How Lauda almost stopped the arrival of Lewis Hamilton

23-05-2020 12:32
F1 News
How Lauda almost stopped the arrival of Lewis Hamilton

The transfer of Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes in 2013 has been a golden choice for the Briton. With the German brand he has won five of his six titles in the seven seasons that he drove for the team.

The story that everyone knows

Everyone knows the story like this: Hamilton already had a tense relationship with McLaren team boss Ron Dennis, because the car of the Brit fell out of the lead with gearbox problems. Lauda suspected that this was the big chance to get the superstar at Mercedes and Lauda visited Hamilton in his hotel room. The rest is history.

The move from Hamilton to Mercedes seemed pretty easy, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is shown in the new biography of Niki Lauda by Maurice Hamilton.

Schumacher or Hamilton?

"When I asked who should drive in 2013", Lauda is quoted in the book, "Norbert Haug seemed to think that was a stupid question and answered: 'Schumacher and Rosberg'. I replied: "okay, but what if Michael wants to retire?" I was assured that he didn't want to, but he didn't have to inform the team before October."

Lauda never thought that was a good idea. In October most of the contracts of the top riders have already been signed for the coming season. "I was allowed to speak to Lewis because I knew it was the only big name that could be free."

Nick Fry

Nick Fry, who was still director at Mercedes in 2012, had already had contact with Hamilton in 2006, but when Hamilton started driving for McLaren, the contact broke. It was only when the relationship between Hamilton and McLaren diminished that the two spoke over a seat at Mercedes.

Mercedes initially did not have enough money to pay Hamilton, but Fry knocked on the door of title sponsor Petronas and asked for the missing millions. In exchange for the money Petronas got some extra stickers on the car and was allowed to use images of Hamilton for promotion.

The angry manager

Lauda didn't know about this. "For reasons only he knows, perhaps because of a misunderstanding or misplaced desire to move the deal forward, Niki took it upon himself to call Simon [Fuller, manager of Hamilton] in Los Angeles. A few days before we cleared things up. He told Fuller that the deal was closed and that Mercedes had promised the money", says Fry in his book.

"The problem was that Simon knew very well that the money had not yet been promised and that the internal negotiations at Mercedes were still going on because he talked to me every day", says Fry. Fuller was incredibly angry about the whole situation.

Fry remembers Fuller's words: "Tell Lauda he can make the deal! And you can tell everyone that he can fuck off. The deal is dead!" The decisive conversation then took place at a meeting between Hamilton and Brawn in London. A little later, the deal was finally signed.

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