Hamilton and Perez shuffle, demise of Schumacher heralds new F1 era

Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton on the Monza podium

Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton on the Monza podium

Sep.28 (Reuters) Lewis Hamilton will leave McLaren and race for the Mercedes Formula One team next season after agreeing to a three-year deal in which the Briton will replace seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber celebrates on the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday 10 June 2012.McLaren announced separately that Mexican Sergio Perez would partner 2009 champion Jenson Button in their line-up next season..

The announcements by Mercedes and McLaren on Friday ended a long-running tussle for one of the sport’s hottest properties as well as an almost umbilical link between Hamilton and Mercedes-powered McLaren.

McLaren have backed the Briton since his early teens when he was making an impression in karting, after Hamilton had approached former McLaren principal Ron Dennis at a gala awards ceremony to tell him of his dream of driving one of his cars in Formula One.

The first black F1 world champion, whose humble background contrasts with the Monaco lifestyle he now enjoys as one of the highest-paid athletes in the world, has never driven for anyone else but said it was time for a fresh challenge.

“Mercedes-Benz has such an incredible heritage in motorsport, along with a passion for winning which I share,” said the 27-year-old Hamilton, the 2008 champion and winner of 20 grands prix, including three so far this season.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren and Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 in parc ferme. Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday 14 April 2012.“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.”

British media reports suggested the deal was worth £ 60 million  ($97.15 million) with Hamilton in line for a basic annual salary of around £ 15 million.

The move to Mercedes came after the German manufacturer signed a new agreement with the sport’s commercial rights holders, guaranteeing their long-term commitment. They were the last of the major teams to do so.

There was no word on Schumacher’s future plans, with the 43-year-old former Ferrari ace widely expected to retire for the second time after making a comeback in 2010.

“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 in a statement. There is speculation that Schumacher could remain with Mercedes, but in a managerial / technical capacity.

“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.”

(L to R): Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1, Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari, Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 and Andrea Stella (ITA) Ferrari Race Engineer celebrates on the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Race Day, Valencia, Spain, Sunday 24 June 2012.Schumacher has been on the podium just once since his comeback, in Valencia this year, and has finished only half of the races this season.

With Hamilton moving to Mercedes, the sport will have five world champions at different teams next season even without Schumacher.

Hamilton, who is fourth in the current championship and 52 points behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso with six races remaining, will partner Nico Rosberg next year. The two were also team mates as teenagers in karting.

Mercedes have won one race since they took over the Brawn GP team in 2009 but principal Ross Brawn said that Hamilton’s arrival meant they could “now match any team on the grid”.

“The arrival of a driver of Lewis’s calibre is a testament to the standing of Mercedes-Benz in Formula One and I am proud that Lewis shares our vision and ambition for the success of the Silver Arrows,” he said.

“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.”

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren, Niki Lauda Austrian Niki Lauda, a triple world champion who retired in 1985 and is close to Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and commentates for German television, will join the Mercedes team as a non-executive chairman of the board.

McLaren, who made sure their announcement was ahead of Mercedes’s, also made positive noises about 22-year-old Perez.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh, who said Hamilton had informed him personally of his decision in a telephone call from Asia earlier in the week, said the Mexican would have equal status to 2009 champion Jenson Button in the team.

“We’re convinced that he’s not only talented and quick, but also that he’s willing and eager to learn,” he said. “He’s perfectly poised to develop into a world championship challenger.”

The sudden breakthrough in the driver market will now put Ferrari into focus, with Brazilian Felipe Massa out of contract and his fate yet to be decided, in addition to the opening created  at Sauber by the departure of the talented young Mexican.

Subbed by AJN.

  • Chuck

    Very happy for McLaren!

  • Matthias O’keeffe

    Very sad to hear that Michael is no more racing for Merc… Hope he can return to Ferrari to replace Massa..

  • Duke

    Hamilton will not have a reliable car with Merc GP,so prepare for the tantrums.
    As for Schumi leaving Merc,I for one am glad as their cars have one description only “ABSOLUTELY USELESS!”
    Schumi we still love you,whether you retire or drive for another team,your honour is intact….You have nothing to reproach yourself for,but Brawn & Merc GP have plenty.

  • Andy – London

    Such a contrast between Lewis and Vettel.

    Lewis’s problems outside of the car seem to affect him inside it, on several occasions. Vettel seems grounded and focused in and out of the car. 2 young champions, one with a better mentality than the other.
    I do like Lewis a lot, but even though he has driven brilliantly in the last few races, they have been clouded over by all of the “will he – won’t he” regarding McLaren and Mercedes. It feels like a long time since I watched a truly maverick drive by Lewis….the type of driving that made a lot of fans tune back into F1.

    Surely Jules Bianchi will get the Sauber seat. To top off all 3 days of the young driver test in both a Force India and a Ferrari tell us enough about his skill level – perfect for a start in F1 with Sauber. Just like Kimi, Massa, Perez and many more.

    I’d like to see Michael at Ferrari for one year. I wonder how much McLaren’s failure at Singapore and Michaels mistake had to do with swaying the choices.

  • Chris

    You forgot to Mention Vettel in the list of Sauber drivers
    And Yes its Sad to see Lewis Leaving mclaren but this is Life i was hoping he get some good Future

  • Mighty K

    Another wrong prediction by good ol’ Niki L. Mercedes AMG, please do not bring this man on board. Your newest prima donna will be a handful enough without Niki’s nebulous rhetoric. Whereas you never want to lose a champion, can’t help but wonder if McLaren is somehow happily relieved. Oh yes, and Luca di M., is this really the way you would have preferred this all shake out? Losing out on a somewhat still green Perez in order to retain Massa.

  • kmr-galatasaray

    Who do you remember who was the victorious general against Napoleon? But everyone remembers The Bonapart. SCHUMI’s 2nd carrer’s story likes this. Not well organised team, disastarious in-race strategies and all the time so cracky and slow car. Mercedes team could not have done well since their comeback to the sport. Especially SCHUMI’s big friend Ross is the bigest loser in F1 for so many years. MICHAEL has nothing to prove and still has every talent and willingness to race and win in F1. I hope he will deliver better and even win races with a real top-class team.

  • lio

    what a stu pid article from yalla. you really want that badly for schumi to leave f1 that you are saying it’s his demise? come on!