Helmut Marko made ‘complete misjudgement’ of putting Lewis Hamilton on Mercedes’ radar

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton at the Mercedes W04 launch. February 2013.

New Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton at the launch of the team's car, the W04. February 2013.

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko said he alerted the late great Niki Lauda, Mercedes’ former non-executive chairman, to Lewis Hamilton’s potential availability, something which he went on to regret.

It was back in 2012 when Lauda first reached out to Hamilton, the Brit at that point with McLaren, though he had not been able to add to his maiden World Championship in 2008 with the team.

Hamilton would decide to make what was a shock switch to Mercedes at the time, his first season with the team in 2013 yielding just the one victory as Red Bull stormed to a fourth title double in a row, Sebastian Vettel winning 13 of the 19 races that season to secure his fourth and final Drivers’ crown.

So, at that point, it did not seem like Hamilton’s Mercedes move was particularly damaging for Red Bull, but oh how the tables would turn.

Following the introduction of the turbo hybrid power units for the 2014 campaign, Mercedes shot to the summit of Formula 1 and became the new irresistible force, the team going on to win eight Constructors’ titles in a row from 2014-2021, Hamilton collecting six Drivers’ titles in that time.

Marko then believes he made a “complete misjudgement” by ever mentioning Hamilton to Lauda.

“I gave him [Lauda] some information that Lewis would be available,” Marko told Sport Bild.

“Of course I was not being altruistic. At the time, we thought Lewis would be less of a threat to us at Mercedes than at McLaren, for whom he was driving at the time.

“In retrospect, that was a complete misjudgement, although at the time it was really not foreseeable. But with the knowledge I have today, I would definitely not do that again.”

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Hamilton has certainly inflicted plenty of disappointment on Red Bull over the years since, but Formula 1 history has now repeated itself with Red Bull currently the dominant force once more.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen denied Hamilton that record eighth World title on the last lap of the season in 2021, and following a regulatory reset for 2022, Mercedes are yet to return to a level where they could become a serious title threat to Red Bull.

It was a Red Bull title double in 2022 as Verstappen set a new record for the most wins in a single season with 15, while Red Bull have started F1 2023 with a trio of race wins and pole positions, two going Verstappen’s way in each category.

Hamilton’s Mercedes deal is up at the end of the season, though he is expected to sign fresh terms and continue in the team’s recovery effort.