveil their upgrades. It’s the reason why Brawn had an uncompetitive car towards the end of 2009. Earlier this year Red Bull had a new exhaust every single race. Compare that to Mercedes who had essentially just one front wing design for the whole of 2010. They don’t even have an advanced race simulator where most testing today is done.
Simply put, Mercedes currently can’t fight the technical war of attrition when it comes to car development.
The Might of Mercedes: Looking ahead
I find it ironical that petrol-head Formula One fans resonate more with the name of an energy drinks company than the worlds second largest car constructor and biggest innovator.
Let’s take a moment to think about what the name Mercedes means. Mercedes is a goliath. It traces it’s roots back to the very first automobile and is one of the biggest innovators in the automotive field, not to mention it’s worldwide reach and appeal.
They take pride in their AMG range of supercars and just like Ferrari, they want to show the world they can win at the pinnacle of Motorsport. It is well known their sole objective for competing Formula One is to emulate their dominance in the mid 1950s. The head brethren at Stuggart will be satisfied with nothing else. Nobert Haug made this clear when expressing the importance of their maiden win at China this year. Mercedes isn’t going to stay in Formula One being 4th. They are going to exercise their full power to put together a championship winning squad.
Let me introduce you to three gentlemen Mercedes have recruited throughout the last year:
Bob Bell: Lead designer of the cars that gave Fernando Alonso two consecutive world championships in 2005 & 06 and highly regarded as one of the best aerodynamicists in Formula One.
Geoff Willis: Adrian Newey’s right hand man when it came to designing supremely dominant cars for Williams in early nineties.
Aldo Costa: Assistant designer & partner in crime with Ross Brawn for making F1 boring in the early 2000s. We all know what the trifecta of Costa/Byrne-Brawn & Schumacher did with Ferrari.
Add Ross Brawn into the mix and you have quite possibly greatest technical team in the history of Formula One. If you had any doubts about Mercedes’ intent to win, they must have surely melted away. So the question then is, why haven’t they been successful? As I explained earlier, it takes considerable time to put together the infrastructure in place. It’s not an overnight flick-of-the-switch kind of change. Draw parallels to Ferrari in 1996 (Brawn joined) or Red Bull in 2007 (Newey joined) & you can sense a case of history repeating itself soon…
Having an incredible technical team is useless if you can’t develop, machine and test components on the car itself. Mercedes have committed to making sure they have both the human and technical resources to challenge for the title. It took both Ferrari & Red Bull 3 to 4 years. 3 to 4 years for Mercedes will be 2014… an immensely vital year for Formula One. Mercedes will hold the trump card of being an engine constructors; one with arguably the greatest cash flow to extend their engine advantage on the field. Things get really interesting in 2014. So interesting that it warrants a separate article…
Lewis’ crucial juncture
A lot has been said Hamilton’s rational when it comes to this move from McLaren to Mercedes. Whilst I believe there are certainly monetary (£60 Million?!) and perhaps egotistical (superstar face of the biggest Motorsport brand!) factors in play, Lewis stresses his decision will rest on performance and which team offers him the best chance of becoming a multiple world champion. Let’s honour that, take it at its merit & think about whether McLaren or Mercedes provide the better opportunity.
Ron Dennis at Monza said McLaren “will always be there or thereabout”. Maybe that is the point irking Hamilton. Maybe Hamilton is tired of being “there or thereabouts” and finishing second or third after a year long struggle. Perhaps he wants dominant machinery, one where he can showcase his talents and emulate the success Vettel achieved in 2011 or Button in early 2009. He wants to go down in history as a dominant, Senna or Schumacher esque driver Mercedes can certainly offer him the promise of such an idealistic future whilst McLaren haven’t won a constructors championship since 1998 (they should have won 2007 but photocopiers got in the way…).
I believe Lewis Hamilton will take the gamble to seek for greener pastures with the might of Mercedes. Whether it turns out to a decision he regrets or not, only time will tell. One thing’s for sure, at this crucial juncture in his career, Lewis has one hell of a decision to make; one that could shape his career & how he will be remembered in history books.
Best place to think… instagr.am/p/POrnjoL09L/— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) September 6, 2012
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