Three-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who won his last two titles with the team, was ‘desperate’ to drive for Red Bull Racing following his exit from McLaren in 2012, according to team principal Christian Horner.
Hamilton won the first of his championship titles with McLaren in 2008; he had made his debut with the Woking-based team only a year prior, driving alongside two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso.
He was with the team for 6 full seasons until the end of 2012, with Horner alleging that Hamilton approached the team, which had that year won three championship titles on the spot, with eventual 4-time World Champion leading the charge.
Vettel would win the championship in 2013 too, giving himself and the team a fourth consecutive championship title.
Horner told F1 Racing Magazine that he could “..not accommodate Vettel and Hamilton on the same team,” and with Vettel in the form he was then, it would have in fact been a bad decision on the part of the team to sign the Briton to their ranks.
Hamilton had had significant success with McLaren, finishing on the podium in his debut Formula One race and 2nd overall in the championship that same year. The following year, he would go on to win his first ever championship title with the team.
2012 was not the ideal year for the Briton, who had 5 retirements that year, and had been in somewhat of a decline from the form he had started out in.
Formula One icon Michael Schumacher, who had been driving alongside compatriot Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, had announced in 2012 that he would take his second and final retirement at the end of that year, leaving a seat at Mercedes vacant.
Horner said in the interview that he had been instrumental in Hamilton joining Mercedes, convincing the team’s non-executive chairman, F1 champion Niki Lauda, to sign him. He alleged that it had been a strategic decision, taken in the best interest of Red Bull.
“'The McLaren had been very competitive in 2011 and 2012, and I thought it would probably be better for us for him to be at Mercedes than McLaren,” he said, adding that he had not at the time predicted the “..powerhouse Mercedes would become.”
Last year, Hamilton took his second consecutive title with the team – also their second consecutive constructors’ title, and his own third overall, with every team on the grid admitting that Mercedes had the car to beat in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and their engines had been far superior to those of other teams – a fact Scuderia Ferrari principal Maurizio Arrivabene acknowledged in mid-2015.
Red Bull, meanwhile, have had a contentious year, ending and then repairing their relationship with engine manufacturers Renault, although they have seen significant changes in sponsorship and will be rebranded in the 2016 season.
Both Red Bull and Mercedes have confirmed that their driver lineups for the season will remain constant, with the Bulls retaining Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat while Mercedes will continue to race with Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, whose relationship has been the subject of much speculation throughout the 2015 season.
The 2016 Formula One season will commence in March, beginning with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on the 20th of March.