One of Formula 1’s worst-kept secrets is finally confirmed, with Lewis Hamilton signing a three-year deal to join the Mercedes F1 outfit in place of Michael Schumacher. Hamilton’s current employer, McLaren, has in turn immediately announced that it has secured the services of hugely impressive Sauber driver Sergio Perez.
Hamilton has been embroiled in a series of back-and-forth negotiations with McLaren and Mercedes, who are both understood to have made offers and counter-offers to secure his services.
Ultimately, it was Mercedes who came in with the better deal for a three-year term, leading to the Englishman to confirm his split with McLaren, with whom he has been contracted since his teenage years.
“It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin a new chapter racing for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team,” Hamilton said. “Mercedes-Benz has such an incredible heritage in motorsport, along with a passion for winning which I share.
“We can grow and rise to this new challenge. I believe that I can help steer the Silver Arrows to the top and achieve our joint ambitions of winning world championships.”
Not wanting to give Hamilton all the limelight, McLaren moved to announce its signing of Perez before Mercedes’ announcement came through.
Perez has been one of the revelations of the 2012 season, particularly in terms of his amazing tyre management that has led to him claiming two second-placed finishes this year.
“I’m thrilled and delighted to have become a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver,” the Mexican said. “The McLaren name is one of the greatest in the history of Formula 1.
“McLaren has been a team that every racing driver has aspired to drive for – I was brought up on the great stories of Ayrton Senna’s many World Championship triumphs for McLaren – and I’m truly honoured that they’ve chosen me to partner Jenson from 2013 onwards. I’ve spent the 2012 season working very hard to demonstrate my potential, but I’ve always remained humble and focused.
“I am, and always will be, extremely grateful to Peter and everybody at the Sauber Formula 1 team for their belief in me, and for giving me the chance to race in F1. In fact, they gave me the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what I can do – and I’m now equally grateful to Martin (Whitmarsh) and everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for giving me the chance to take this next very big step in my career.”
The news means that Michael Schumacher’s three-year comeback stint with Mercedes – which has yielded just a single podium finish – is now over, and the 43-year-old is now on the driver market or facing a final decision to bow out of the sport.
It will be interesting to see if he wants to remain on the grid – evidently for less-competitive outfits – or whether he will have to face up to the decision to end his Formula 1 racing career. Were he to remain on the F1 grid for one more year, he would eclipse Rubens Barrichello’s record for the number of Grand Prix starts – one of the few records that he is still able to claim.
We’ve questioned the logic of a Hamilton switch to the Mercedes camp in previous articles, and only time will tell if he’s made the right decision to jump ship from a team with a proven track record to one that has so far shown a history of unfulfilled potential.