Belfast Telegraph

Lewis Hamilton set for Mercedes after McLaren exit

By Ian Parkes

McLaren have today confirmed signing Sergio Perez on a multi-year deal from next season as replacement for Lewis Hamilton who is on his way to Mercedes.

The Woking-based marque have trumped an announcement from Mercedes regarding Hamilton's switch with a statement regarding the 22-year -old Mexican.

Perez said: "I'm thrilled and delighted to have become a McLaren driver."

Perez, currently with Sauber and a product of Ferrari's young driver academy, had been linked with a move to Maranello as replacement for Felipe Massa.

The big question now, which has still to be answered, surrounds the future of seven-times champion Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton will partner close friend Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, leaving Schumacher out in the cold, but with the prospect of staying on as a brand ambassador for the team.

With Hamilton's move sparking a domino effect there is a possibility 43-year-old Schumacher could yet join another team, but it is likely he will retire for a second time.

However, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo scotched that move by claiming Perez lacked the necessary experience, despite finishing on the podium on three occasions this season, most recently in Italy behind Hamilton.

Although McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh claimed at Monza there was "no plan B" in the eventuality of Hamilton leaving, it is now clear the team have worked quickly to bring in Perez.

Perez added: "The McLaren name is one of the greatest in the history of Formula One.

"For more than 40 years McLaren has been a team 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 they've chosen me to partner Jenson (Button) 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 (Sauber) and everybody at the Sauber Formula One team for their belief in me, and for giving me the chance to race in Formula One.

"In fact, they gave me the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what I can do, and I'm now equally grateful to Martin and everyone at McLaren for giving me the chance to take this next very big step in my career.

"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.

"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 McLaren, and with Jenson, who's someone I've long admired as a brilliant driver and a great champion."

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