What was said when Lewis Hamilton quit McLaren to join Mercedes in 2012
A trip down memory lane for all the reaction to Lewis Hamilton's bombshell defection from his boyhood team two years ago...
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 24/11/14 11:59am
When Lewis Hamilton announced in late September 2012 that he would be leaving McLaren for Mercedes, the F1 world was stunned.
Few had seen it coming. Even less believed it made sense. Two years on, with Hamilton crowned World Champion, the reaction and response to Lewis’ bombshell makes for very interesting reading…
"Mercedes is a great partner of ours and they are a great team. But for anyone leaving McLaren, and he wants to win, I think that's a mistake because I have faith and belief in this team. Whether you measure it over the last four races, four years or 40 years, we're a fantastic team. So I would say to any driver who wanted to win in this sport: 'Come and join McLaren and aspire to join McLaren'. I wouldn't advise anyone to leave McLaren if they want to win” – Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren.
“Very cool that Lewis will be my new teamate! Gonna be another great challenge!” – Nico Rosberg, Mercedes.
"I think it's wrong to portray that Lewis left this team. At the end of the day, you end up with a situation where you're going to separate if the circumstances aren't right. Life isn't about one person deciding anything. It's never that way. It's about circumstances. Everybody says: 'Am I bitterly this or bitterly that?' What? I'm a realist. Did we have the ability to create a situation where we could have stayed together? Categorically, yes. Would that have been the right thing to do? We didn't think so” – Ron Dennis, McLaren.
"It is his decision, although I personally don't think it is the right decision” – Jenson Button, McLaren.
"Lewis is a fantastically quick driver and he has expressed interest in driving for the team in the past. But it wouldn't have been right for the team. I have great admiration for the talent he has but I don't think Lewis and Sebastian would be the right combination” – Christian Horner, Red Bull.
"I understand the move. Always you need some new challenges when you get tired from one situation. I think McLaren sometimes is not the easiest place to live, so I think he will be much more happy now in Mercedes than what he was in the past" – Fernando Alonso, Ferrari.
“He has looked at the roulette wheel and put everything on silver. He has quit McLaren, a team of proven, habitual winners, and decided to take flight with the Silver Arrows of Mercedes. If he has got this one wrong, he will rue the decision for the next three peak years of his career and probably for the rest of his life.
“But there is still a chance that Hamilton has got it right. Mercedes, as a works team, are well placed to exploit the complicated engine/energy recovery technology that will be unveiled in 2014.
“There is, however, no chance that McLaren have got this one right. While Hamilton and his advisers must be worried about the wisdom of his decision, for McLaren there is only the confrontation with disaster” – Paul Weaver, The Guardian.
“Since knowing Hamilton from his days in GP2, Formula One’s feeder series, I have seen him constantly battle against his own immaturity in an attempt to find his real self. Yes, he thrived off the traction provided by his relationship with his dad, Anthony, who was also his manager. But when Lewis dispensed with his father’s services two years ago some of us hailed it as a welcome part of his growing up process. Nevertheless, part of Hamilton was lost. Symbiosis has inescapable rules. The growing pains since have been obvious, and, at times, painful to behold. Heavens, this year he has intermittently been hopelessly sullen and self-pitying.
“As for posting team telemetry on Twitter last month, it was a sacking offence. Yet McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, a nice man with a chummy style of driver management, exercised no governance over his man. No fine. No serious admonishment. Pathetic. Perhaps he feared pushing Hamilton away amid delicate contract talks. Well, look where it got him” – Jonathan McEvoy, The Daily Mail.
“He's right to do what he thinks is best and it's certainly not for me to be judgemental on him in that respect. Had I been his manager then I think I would have said 'let's do a short-term deal at McLaren, for one or two years, and let's see what is out there and see who is moving'. He has taken a gamble.
“Having said that, I do think Mercedes-Benz will be much better this year and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he wins a race in 2013 - in fact, I would be surprised if he doesn't win a race because Lewis has got such speed. If Mercedes can harness that speed and give him the car, he will drag another quarter of a second per lap out of it somewhere and I think he'll do a great job. Time will tell. I wasn't sure Jenson Button was right to go to McLaren but he was. I don't like guessing, I like waiting to see what happens” – Martin Brundle, Sky Sports F1.
“Lewis Hamilton turned down a deal which would have made him the best-paid driver in Formula One as he decided to move to Mercedes - but he and McLaren will make millions more without each other. His departure has allowed McLaren to link up with the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, whose companies back Hamilton's replacement, Sergio Perez. The Mexican will earn about £3million a year, a fraction of the annual retainer of £15m which could have climbed to £25m with bonuses and extras for titles if Hamilton had signed for another five years” – Bob McKenzie, The Daily Express.
“Without doubt Hamilton's move is a gamble, especially given his long-stated ambition to win multiple world titles. But with only one in five years at McLaren - likely to be six - and that back in 2008, he must now feel a change is required. For McLaren, losing their big-name star will hurt, but in Perez they are recruiting a potential future world champion” – Ann Gripper, Daily Mirror.
“With the field as intensely competitive as ever, now is completely the wrong time to embark on such a project. As it now stands, one of the sport’s leading lights seems to have been sold a dream and a promise – if he can stick out the difficult first season, his gamble may come to fruition. Yet if he doesn’t, we might be watching the sad sight of a man with limitless potential and huge talent witnessing his chance to make a legacy rot away in mid-grid purgatory. That’s the risk, and it is hard to be convinced that it outweighs the potential glory” – Ed Owen, The Sports Review.
“I don’t see Lewis winning races in 2013 – and there has to be doubts that the car will be good enough in 2014. And it is easy for a lean couple of years to develop into something longer. Just look what happened to Jacques Villeneuve after he joined BAR having won the title in 1997. He never won another race. Lewis has got a tough task ahead of him at Mercedes. It is a gamble” – Allan McNish, Audi.
“Lewis Hamilton does not know much about racing history and so cannot learn from the mistakes of others. Perhaps he thinks that if it fails he will at least have the consolation of earning loads more money and being a bigger star, thanks to his hustling management that will sell his image here, there and everywhere. That might make him an international celebrity on a bigger scale than he is, but it will not make him a racing legend. Perhaps Mercedes will pull it off and then Hamilton will look clever, but I fear that this will be a move similar to James Hunt joining Wolf; Emerson Fittipaldi joining Fittipaldi, Jacques Villeneuve moving to BAR or Niki Lauda’s ill-fated move to Brabham. History relates that you do not leave a winning team in F1 unless it is to go to another proven winner…” - Joe Saward, GP+ e-magazine.
“Only time will tell if he has made an inspired choice or driven his career up a cul-de-sac. In the meantime, it's fair to say that the 27-year-old has taken an almighty gamble in fixing his future to a team without much of a history (in its current guise at least). In mitigation, Mercedes should be in pole position when the new engine regulations are introduced for 2014, and if Hamilton believes he needs the challenge of being a driving-force and not just a driver then who are we to argue? But at this stage it's hard to shake off the impression that, if we are to treat this solely as a F1 decision, Hamilton has gambled everything on a hunch which owes more to emotion than calculation. Time can't come quickly enough” – Pete Gill, Sky Sports Online.