Though it was Niki Lauda who tempted Lewis Hamilton away from McLaren to Mercedes, the move was approved by then team boss, Ross Brawn, even though the Briton had his doubts about his countryman’s commitment.
Having overseen all seven of Michael Schumacher’s titles with Benetton and Ferrari, Brawn, who was used to the German’s 100% commitment to his craft, to the exclusion of all else, feared that Hamilton’s many interests away from the sport would compromise him.
As the Briton racked up his sixth title on Sunday, Brawn now knows this not to be the case.
“I think the best compliment I can pay Lewis is to say that he has found a unique way of being a great champion,” said Brawn.
“I have to admit that when I started working with him back in 2013 I was slightly nervous about his approach to being a professional racing driver,” he admits. “For me, the benchmark was Michael Schumacher, a man totally dedicated to chasing success and at the same time very keen to guard his privacy and that of his family.
“Even then, Lewis was demonstrating a truly eclectic approach to his career and whilst totally professional he preferred a lifestyle that was definitely less monastic than Michael’s.
“Lewis has always been comfortable moving in different circles, such as music and fashion,” he continued, “and that’s given him the energy to develop his talent still further, while always ensuring he is in the best physical shape possible, which is vital in the modern Formula 1 era.
“And at Mercedes, Lewis has found the right support in an environment that is stimulating technically but that at the same time allows him the freedom he absolutely needs.
“I therefore congratulate Toto Wolff and the whole team, as they’ve not only given him an amazing car year after year but they’ve allowed Lewis to develop and grow to become one of the greatest drivers in the history of Formula 1, certainly the strongest of the last 15 years.”