Sir Stirling Moss, the last British driver to race for the Silver Arrows, believes Lewis Hamilton may have made a mistake swapping McLaren for Mercedes, adding that the German-owned outfit of today cannot be compared with the legendary team of the post-War era.
Hamilton's decision to quit McLaren and gamble on the "fresh challenge" offered by Mercedes GP, now based at Brackley, has generated huge interest, splitting fans roughly down the middle in terms of the wisdom of the move.
Speaking before Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, Moss, who raced alongside Argentina's five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio before Mercedes-Benz pulled out of motor racing following the 1955 Le Mans tragedy, said that he could not understand it.
"When I had the chance back then I grabbed it because I thought [Mercedes] were the best team at the time," the 83 year-old told The Sunday Telegraph.
"Nowadays I think other teams are better. Driving for Mercedes today is quite a different thing to back in those days. I don't know that you can really compare the two. There is no Alfred Neubauer [team manager], no Fangio.
"There are some brilliant individuals; Ross [Brawn, the Mercedes team principal] is brilliant, for example. But Mercedes-Benz as an organ is very different to how it was. We are not comparing like-for-like with the great Silver Arrows. Personally I don't think it was too clever to leave McLaren but we'll see."
Moss, who never won the world championship after his gentlemanly conduct helped Mike Hawthorn to pip him to the 1958 title by a point, conceded that he did not know whether Hamilton's relationship with McLaren was such that he felt compelled to move. "I think that may be the case, although I cannot say for sure as so much happens behind closed doors. But I really think that if I was a driver now, I would have preferred to have gone to Ferrari. With Fernando Alonso, they would be two really powerful drivers. I thought Fangio and me were a pretty good pairing. Of course, I don't know whether Alonso would have wanted him there. But that's what I would have done."
Of the week's other major talking point, the announcement that Michael Schumacher is to retire again at the end of the season, Moss said the German should never have come back in the first place. "I'm not Michael's greatest fan," he said. "I just don't think he was such a great driver.
A great driver, someone who won seven world titles, would have been able to see off a driver like [Nico] Rosberg without any problem. Michael couldn't. He was bloody good, no doubt about it, but he wasn't great. Was he good for the sport? With one hat on I would say yes. He
brought Ferrari back to the forefront and provided a lot of publicity. But with my other hat on I would say he was certainly a tainted champion."
Told that Schumacher said last week that if he had had his time again he would have "done things differently", Moss said: "That just proves he's not a bloody fool. He is thinking of his reputation."
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel claimed pole for today's race, due to start at 7am UK time. It was the 34th pole of the German's career, lifting him to third in the all-time standings behind Schumacher and Ayrton Senna.
McLaren's Jenson Button starts eighth after a five-place grid penalty while his team-mate Hamilton's dwindling title hopes this season received another blow as the Englishman could only qualify in ninth.