Lewis Hamilton insists that he isn't going to Mercedes with the expectation of winning races next season
Lewis tells Sky Sports F1 that his first year away from McLaren will be about learning and growing
Last Updated: 07/10/12 6:14am
Lewis Hamilton has insisted that he has no expectations that Mercedes will be a race winner next season and explained that the team's principal attraction was the size of the challenge they will present.
In an interview with Georgie Thompson which will be broadcast in its entirety during Sky Sports F1's coverage of Sunday's Japanese GP, Hamilton clarified that while his decision to leave proven winners such as McLaren had surprised and even shocked many in the paddock, it was precisely Mercedes' lack of winning pedigree that made them such an attractive proposition for him.
"Everyone would choose the easy option, but I don't think in my whole life I have taken the easy road," Lewis explained. "Where I am, I could definitely stay, and that would be easy, knowing that the car will be amazing next year because it will be an evolution of this year's car.
"But to go somewhere where I know the car is not so great, and it's a new team, a young team, who want to be World Champions...there aren't many drivers in the paddock who have taken a team which was struggling and then helped them grow to the top."
Hamilton, it seems, is taking a long-term view of the project he has committed to. Echoing the assurance of Mercedes boss Ross Brawn that the team had made no promises that they will be able to deliver a race-winning package next season, Hamilton believes that 2013 will primarily be a year of transition in which he acclimatises to his new surrounds.
"Next year, there's no expectations. It's a year to learn, and communicate and build relationships with new people," he told Georgie. "I'm realistic of the position I'm in."
But will Hamilton really be willing to effectively write off a year of his career?
"I think there is every expectation on him else why would Mercedes want one of the biggest names in F1," exclaimed David Croft during Sky F1's The F1 Show on Friday night. "He should have expectations of Mercedes as well. He's grown up, racing-wise, at McLaren, which is a team that goes racing to win races and championships. That is ingrained in his mind and if he is not expecting to carry that on at Mercedes then why make the move?"
Given that Hamilton has won a race in every F1 season he has competed in, the prospect of the 27-year-old demurely settling for a position in the midfield also seems unfeasible to Sky F1's Anthony Davidson.
"Mentally, it's going to be a big challenge for him," noted Anthony. "He has led a very secluded life, in a way, at McLaren. He says he always takes the tough road but in my opinion the tough road is at the back of the grid.
"I think it's going to be very interesting to see how he handles it and if he is the magic ingredient that the team is missing. Will he bring an extra four or five tenths to the table? If he can, the results from this year would have been very different.
"As a driver you want to prove that you are the best in the world and one of the ways of doing that is by joining an underperforming team and improving them to show that you are a development driver and not just a quick driver.
"I think that is why we respect Michael Schumacher more than many other drivers on the grid as he went to an underperforming team, built-up Ferrari to the team they became and maybe from his own point of view he wants to do that."
Johnny Herbert was quick to stress, though, that Schumacher took his own team of mechanics with him from Benetton to the Scuderia.
"The one thing I see that is different is when Michael Schumacher made his moves, he took a bunch of people with him who he was very, very comfortable with and they understood exactly what he wanted," he said.
"This is very, very different as Mercedes is nearly still building itself and he is going into a place that is trying to make itself one of the big teams."
Speculation in the paddock suggested that Mercedes new non-executive Chairman Nikki Lauda, was the man responsible for swaying Hamilton's decision. But the three-time World Champion insists he had no impact on Hamilton, despite visiting his trailer in Singapore.
"Ross Brawn was the key person because he did the negotiations he signed the contract," Lauda told Sky Sports F1 during the Japanese GP coverage.
"I was aware of what's happening as the non-executive Chairman but the key person was Ross.
"I explained to him the situation. He wanted to know why he should leave a very competitive car to move to a less competitive car. So I said to him, 'I got famous because I brought my ear off in front of everyone, but if you move from one car to another there is more challenge, there is a new challenge. You have been at McLaren for 12 years and I think like any other job it is good to change and start all over again with new motivation and new people.'
"In the end of the day, it was his decision, but maybe he thought like this."