Lewis Hamilton will not regret his decision to forsake McLaren for Mercedes, according to veteran F1 pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie, who has tipped the 2008 world champion to quickly return to winning ways.
Speaking to Crash.net
at the recent London press launch for the BBC
's 2013 F1 coverage, the Scot maintained that she never regarded Hamilton's move as an error of judgement, and believes that he can return the Silver Arrows to the top of the podium after a disappointing end to the Brackley-based team's 2012 campaign.
Although Nico Rosberg claimed his first win with the team in China almost a year ago, the season tailed off badly during the end-of-year 'flyaways' with only Michael Schumacher's points finish in Brazil preventing a scoreless run of seven races. The seven-time world champion is gone now, of course, with Hamilton's decision to quit what he saw as a 'restrictive regime' at McLaren leaving no place for sentimentality at Mercedes.
Many claimed that the Briton was taking a backward step as McLaren appeared to end the year as the strongest team on the grid, but McKenzie, speaking after viewing the three pre-season tests, disagrees.
“I didn't think he'd made a mistake last year, when it was announced that he was going to Mercedes,” she pointed out, “He could have stayed at McLaren, but would he have stayed in the sport maybe as long he will do? He needed to leave, to leave home as it were.
“It's the first real decision that he's had to make [in his career]. He's always been a part of McLaren, so therefore he came to GP2 and went to ART as he was placed there. He's almost been given a schedule at the age of 13 or something and just told to be where he should be. This is the first decision he's had to make, which I think must be empowering in itself. Whether it's a good one or bad [decision], at least he's made one.
“I think Lewis will win a race this year, [although] the circumstances in which he'll win it, I don't know. Whether it'll be China - for whatever reason, it all worked well there last year - it'll be great if he can win a few. It'd be a great story, it'd be good for his own personal confidence. To be honest, I don't know how many they can win, but it would be good if they could.”
With Ferrari and Lotus ending the 2012 season strongly, McKenzie also believes that Mercedes cannot afford to let its image be dented by a poor showing on track.
“Mercedes, as the huge company that it is, cannot afford to let its reputation slide,” she insisted, “It must start getting things right, [as] people aren't attracted to a road car if you've got a crap F1 car. That is there big focal point, that's where they get all their free advertising. Mercedes have got a wealth of talent in the technical department, some would argue far too much, but I can't see them getting weaker because they simply won't be allowed to.”