F1 2012: Lewis Hamilton to swap McLaren for Mercedes
PUBLISHED: 10:25 28 September 2012 | UPDATED: 20:46 06 October 2012
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton is swapping the McLaren team for rivals Mercedes in a multi-million pound three-year deal from next season.
The 27-year-old F1 star from Hertfordshire is leaving the team he won the world title with in 2008 for the Silver Arrows from the start of the 2013 season.
Hamilton will continue to drive for McLaren until the end of the current season before replacing F1 legend Michael Schumacher at Mercedes AMG Petronas.
There he will team up with good friend and former karting pal Nico Rosberg. The pair were team-mates at TeamMBM.com in Formula A karting in 2000.
Hamilton, who grew up in Tewin where his family still live, has been backed by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz since his teenage karting days.
"I believe that I can help steer the Silver Arrows to the top and achieve our joint ambitions of winning the world championships."
He joined the McLaren F1 team in 2007 and finished runner-up in the world championship in his rookie season behind Kimi Raikkonen but ahead of then teammate Fernando Alonso.
The Stevenage-born racer claimed the world title the following year, taking the crown at the final corner of the final race in Brazil.
Hamilton has, so far, scored 48 podiums for McLaren, 24 pole positions and 20 wins for the British team.
He said: “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 AMG Petronas Formula One team.
2012 Drivers’ Championship
1 Fernando Alonso 194 pts
2 Sebastian Vettel 165
3 Kimi Räikkönen 149
4 Lewis Hamilton 142
5 Mark Webber 133
6 Jenson Button 119
7 Nico Rosberg 93
8 Romain Grosjean 82
9 Sergio Pérez 65
10 Felipe Massa 51
11 Paul Di Resta 44
12 Michael Schumacher 43
“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.”
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, Hamilton’s boss from next season, said: “The arrival of a driver of Lewis’ 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.
“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.
“Over the past three years, we have been putting in place the foundations and building blocks that are needed to compete regularly for the world championship.
“Behind the scenes, we have assembled a team that is technically stronger, more experienced and better resourced, thanks to the support of Petronas and all of our loyal team partners.
“The potential is now there to match any other team on the grid, which is the minimum standard for a Mercedes-Benz works team. Our task is now to translate that potential into on-track performance for next season and beyond.”
Norbert Haug, vice president of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, added: “Mercedes-Benz has supported Lewis throughout his career, from karting, to Formula 3, to our successful partnership with McLaren, and it will be a very nice moment for all of us in the team to see him at the wheel of a works Silver Arrow next season, following in the tradition of British Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix drivers Sir Stirling Moss and Richard Seaman.
“Of course, it takes a great driver to replace such a legendary and successful one as Michael Schumacher.”
He added: “The central task of any racing team is to deliver a car that allows the drivers to fully express their talents.
“In the 52 races for our works team, we have achieved a number of important milestones, including an historic victory for Nico Rosberg in China this year.
“We know that it is now time to take the next step, in order to deliver consistent front-running performances in the tradition of the Silver Arrows. Every single person in our team is working with total commitment and focus on achieving this ambition.”
Hamilton retired from last weekend’s 2012 Singapore Grand Prix with gearbox trouble and currently sits fourth in the world championship standings.
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes this morning (Friday) announced the signing of 22-year-old Mexican Sergio Perez to replace Hamilton in a multi-year deal from the start of the 2013 season.
Perez will form a driving partnership with 2009 world champion Jenson Button.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh thanked Hamilton for his efforts over the past six years.
Whitmarsh said: “It’s entirely appropriate that I should take this opportunity to pass on our thanks to Lewis [Hamilton].
“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.
“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.”
Mercedes-Benz currently supply engines for McLaren and new engine regulations come into force in 2014.
Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft, who knows Hamilton well, tweeted: “Lewis Hamilton moves to Mercedes. A big decision & with 2012 Engine Regs in mind it may turn out to be the right one”
He added: “I could be proved wrong but engine performance in 2014 could be such a large determinator in how fast your car is such are the reg changes.
“That to drive for a team that manufactures their engines could be advantageous. Same engines to customers but Merc will have prior knowledge
“That could have been an influencing factor in Lewis decision as could the money on offer as could the fact that this team won titles in 2009”
In reply to responses, Crofty also tweeted: “And yes I agree with you all, it’s a massive gamble but sometimes in life the gamble pays off. It’s not been an easy decision for Lewis”