Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle predicts wins for Lewis Hamilton in 2013 at Mercedes
Pundit also backs Button to excel in his new role at McLaren
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 14/01/13 10:11am
While Hamilton himself has played down expectations ahead of his first year with the Silver Arrows following his switch from McLaren, Brundle believes that the 2008 World Champion's formidable pace could make a winning difference for a team which has won just a solitary race in the last three years.
"I'd be very surprised if Lewis doesn't win a grand prix for Mercedes-Benz," Martin told Sky Sports News on the opening day of the Autosport International Show in Birmingham. "I think their car will be much stronger, he'll find a quarter of a second per lap and even if you apply that to the 2012 car then over a fifty- or sixty-lap race it would have made a big difference."
Yet while Brundle is tipping Hamilton for victories in 2013, the Sky F1 pundit also believes that Hamilton's former team-mate Jenson Button will prosper next season in his new role as McLaren's de facto team leader.
"Without a doubt," Martin replied when asked if Hamilton's departure was good news for the 2009 World Champion. "Lewis heading off means that it is Jenson's team and because the fastest driver in the world has left he can now concentrate on leading that team. I think it's a role he will grow into."
Later on Thursday, Martin took to the main stage at The National Exhibition Centre to answers questions on all things F1 and motorsport. Here are the edited highlights...
"It was one of the very best, but we have had some classic cliffhangers before in the last century and back in the day during the 60s and 70s. It's very easy to say that what you are seeing now was way better than it was back in the day, but 2012 was right up there as one of the best seasons in terms of the incidents and the uncertainty with seven winners in the first seven races and then eight overall.
"When I compare it to the days when Michael Schumacher was dominating, and even Nigel [Mansell] when he was winning the championship in August in 1992, I remember how myself and Murray Walker would be waiting for the ad breaks for a little bit of respite and to think of something to say. During these last few years that certainly hasn't been a problem! 2012 was definitely the best year I've ever had the pleasure of commentating on, there's no doubt about that."
On his first year at Sky Sports F1...
"I'm very happy. It took me a long time - months - to make the decision [to join Sky Sports F1] as I liked what we were doing at the BBC, but I also liked what Sky Sports were proposing to do and the role they wanted me to play. I then made the decision but it wasn't until the first race in March that I quickly began to realise that I really was happy with my decision.
"I think we put on a great show, we've got a good rapport now among the people working in vision at Sky and those working behind [the scenes] as well. We're putting out 14 hours of television on a grand prix weekend, which is a huge amount of content, and I'm probably working twice as hard as I've ever worked before on Formula 1 television, but I've never been happier.
"We've got the resource, and if you look back through the Olympics, who was still running F1 stuff? The only company was Sky. If you look through the winter, who is out there with F1? Sky. I'm a F1 fan, I have a passion for F1, and I like what we do - and the commitment they've brought to it. And as we go into year two, we've got some great stuff coming up."
On Sebastian Vettel's winning the Drivers' Championship...
"Honestly, I wanted Alonso to win. I know we have to be neutral in our job but you can't help but have a preference for who you feel has done the best job over the year and I thought it was Alonso.
"But I'm a huge Vettel fan as well. At 25 years of age, his skill and maturity and the way he analyses what he does and what he has built around him is just incredibly impressive. He was a worthy World Champion and to see their battle - the commitment, the battle of wills, the way they lifted themselves towards the end of the season - and its level of excellence was just a pleasure to watch."
On how Lewis Hamilton is changing...
"I think Lewis gets involved in some incidents he probably shouldn't get involved in, but on a decreasing basis. [Valencia's race-ending crash with Pastor Maldonado] would be a very good example of that - he was going to lose that place anyway so why damage your car? But that's the racer in Lewis; sometimes you can't take out the good bit of a sportsman and bury the bad bits - they have to do that for themselves. The racer in Lewis means he never wants to give up, but I think that Lewis is now learning when to give.
On the best drive in 2012...
"For me, the drive of the year was by Lewis in Austin when he hunted down and passed Vettel. That was just supreme."
On Fernando Alonso going so close to beating Vettel to the title...
"His positive mental attitude was something quite incredible. He honestly, genuinely believed that he was going to win that championship. Even when it was all going against him, he was still saying 'I'm going to win this'...and he so nearly did in Brazil.
"Alonso picked up the car and did something extra with it. That's the sign of a true great - when you can win a race when you're not in the fastest car."
On Alonso still being in the hunt for the title in the final race in two of his three years at Ferrari
"But he lost them both, didn't he? That's the critical thing and I'm not sure for how much longer he will accept that. It was tough for him."
On Kimi Raikkonen's comeback season...
"The thing that impressed me most about Kimi last year was his race craft. He had been out of the sport for two years running into trees [rallying!] but he never hardly touched another driver, did he? He was just massively impressive."
On whether Lewis Hamilton decided to leave McLaren during the weekend of the Singapore GP...
"My understanding is that Lewis was ready to jump but he was uncertain and there were a lot of people working on him throughout that weekend.
"I remember after his car broke down when he was leading the race, as he was walking away he turned and looked back at the car very briefly and I said on air, 'Is he walking away from his McLaren career?'. My feeling is that was a very decisive moment of 'let's just go, let's try something else'.
On whether moving to Mercedes is the right choice for Lewis...
"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."