Lewis Hamilton lined up on the starting grid of the Australian Grand Prix ten years ago as a Mercedes driver for the first time, having switched from McLaren, a move many told him was wrong.
Now embarking on his 11th Formula 1 campaign with Mercedes, Hamilton has amassed a record breaking 103 grand prix wins, 103 pole positions, and seven F1 Titles. Before that, and during his McLaren days, he only had 21 race wins, 26 pole positions and one F1 Drivers’ Crown.
At the time, the move was dubbed by many as unwise, especially that McLaren were still race winning contenders, while Mercedes were still building themselves to become the juggernaut that dominated the sport between 2014 and 2021.
In the end, Hamilton proved his critics wrong, his move proving to be a masterstroke, and looking back on the time he made the move, he told F1’s official website: “Did it feel like a risk? Of course! When you make decisions, you go through changes and it’s always going to be a risk.
Hamilton: I’m not living if I’m not taking risks
“But I would feel like I’m not living if I’m not taking risks, not constantly challenging myself and those around me. It was the inevitable direction I had to go, and it felt right,” he insisted.
“It was a feeling that I had; I wanted something new. I was excited to work with new people and enter a team that had struggled. Taking everything that I had learned and seeing if I could apply it somewhere else.
“I was excited by the plans I had heard were being put in place to scale up the team and going all in to become champions. I went with what I felt in my gut and in my heart. It led me to this amazing team and this incredible journey we are on,” the Briton explained.
As for the naysayers; he said: “So many people told me it was wrong. I knew that if I didn’t make the move though, I would have regretted it.
“I didn’t have any second thoughts… although I do remember around Christmas sitting outside in the cold looking over the snowy mountains thinking: ‘Shoot! I hope I’ve made the right decision’.
“I had a moment of reflection and thought: ‘We’ve done it so we’re going to give it everything’. I focused on training the best I could and bringing the best I could to the team.
“I also thought about how great it would be to get a win in that first season – something we managed to achieve [at the Hungarian Grand Prix],” Hamilton recalled.
Mercedes offered challenges, progress and growth
Before Mercedes, Hamilton was always within the McLaren environment from the tender age of 13, but within Mercedes, he claims to have been challenged while growing an progressing, something he relishes and is a factor for a future decision whether to continue with Mercedes beyond his current contract.
He explained: “If I don’t feel like I’m being challenged, I’m not progressing or I’m not evolving, that is where you start thinking about your next move. And I just haven’t felt that in these 10 years.
“I feel like the whole team has been evolving, with new people, new structures being put in place, new targets being set. I feel that I’ve had the right team to grow. Not only as a driver but as a man. I’ve been given the ability to be myself and been accepted by Mercedes,” he maintained.
In 2013, Hamilton qualified third and raced to fifth in Melbourne on his debut race with Mercedes, which might be a tough ask this year as the team endures one of their toughest seasons with a car off the pace following a dreadful campaign in 2022.
“We know we’re not perfect and we can always be better – that’s what we are always trying to do,” Hamilton said. “We don’t have a great car right now but we’re putting one foot in front of the other. We know we can get back to the front.
“It’s going to be the hardest task we’ve faced together to get back to where we want to be and catch Red Bull. But what an accomplishment that will be!” the 38-year-old concluded.