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Formula 1

Hamilton on how Mercedes’ ‘big puzzle’ came together

by Matt Beer
4 min read

Six-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes has been through “a lot of changes” in its rise to being the dominant team of the championship’s present era.

Mercedes has already secured the 2020 constructors’ title, marking an unprecedented seventh in a row since 2014.

Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013, one year before the new V6 turbo-hybrid rules were introduced and Mercedes transformed from a sporadic race winner into an all-conquering force – a process documented in detail by The Race across a pair of special features to mark Mercedes’ success.

Asked by The Race how he has seen Mercedes evolve since joining in 2013, Hamilton said: “There’s been a lot of changes over the time.

“What’s really crazy, for me, is that I was brought in, ultimately, to replace Michael [Schumacher], which was such a strange position to be in because I’d watched this man dominate the sport and achieve such great things and he was stopping and I was going to be taking his place.

“The guys that I worked with were his previous mechanics and engineers and what a privileged position to be in.

“However, they had had quite a difficult time and the car hadn’t been good.

“I think what was really great was that, when I joined, I was personally able to put my stamp on the car and make a lot of alterations, particularly in 2013. And then we just collectively worked together.”

Hamilton raced for Mercedes’ customer team McLaren from 2007 to 2012 but left after being tempted to the works team with the new engine rules just around the corner.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes F1 2013

“I knew that we would have a great engine because they had already started developing the engine before I’d even made my decision to join the team, before I’d signed the contract,” Hamilton added.

“As I was with Mercedes at McLaren, I was able to go to the factory, I knew what Mercedes was doing, I knew that McLaren was coming out of contract with Mercedes and I knew that I wanted to be with Mercedes-Benz because I think it’s such an iconic brand and I think they were so passionate about what they wanted to achieve.

“They’ve got such a great history and I knew that they had the power to turn things around.”

Despite Mercedes’ potential, its works team had a slow start to life after taking over the Brawn Grand Prix operation for 2010.

Mercedes’ results regressed across 2010 to 2012 but it made a major step forward in 2013 and has gone from strength to strength since then, establishing itself as F1’s leading car designer as well as the superior engine manufacturer.

“It took so many incredibly hard-working people to collectively come together to really innovate and design some of the most incredible bits of the car,” said Hamilton.

“It’s obviously a big puzzle. To watch it all come together is a real joy and, at the end of the day, there’s only two of us that get to drive it.

“The guys are just very level-headed. Even when you’re on the podium, the guys are never too overly-excited. They’re not out celebrating; they’re back at their desks already.

“I know for sure they’ll be back at their desks, doing emails, working on what spares there are for the next race, working on what’s next to try to get ahead of the curve.

“And that’s what this team’s always been about.”

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes F1 2020

Mercedes’ work ethic has been impressively sustained through its period of domination. Team boss Toto Wolff has repeatedly spoken of the need to set new targets in the bid to avoid complacency.

Hamilton said it is “quite phenomenal” to be part of such a successful period and “the real honour of my life” to work with the teams at Brackley (car) and Brixworth (engine).

“They really are the unsung heroes that are not on TV every weekend,” he said.

“They’re the guys that are working flat out every day during the weeks, crazy hours, to build and to innovate, to raise the bar, so that we can come here and do what we have done today and this year.

“I really don’t take it for granted that we have had this success. People could say, ‘Oh, you must be used to it’, and obviously maybe the fans are used to it, but from working inside the sport, you never get used to it.

“From [the Monday after the race] we’ll be focused on what’s next. We’ll be focusing on how we can be better. We’ll a big team meeting, trying to understand what could have been done better.

“We’ll have an analysis of what the next car looks like and what’s needed to raise the bar with the engine, with the driveability, with the ride, with tyre usage, all these different things.

“That’s because at the core of this team is some real heart.”

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