Former F1 champion Damon Hill says he felt McLaren left Lewis Hamilton with no option but to look for a move elsewhere having managed the Briton to 'within an inch of his life'.
It was confirmed on Friday that Hamilton will join Mercedes
for the 2013 season after electing to quit the team that has guided his career since he was 13-years-old.
The move will see Hamilton leave one of the most successful teams in F1 to join one that has just a single win since taking over Brawn GP ahead of the 2010 season, but Hill said he felt a range of issues had led to the Briton making the decision.
“Lewis has been like a caged bird at McLaren,” he told the Daily Mail
. “He'd been managed to within an inch of his life. I can't blame him for looking to move elsewhere. Lewis needed to leave McLaren to stretch his wings.”
Hamilton's move is set to give him more freedom to pursue personal sponsorship deals, which wasn't possible at McLaren, while the fact he will be able to keep any trophies he wins is also said to be factor in the decision. At McLaren, any trophies won by the driver remain with the team at its Woking base.
“I could never get my head around the logic that the team takes the driver's trophy,” Hill said. “It's the principle, not the trophy, that is at stake. After you have won a championship, and jumped through a lot of hoops, there is a point when you think: "This is my life". You can have a bellyful of becoming a performing seal. You don't want to be on probation for your whole career.
“Of course, you still have to fight inside the car; but there is a time when, surely, you have proved you can motivate yourself. These are things Lewis has tried to balance.”
Hill added that he felt it would be interesting to see what impact Hamilton's decision will now have on F1 going forward.
“This is quite a shift in the power balance in Formula One,” he said. “It shows a driver is a more important ingredient in the sport than the teams like to think. Formula One would do well to remember the public relates to a driver's career path more than any team with the exception of Ferrari. The rest are just operations. To the public, the sport is about the drivers.
“There is a huge disconnect between the philosophy of a team and a driver. Drivers just want to race, they don't see Formula One as a marketing exercise or product development. To a team, a driver is a hired hand. But drivers have a right to a career path. They don't belong to a team.”