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Hamilton explains reasons for Mercedes move

ESPN Staff
October 4, 2012 « Perez could win on McLaren debut - Whitmarsh | Hulkenberg remains coy over future »
Lewis Hamilton: "It was important to do it on my terms" © Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton has admitted he swung like a pendulum between the two offers he had from Mercedes and McLaren for 2013, but is confident his decision to go with Mercedes is not a gamble.

The move was made public last Friday and will see him leave McLaren, where he has been since he was 13 and with which he has won 20 races, to join Mercedes, which has won just one race since its return to F1 in 2010. He admitted in Japan that he had been torn between the two.

"It has been very, very stressful," Hamilton was quoted by the Daily Telegraph. "I've been with this team since I was 13 and met Ron [Dennis, McLaren chairman] when I was 10. My dream back then was to race for this team. It was a little bit like a pendulum because one moment I would think, 'Let's go for it', the next I would think 'I'm going to stay'. That's why I took my time; because I wanted to make sure I stuck with one of [those feelings]."

Hamilton revealed he finally made the decision while sat on a beach in Thailand last week, but said his gearbox failure at the last race in Singapore, which severely damaged his championship hopes, had not played on his mind.

"It [the DNF] made no difference. I had kind of already had the feeling a few days before but it stuck with me and this time I didn't have any swinging back. Then I got to Thailand and it was incredibly peaceful and I just sat by the pool and thought for several hours. It was important to do it on my terms.

"I wasn't going to be pushed and rushed, although there was a lot of pressure. Martin [Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal] had been asking me when I was going to do a deal since China last year. I had a couple of deadlines, I didn't meet any one of them. It was really, really tough but once I made the decision I was so much more relaxed."

Hamilton reiterated that he sees Mercedes as a fresh opportunity and when asked whether he saw it as a risky move, the Press Association reported him as saying: "I don't. Not really.

"I've had such a great career with McLaren. I signed for McLaren when I was 13 and have had such an incredible journey with them. But in the end I had two offers on the table which were very similar but one was a lot more exciting. It's just a challenge. I could stay in the great car that I have, which I've worked really hard to help develop with the team, or go to a car that's not so well developed and help it.

"No doubt it was one of the most difficult decisions I've faced in my life up to now. But a lot of other racing drivers, a lot of greats - [Alain] Prost and [Ayrton] Senna, they've all been with several teams.

"I'd been thinking for quite some time about what I wanted to do with my future, where I want to go, It's easy staying in the same place, but going somewhere else and taking on a new challenge is sometimes maybe even more exciting."

He said he had not talked to McLaren chairman Ron Dennis since the announcement, but does not feel he has ruled out a return at some point in the future.

"When I spoke to Martin I said that the plan was not to burn bridges. I don't feel as though I am going out of McLaren through the back door. I am going out the front door, happily. The way I look at it is that I am walking over that bridge and down a different path. If that path brings me back, who knows? I think I will always have McLaren in my heart."

And he said he would attempt to emulate what Michael Schumacher had done in the 1990s at Ferrari by joining a team and helping to turn it into a championship winning outfit.

"I don't know what is going to happen. I just know that everyone has to experience these things, working with new people and in new environments. That is just part of growing up. It's my last step of independence I guess. It wasn't about Ross [Brawn, Mercedes team principal]. It wasn't about Niki [Lauda, Mercedes-Benz vice-chairman]. It was about Mercedes, a team which has not been that successful over the last couple of years.

"I know some of the greats have gone from a great car to not such a great car and have helped to develop a winning team. Michael [Schumacher], for instance, went from being a world champion to Ferrari. We haven't really got any other driver in Formula One who is known for that. I hope that one day someone can say that about me."