'Can Lewis galvanise Mercedes?'
Sky Sports F1 pundit Martin Brundle says move from McLaren will show whether or not Hamilton has what it takes to join the greats
Last Updated: 29/09/12 11:08am
If Lewis Hamilton is going to join the pantheon of Formula 1 greats then he has to prove himself at Mercedes, according to Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle.
Speaking after Hamilton's switch from McLaren was confirmed on Friday, Brundle told Sky Sports News that the 2008 World Champion's presence at Mercedes must galvanise the team into title contenders.
Hamilton has left McLaren, who have supported his career since childhood, for Mercedes despite the latter outfit appearing a less competitive proposition.
The likes of Hamilton's boyhood hero Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher - who, ironically, makes way for him at Mercedes - have hauled teams up by the bootstraps in the past.
In doing so, they imposed themselves on both the team in question and their team-mate - McLaren's decision to hire Senna alongside Prost in 1988 albeit creating too combustible a mix.
Hamilton has, of course, already experienced the other side of the coin, having partnered incoming double World Champion Fernando Alonso as a rookie for one explosive season in 2007.
Yet he now switches to Mercedes on an equal footing with Nico Rosberg, with Brundle saying that Hamilton must seize the initiative if he is to stand shoulder to shoulder with Senna et al.
"If he's going to galvanise the team and do an incredible job and really bring that team along, he's going to have to work very hard inside the car and, critically, outside the car along the lines of say a Michael Schumacher, or an Alain Prost or an Ayrton Senna to really move Mercedes-Benz along," Brundle said. "So we're going to find out if Lewis has that capacity, has that capability."
Brundle admitted that Hamilton's decision came as a surprise, having been convinced at last weekend's Singapore Grand Prix that he would stay put.
"Last weekend I got the firm impression from McLaren that they thought they were going to keep Lewis. I believe this deal happened two days ago, when he finally made the jump to the new team," he said.
"As I understand it, from both McLaren and Mercedes-Benz, it's something that's happened this week and that negotiations were going on right up until before the announcement was made.
"He obviously started looking around and something must have triggered that. Quite frankly Lewis should be staring now at his third World Championship in the closing stages of this season, the final six races. Instead he will be lucky to win his second after last weekend. So maybe he just needs to find pastures new."
Although Mercedes have won just one race since taking control of the title-winning Brawn GP team at the end of 2009, they have embarked upon an aggressive expansion of their technical staff in recent times.
The German manufacturer might also be poised to capitalise on new engine rules, which see the introduction of a 1.6-litre V6 turbo in 2014. Even so, Brundle still sees the move as a "big gamble".
"Time will tell if he's made the right decision, if he wins more World Championships and lots more races. It's really getting the crystal ball out and trying to work out who will have the fastest car," he said.
"I'm sure Ross Brawn and the team, with the might of Mercedes-Benz behind them, made a very compelling case to Lewis. I don't think it's all about money but I'm sure that comes into it.
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"Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg haven't made it work. A lot of technical changes have been made at Mercedes in the last couple of years. But let's see what happens.
"My experience of these kinds of things is that you have to wait and see how it pans out. My gut feeling is that he'd be better chasing the performance and staying at McLaren.
"I just hope Lewis has sat down, thought it through and worked it out - and not been caught up in a much bigger game."
Meanwhile, with Schumacher yet to reveal his future plans, Brundle reckons his former team-mate could yet continue his career in 2013 with another team.
"I can completely understand why he came back. He wanted to race again; Mercedes were prepared to give him a car. I'd be in that car if I had half a chance and I'm 10 years older than he is. I can't blame him for that. He's put on some good shows but he's made a lot of errors," he added.
"I think as a human being, I respect him more at the end of his second career than I did at the end of his first. I've warmed a lot to Michael. He looks in incredible condition physically and he's outqualified Rosberg a lot recently.
"He's still got the pace and determination. It depends if anybody could use him, like a Sauber or would you put him in the Ferrari instead of Massa, for example?"