Hamilton Departs McLaren For Mercedes, Perez Takes Hamilton Place

The long-awaited end to the Lewis Hamilton contract saga ended but not with the outcome that had been expected. It had been anticipated that he would eventually re-sign with McLaren but that wasn’t to be the case. The Englishman has signed a three-year deal with Mercedes as he seeks a new start to his career away from the group he has always known.

It is a leap of faith given that Mercedes have only produced one race win since their comeback to the sport in 2010. In those three years, McLaren have taken victory 16 times in comparison to Mercedes’ sole win which Nico Rosberg achieved as this year’s Chinese Grand Prix.

“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 Formula 1 team,” said Hamilton.

“Mercedes-Benz has such an incredible heritage in motorsport, along with a passion for winning which I share.

“Together, 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 the world championships.”

As a true racer, Lewis pushed hard but sometimes went over the limit

Starting brightly with a remarkable nine consecutive podiums in his debut F1 season in 2007 which included his maiden F1 victory in Montreal, the relationship between driver and team at times seemed strained. Hamilton was often at the center of attention due to his behaviour which included an arrest in 2010 in the week of the Australian Grand Prix for doing tyre burnouts on a street in Melbourne in his road car. Girlfriend troubles are nothing new to a man of his age but Hamilton’s on-off relationship with American singer Nicole Scherzinger had a clear impact on a disastrous 2011 season where he clashed with fellow drivers at numerous moments. A part of McLaren since he was in his early teens, it is a move which cuts the cord which some felt would never be broken between the driver and his boyhood team. The man has made his move.

Welcoming him to the team, Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn was delighted to have signed a driver of such high standing.

“I am delighted to welcome Lewis Hamilton to our team,” said Mercedes boss Ross Brawn. “The arrival of a driver of Lewis’ calibre is a testament to the standing of Mercedes-Benz in Formula 1 and I am proud that Lewis shares our vision and ambition for the success of the Silver Arrows.

“I believe that the combination of Lewis and Nico will be the most dynamic and exciting pairing on the grid next year, and I am looking forward to what we can achieve together.”

Nico and Lewis team not for the first time, but for the first time in F1

Nico Rosberg and his new team-mate will not be driving together for the first time, as they formerly raced with the same team in their karting days in 2000.

Much speculation centred around Lewis being offered more freedom with sponsorship deals and image rights than he was getting at McLaren, along with financial details. However, Ross Brawn stressed that he was not on a greater amount of money than he was offered at McLaren.

“There is a competitive market for drivers and Lewis is as competitive as anyone else in that respect. But Lewis didn’t come here because we offered more money – because we didn’t. I think, first and foremost, Lewis is a racing driver. That has to be the key to everything. If he’s not successful as a racing driver, none of the other stuff can happen.

“Everybody involved here and involved with Lewis recognised that, first of all, he has to be a successful racing driver. Because if he’s not a successful racing driver, nothing else can happen. That’s the key thing.”

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said that the team did all in their power to keep Hamilton under their ownership, but also looked forward to the new driver pairing of Button and Perez.

“We went a long way to make a good offer to Lewis but ultimately it takes two to get to a signature. We clearly didn’t agree terms and we’ve moved in a different direction.”

“If the question is do we blame XIX? I don’t. The fact is that Lewis is a great racing driver; he’s got to make the decisions in his life.

“We had lots of discussions with XIX. We went into lots of details, and drew up very complex contracts. We negotiated lots of detail, lots of freedom within those and it was a very good commercial offer.”

“We’ve got a world champion called Jenson Button who has won 14 grands prix. He was utterly dominant two races ago in Spa with a fantastic drive. Jenson has experience.

“We’ve got this exciting young Latin who when you meet him is intelligent, is charming, he’s humble but deeply hungry. He’s coming here with the aim of winning the world championship next year.”

Perez will expect to be racing for the victories at McLaren which his potential has shown he could be capable of

Replacing one big name is one which may not be quite as big at present but could well be. Sergio Perez had a good debut year in 2011 and has had an even stronger 2012 with Sauber. The Mexican has stood on the podium three times this year, with his third coming weeks ago in Italy. At 22, Perez is the same age as Hamilton was when he began racing for McLaren in 2007.

Drivers have in the past, moved to a championship-contending team after impressing in lesser machinery and failed to live up to epxectation, but Perez is confident that he is ready and worthy of the opportunity.

“I’m under no illusion that it is indeed a very big step – as it would be for any driver – but I’m ready for it,” said Perez.

“So, while I’m still fully focused on doing my best for Sauber for the remainder of this season, I’m already massively looking forward to working with everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, and with Jenson, who’s someone I’ve long admired as a brilliant driver and a great champion.”

“I am, and always will be, extremely grateful to Peter [Sauber] and everybody at the Sauber Formula 1 team for their belief in me, and for giving me the chance to race in Formula 1,” he said.

He added: “I’d like to thank Carlos Slim Jr, who has helped me since I was 14 years old, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today.

“Our journey together over the past eight years has been an incredible one, and I’ll do everything in my power to deliver with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes the results that he and I have been working so hard and so long to achieve together.”

It seems that Schumacher’s driving days in F1 are over

It is not certain where Michael Schumacher fits in following his replacement, and the German made no mention of where his future lay, just that for now his focus was on the season’s remaining races.

“I have had three nice years with the team which unfortunately did not go as well as we all would have wanted on the sporting side,” Schumacher said.

“I wish Lewis well and for the team to achieve the success we worked so hard for in the build-up. I would like to thank the team for their trust and all the guys for their unconditional commitment. I will now concentrate on the next races.”

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