x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Lewis Hamilton makes his move and joins Mercedes-GP

The 2008 world champion moves to the German team, with Sergio Perez taking his vacated seat at McLaren.

Lewis Hamilton, right, will partner Nico Rosberg, left, at Mercedes-GP next season.
Lewis Hamilton, right, will partner Nico Rosberg, left, at Mercedes-GP next season.

After weeks of supposition and silence, finally we have answers. Lewis Hamilton confirmed yesterday he has signed a three-year deal to race for Mercedes-GP from 2013 onwards. Sauber's Sergio Perez confirmed he will fill the resultant vacancy at McLaren-Mercedes. And Michael Schumacher, save for a surprise, will retire from the sport for a second time.

It had been known for some time that Hamilton, the 27-year-old Englishman, had two contract offers on his negotiating table: one from the team he has been with since the age of 13 and that helped him win the 2008 world championship; the other from the German manufacturers looking to return to the summit of motorsport for the first time as a modern works team.

In the end, Hamilton opted for Mercedes where he will replace Schumacher and partner childhood friend Nico Rosberg.

"It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin a new chapter," Hamilton said in a written statement.

"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."

Ross Brawn, the Mercedes team principal, hailed the arrival of Lewis as "testament to the standing" of the German marque and added: "The combination of Lewis and Nico will be the most dynamic and exciting pairing on the grid next year."

Although Hamilton has always maintained his decision on where he would be racing would not come down to money, it is understood Mercedes will pay him more than he was being offered at McLaren.

More importantly, however, is that now he will have more freedom to maximise his personal endorsements and sponsorships.

Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal at McLaren, said if Hamilton is moving marques in a quest to win more titles then he is making a gross error of judgement.

"For anyone leaving McLaren, and he wants to win, I think that's a mistake because I have faith and belief in this team. Whether you measure it over the last four races, four years or 40 years, we're a fantastic team," Whitmarsh said.

"I wouldn't advise anyone to leave McLaren if they want to win."

Perez seemingly reads from the same hymn sheet.

A few hours after McLaren announced they had signed the 22-year-old Mexican - who reached Sauber by way of the Ferrari driver academy - Perez tweeted: "McLaren is the best place to be in the world of F1".

Whitmarsh, who had earlier said Hamilton would forever be recognised as a McLaren world champion, added he hopes Perez will join the exclusive club before too long.

"While Sergio is still developing his palette of skills, we're convinced he's not only talented and quick, but also he's willing and eager to learn," he said.

"He's perfectly poised to develop into a world championship challenger."

Perez's move to Sauber leaves a vacancy that it is unlikely Michael Schumacher will fill.

The seven-time world champion turns 44 in January and is expected to retire from the sport for a second, and final, time at the end of this season.

Instead, Jaime Alguersuari, the sport's youngest-ever Formula One driver when he first raced for Toro Rosso in 2009 at the age of 19, is primed to return to the sport after a year as tyre manufacturer Pirelli's test driver.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE & Gary Meenaghan @GMeenaghan