Surprising Driver Moves

Lewis Hamilton shocked the world last September when he announced his move to Mercedes. Although the move was foreseen by Eddie Jordan, the paddock had passed it off as speculation as part of the ‘silly season’ rumour mill. Hamilton had, as you may know, dumped his father who used to manage him, and instead hired Simon Fuller’s XIX ‘Hollywood’ agency. Subsequently, when Lewis left McLaren and joined Mercedes, it was seen as a bad choice by his distant management who were seen to have chosen money over performance. This is because the story was that Lewis was offered far more from the Silver Arrows than the team who raised him. McLaren, obviously, were performing far better than Mercedes who were slowly killing themselves while chasing the failing DDRS system. Lewis’ only problem at McLaren was that several mechanical failures had surely cost him a real shot at the 2012 title, losing 25 points in both Singapore and Abu Dhabi when he retired from the lead. It seemed crazy to go to Mercedes and I guessed he was going to grin and bear it for 2013 while watching Jenson Button and his replacement, Sergio Perez, in a battle for the Championship, while waiting for Mercedes to develop their new 2014 engine and hoping that he would be repaid when the new regulations took effect.

How wrong I was! Whether Lewis Hamilton is an incredibly gifted soothsayer, or just a really lucky guy, I’m still not sure. All I know is Lewis is far more comfortable in his new outfit. Although Nico Rosberg is currently outscoring his team-mate, this can be pinned to the fact that Nico has been with the team for three full seasons already and, obviously, knows the team far better than Lewis. Meanwhile, to say his former team is struggling is an understatement. Between Button and Perez, they’ve secured only eight points-finishes out of a possible sixteen – a fifth place at the hands of Jenson Button the best they have so far managed. Approaching the midpoint in the season, they’ve admitted that efforts are being focused on their 2014 car.

Naturally, Hamilton’s move isn’t the only one to raise eyebrows. Although it’s quite hard to believe, Ferrari were far from their glory days when Michael Schumacher joined the team in 1996. Having won the World Championship in 1994 and 1995, Schumacher looked incredibly comfortable at Benetton. In  modern terms, it would be like waking up tomorrow to hear that Sebastian Vettel is off to Williams. Yet, enticing Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne over to the Scuderia with him led to Michael beginning to build a team around him which saw him help the team, step-by-step, into a Championship winning year in 1999. The Scuderia remain at the front with Fernando Alonso there to carry them along.

In the same year that Schumacher moved to Ferrari, Damon Hill won the Drivers Championship with Williams. Watching Schumacher’s success at Ferrari, Damon might’ve imagined himself doing the same for Arrows. Whatever the reason, he moved to the backmarker team for 1997, even though the team had gone twenty years without a single Grand Prix victory. By the end of the season, a miserable Hill was left scrambling for an escape from the team in which he rarely finished a race, chosing Jordan as his new outfit. It was a move probably made out of desperation, but it did have its rewards as a chaotic Belgian Grand Prix in 1998 saw Jordan claim its first win with Hill on top of the podium.

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