News of the Year: Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes
23 December, 2012
Dec.23 (Grand Prix 247) Lewis Hamilton signed a three-year deal with the Mercedes Formula One team to replace seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher in 2013. For GPI this was by far the biggest news of the year.
The move for Hamilton, the 2008 F1 world champion, came shortly after Mercedes-Benz signed a new commercial agreement with the sport’s commercial rights holders, guaranteeing the team’s long-term commitment with Niki Lauda, a triple world champion, also joining the team as a non-executive chairman of the board.
Hamilton’s McLaren team pre-empted the Stuttgart announcement by revealing Sergio Perez as his replacement for next season.
27-year-old Hamilton, nurtured through the McLaren Mercedes-Benz Young Driver Support Programme as a teenager, made his F1 debut in 2007, almost winning the championship as a rookie when he came second behind Kimi Raikkonen in his first season at the pinnacle of the sport. He won the title the following year, but is still waiting for his second. He was fourth in the championship this past season.
“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 Mercedez AMG Petronas Formula One team,” Hamilton, who at the end of 2012 had raced in 110 grand prix, said in a 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.”
He will partner Nico Rosberg next year. Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said that Hamilton’s arrival meant they could now “match any team on the grid”.
“Looking ahead to 2013, I am delighted to welcome Lewis Hamilton to our team,” said Brawn. “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.”
With Mercedes going through an uncompetitive patch in the final races of the 2012 season, speculation emerged that Hamilton may have been regretting his decision, but the Briton denied the reports which emerged after McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh hinted that there may have been some doubt ahead of the United States Grand Prix.
Hamilton rebuffed the suggestion, “I was a little surprised to hear that, it’s absolutely not the case. I’ve got a great team, I’ve been with them such a long time so I’m sure everyone has some emotions within the team but I’m still here giving 100 percent for the last two races and of course it’s quite emotional for me. But I’m very, very happy with the decision I have made.”
But Whitmarsh was adamant, “I hope he thinks today that he’s made an awful mistake and I hope he thinks that next year. He’s made that decision and he has to live with that decision.”
Meanwhile, according to Mercedes, Schumacher was kept fully in the picture regarding the team’s courting of and subsequent negotiations with Hamilton.
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