Lewis Hamilton still owes Bernie Ecclestone over unpaid debt for career-defining financial backing

Lewis Hamilton’s best time in F1 has come at Mercedes and in many ways, the British driver continues to be an integral part of the personality of the Brackley-based outfit.

While Mercedes has been lethal ever since the Hybrid Era began in 2014, the team’s name and success has been synonymous with that of Hamilton.

The seven-time world champion has established his credentials as one of the greatest drivers to have graced the sport.

Although 2022 did not entirely go in Hamilton’s favour and he failed to win a Grand Prix throughout the season for the first time in his career, he is still regarded as a very talented driver.

However, the Hamilton-Mercedes love story may have never blossomed in the first place had it not have been for former F1 head Bernie Ecclestone.

Hamilton had entered the sport with a seat at McLaren over 15 years ago.

He was an instant hit at the team and won four races in his debut season.

It was already clear to most onlookers that they were witnessing a special talent.

Hamilton won the world championship the following season and it seemed like the start of a special association.

However, the Stevenage-born driver struggled to add to this success and his four-year stint at McLaren was eventually brought to a close when Mercedes came in for him.

However, Mercedes was not initially sure it could afford Hamilton and the deal seemed too big a risk.

It is at this point that Ecclestone stepped in and offered to financially support the team to ensure the deal goes through.

How did Bernie facilitate Hamilton to Mercedes deal?

Bernie Ecclestone and Lewis Hamilton. Credit: crash.net
Bernie Ecclestone and Lewis Hamilton. Credit: crash.net

Ecclestone discussed a conversation he had with the iconic Niki Lauda regarding Hamilton.

This was captured in the Disney+ documentary series ‘Lucky!’ which had an interesting anecdote about the conversation surrounding Lewis.

Bernie said: “Niki [Lauda] realised what a valuable driver Lewis was, and he found some way of persuading him (Lewis Hamilton) he should be driving for Mercedes. If he didn’t get paid what he wanted, Lewis, he wasn’t going to agree.”

“So I said ‘well he’s somebody that I think Mercedes needs, I’ll pay the difference.’ But eventually Mercedes paid.”

Mercedes may have initially felt it spent way too much, but it was clear in the years that followed that the team made the right call in backing Hamilton.

However, they would also be the first to accept that Ecclestone had a leading hand in the deal going through.

The 92-year-old former boss may not have financially facilitated the deal, but by saying that he was ready to do so, it would certainly have given the Silver Arrows the confidence to seal the deal.

It is strange to think that Hamilton’s move to Mercedes was initially ridiculed by many, but eventually, history is witness to the fact that it was one of the best deals Mercedes could have hoped for.

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