Marko: Turning Mercedes on to Hamilton was 'complete misjudgment'

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Helmut Marko says he will forever rue the day he informed his good friend Niki Lauda of Lewis Hamilton's availability, a material piece of information that led to the Briton's move from McLaren to Mercedes at the end of the 2012 season and to a wave of unparalleled success for team and driver.

Hamilton had finished fourth in the Drivers' championship in 2012, winning four races with McLaren but being unable to compete for the title with Red Bull and its then three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Although Hamilton wasn't looking to leave McLaren at the time, his contract with the Woking-based outfit was set to expire at the end of the season.

An initial contact and preliminary conversation between Hamilton and Lauda then opened the Briton up to the idea of leaving McLaren and joining Mercedes.

Marko remembers tipping off Lauda on Hamilton's availability as a tactical move that he hoped would benefit Red Bull, as the Austrian felt that the Briton would be less of a peril to the bulls racing for Mercedes than for McLaren.

"I gave him [Lauda] some information that Lewis would be available," Marko recalled, speaking to 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."

But Marko's mischievous plot failed miserably.

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

At the time, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was complicit with Marko. Last year, he revealed that Hamilton had actually been "keen" on joining the Milton Keynes-based outfit.

But for the Red Bull chief, pairing Hamilton with Vettel – or bringing together "two alpha drivers" – didn't seem like the most rational move.

"Lewis and I have had a couple of conversations over the years," Horner said.

"From 2010 to 2013, he was very keen to come and drive for Red Bull. We had Sebastian at that time and to have had two alpha drivers wouldn’t have made sense.

"We were fighting McLaren and in 2012, they had the fastest car and we felt that Lewis in a McLaren would be more of a threat than in a Mercedes.

"I encouraged Niki to spend the money as Lewis was wavering a little bit. It would be fair to say that backfired on me."

Mercedes indeed went on to "spend the money", and the rest is history...

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