BERLIN, Germany, September 28 – British driver Lewis Hamilton has signed a three-year deal to drive for Mercedes from 2013, replacing seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, the firm annouced on Friday.
“Lewis will replace Michael Schumacher, who over the past three years has made a significant contribution” to the constructor, the firm said in a statement, describing the appointment as a “new chapter” for the team.
Hamilton will drive alongside Nico Rosberg, who will be in his fourth year at Mercedes and won his first Formula One race this year in China.
Schumacher said had enjoyed his three years at Mercedes, although he accepted that results had been disappointing.
“I wish Lewis well and for the team to achieve the success we worked so hard for in the build-up,” he said in the statement. 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.”
Hamilton himself described his move as a “fresh challenge”.
“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,” he added.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn paid tribute to Schumacher’s dedication and enthusiasm for the sport but said he was thrilled to have secured the services of Hamilton.
“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,” he added.
Hamilton will be replaced by Sauber’s Mexican driver Sergio Perez at the start of the 2013 season, McLaren said following the development.
But announcing his departure, team principal Martin Whitmarsh made no reference to the disquiet, instead paying tribute to Hamilton, who drove McLaren to the world championship title in 2008.
“It’s entirely appropriate that I should take this opportunity to pass on our thanks to Lewis,” Whitmarsh said.
“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.”
McLaren said it had signed a multi-year deal with 22-year-old Perez, adding that that pairing him with Jenson Button would be a “perfect blend of youth and experience”.
Perez said he was “thrilled and delighted” to join McLaren.
“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,” he said.
“I am, and always will be, extremely grateful to Peter (Sauber) and everybody at the Sauber Formula 1 team for their belief in me, and for giving me the chance to race in Formula 1.”