Although now ancient history, back in 2012 Hamilton was firmly in the McLaren seat alongside team mate Jenson Button until a shock announcement to move to Mercedes on a 3 year deal starting in 2013.
The Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda revealed the role he played in luring Lewis Hamilton to make the switch from McLaren, reiterating the move was all about providing the British driver with a new challenge, but also how he could be perceived as being better than the best driver in the history of the sport.
Lewis then replaced Michael Schumacher at the German team, with the Mexican Sergio Perez – previously with Sauber – stepping in for the Lewis at McLaren.
Nico Rosberg had been team mate to Schumacher and had a relationship with Niki Lauda at Mercedes already. Although it was Lauda’s intention to entice Hamilton to Mercedes, the Austrian is also known to happily share any opinion no matter how negative. He had stated previously how he thought Lewis to be “completely mad” after a questionable performance during the Canadian Grand Prix in 2011.
Back in 2011, Lauda believed Formula One authorities needed to do something about Lewis Hamilton after the British driver crashed out of the race having collided with team mate Button on the 8th lap of the race.
More criticism came after Hamilton’s actions at the Monaco Grand Prix drawing further comment from Lauda saying it was time for action to be taken against the aggressive-driving former world champion.
“What Hamilton did there goes beyond all boundaries,” Lauda told RTL television at the time.
“He’s completely mad. If the FIA does not punish him, I do not understand the world any more.
“At some point there has to be an end to all the jokes. You cannot drive like this – as it will result in someone getting killed.”
Hamilton: “Originally, I didn’t think much of Niki”
Things have changed somewhat, and now Hamilton says he “loves” Niki, and that he “misses him” due to the absence of the Mercedes non executive chairman due to illness.
During the build up to the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend, Hamilton shared his thoughts on Lauda’s recovery from the lung transplant over the summer.
“I love Niki, I miss him and I hope he will be back soon, but originally I did not have a high opinion of Niki.” says the 5 time Champion describing his feelings after Laudas criticism.
Hamilton explains that during 2012 Mercedes negotiations Lauda said ” ‘You’re a racer, just like me!’ From then on, our relationship got better and better, ”
“I often send him a video from the box or from the engineering briefing and keep him up to date on what’s going on here,” says Hamilton. “He called me last week, it was so nice to finally hear his voice again.”
“He was very happy that the operation went well, he was joking and in a good mood,”
It’s interesting that Hamilton says that the turning point of the negotiation was the ‘racer, just like me’ comment. Lauda himself said at the time on BBC 5 live that the point to his argument was that Hamilton would potentially look better than Michael Schumacher.
“My argument was, ‘if you’re looking for a new challenge then frankly the Mercedes team is one’. Thinking the other way round, if Michael Schumacher could not get the Mercedes team – for three years running – up front and you next year are doing much better, this makes a huge impact on your personality and people will rate you much higher than you are rated now.”
All ancient history now, but equally an insight into the way our 5 time World Champion ticks.