4 December 2013
Niki Lauda willed Lewis Hamilton DNF in F1 2012 Singapore GP
Niki Lauda admitted that fate played a part in persuading Lewis Hamilton to join Mercedes' F1 effort for 2013.
Niki Lauda has revealed that he was begging for Lewis Hamilton to drop out of the lead of last year's Singapore Grand Prix to help persuade the Briton to leave McLaren for Mercedes in 2013.
Speaking ahead of the weekend's Autosport Awards, the Austrian told Reuters that he felt he needed divine intervention after Hamilton appeared unsure of the move away from the team that had nurtured his rise to the top flight. Lauda explained that clandestine meetings with his target were not being helped by McLaren's return to front-running form, and left him pleading for a mishap in the following night's race around Marina Bay.
"I had to see him in his room between two to four in the morning,” the three-time world champion recalled, “I remember the discussion because he was on pole position with McLaren, was basically winning everything and I asked him 'would you consider going over to Mercedes?'.
“He said 'why should I go?' [adding] 'this [McLaren] car is winning, all I want to do is win, and your car is not winning'. I said 'sh*t, he's right'.
Sensing that Hamilton might be persuaded to stay put, despite an apparent rift developing with McLaren management, Lauda called on a higher power.
"I was sitting in front of the television, saying 'please crash, please retire'. I was sitting and waiting for this and, bingo, gearbox gone. I went to see him right after that."
Having used the added persuasion of suggesting that the Briton could become a legend if he succeeded where seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher had failed and took Mercedes to race wins and championship success, Lauda eventually turned his man – and Hamilton now admits that the decision to quit Woking and head for Brackley was the right one.
A reversal in fortune that saw Mercedes running right at the front while McLaren slumped in 2013 not only gave Hamilton five poles and a race win, but also saw him appear more content with life in general.
"Yeah, it's nice, it's great,” he told ESPN, “I think 98 per cent of the people [doubted me], but it felt like the right choice to me and it has been, I've been really, really happy. It's much more than the results, it's been the whole experience of coming to terms with a new car and a new team. It's been really enjoyable."
Heading into a new era of F1, with new engines and drive-trains, also gives Hamilton more confidence for next season.
"The concept of something new and newness is exciting," he admitted, "If it was an evolution of this year's car, then it would be very hard to beat the Red Bulls because they are just so far ahead. I'm happy that it's all reset again.
"To see the developments [at Mercedes] keep coming through is a really good step. Of course, we want more next year and I hope we will deliver that, but I thought this year would be a foundation building year, I just didn't realise the foundation would be that positive."
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