Lewis Hamilton will replace Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes garage despite McLaren offering him the chance to become the highest paid Formula 1 star on the circuit.
McLaren misread Hamilton’s situation during the contract talks and had to scramble from £8m to £17m when they learned of advanced discussions between Hamilton’s management and Mercedes.
In a statement released yesterday the Woking team attempted to save face, saying they would have the perfect blend of youth and experience in 2013 as the 22 year old Mexican takes his place alongside 2009 World Champion Jenson Button.
Rumours had been rife that the 2008 champion would leave the team he has been associated with since he was 13 and it became apparent late last night that something was in the offing. McLaren beat Mercedes to the punch, announcing their new signing before the German marque could release their news.
In a statement McLaren said the team believed that Perez had all the necessary ingredients to become one of the best drivers in the world.
“In just two short years, Sergio has made a stunning impression on Formula One, taking a string of hugely impressive giant-killing podium finishes while combining a deft turn of speed with considerable maturity, and showcasing the potential ability to become one of the biggest stars in global motorsport.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh also paid tribute to Hamilton as the signing of Perez spells the end for a relationship that has endured for 14 years.
“It’s entirely appropriate that I should take this opportunity to pass on our thanks to Lewis. He wrote a huge chapter of his life and career with us, and was, and always will be, a fine member of an exclusive club: the McLaren world champions’ club.”
Whitmarsh added: “It goes without saying that we all wish him well for the future, just as it also goes without saying that we hope and believe that Sergio, too, will become a member of that exclusive club before too long.”
The team also said that they would be concentrating all their efforts on the remaining six races of the season as both Button and Hamilton are in the hunt for the world title.
Perez spoke of his delight at joining McLaren from Sauber, where he has impressed many shrewd judges this season with his raw pace and podium finishes.
“I’m thrilled and delighted to have become a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver. The McLaren name is one of the greatest in the history of Formula One. For more than 40 years 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,” Perez said.