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lewis hamilton niki lauda helmet monaco 2019

Berger: Lauda would’ve made sure Hamilton didn’t go to Ferrari

lewis hamilton niki lauda helmet monaco 2019

Had Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda been alive, he would have done all in his power to prevent Lewis Hamilton from departing Mercedes for Ferrari at the end of this season believes Gerhard Berger. Is he correct?

Ferrari orchestrated the coup of the century prying seven-time F1 World Champion Hamilton from Mercedes, the team that backed the driver since his teens, powered him to all his seven F1 titles, as well as all 104 Pole Position starts and 103 Grand Prix victories. All records.

Mercedes and Hamilton were synonymous until 1 February when all involved – Mercedes the losers, Ferrari the winners, Sir Lewis the prize – made the announcement that has hogged headlines ever since and will do so until the #44 is stickered onto a Ferrari with ‘Lewis Hamilton’ and the Union Jack astride the cockpit.

Also surprised by the news that rocked F1 to its core, former F1 driver and Team Principal, Berger told AutoBild that the late great Lauda would have fought to keep Hamilton away from Maranello.

Berger explained, “Niki would’ve done everything to make sure Lewis Hamilton didn’t go to Ferrari. That would have scared him and he could have prevented it.”

How were things between Niki and Lewis?

Niki Lauda, Lewis Hamilton

Some background: In 2012 Lauda was made non-executive Chairman of the Mercedes F1 Team, his role similar to fellow Austrian Helmut Marko. Niki advisor to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Lauda, a triple F1 World Champion (twice with Ferrari and once with McLaren) was also key to winning Hamilton over. The offer went against British media and pundits’ advice not to leave McLaren with their proven track record to go to Mercedes who were really a start-up in the wake of buying 2009 F1 World Champions Brawn GP.

Hamilton went with his gut and did indeed join Mercedes in 2013, replacing Michael Schumacher and teaming up with Nico Rosberg. History and his trophy cabinet show it was an extremely shrewd decision.

Despite a racing legacy interwoven with Mercedes? Would Lauda really decry Hamilton’s move to Ferrari? After all the great Austrian was a two-time F1 World Champion for the Reds. His success prevented in the team led by Luca di Montezemolo at the time, from ditching to F1 to focus on endurance sportscar racing. Enzo Ferrari himself came close to doing so.

But Niki and Luca changed all that as they spawned a glory period for the Scuderia, and kept il Drakein F1 to the demise of his sportscar ambitions.

Years later, long after his retirement and escapades as an airline owner, Lauda was back in an F1 hotseat, albeit on the managerial side. One of his first tasks was to convince Hamilton that Mercedes was for him.

Hamilton: My first memory is that Niki didn’t have a great opinion of me

lewis hamilton, niki lauda

In an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, Hamilton recalled what happened with Lauda: “My first memory is that Niki didn’t have a great opinion of me. I hated that at the time. When the old, retired drivers give their opinion of the current generation of drivers. I never want to be like that. It’s easy to criticise young drivers.

“Suddenly I’m there in a situation where I have to make an important decision in my life, and there’s this Niki on the phone asking me if I want to drive for Mercedes. I was already impressed that I was talking to a three-time world champion, but on the other hand, I didn’t know if I could trust him. And certainly not on the phone.”

But Lauda proved to be what Mercedes needed not only to lure Hamilton but also the delicate management required thereafter, which Hamilton acknowledged: “Without his support, I might never have made it into this team. And the team wouldn’t have had this success without his involvement. He was the bridge between me and the board members.”

Twice an F1 World Champion for Ferrari, would Niki object to Lewis donning Red?

Niki Lauda ferrari

Hamilton saw Lauda before the Austrian died in 2009, he recalled at the time: “It was a really tough moment. It was a shock to see your friend in bed on all those tubes. I knew that from my aunt who had died of cancer. But it’s a shock every time.

“With Niki, you could still see his alert spirit shining, but his will to fight was weakening after this long battle. I miss talking to him, and reading his text messages. I still have many of them on my phone, and from time to time I check back. He was a great support for me. That’s why I really miss him,” lamented Hamilton.

Wherever Lauda is now in time, if he does have a look down on the F1 landscape, one would imagine it would give him a kick to see Hamilton in the Red of Ferrari, emulating him nearly fifty years later. Afterall it is where every racer dreams of driving, Lewis included.

Maybe Berger is wrong on this one?