After all the rumours and speculation, it is finally official — Lewis Hamilton is moving to the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 Team from 2013. Vacating his seat at the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 Team, he has signed a three-year agreement worth £45 million (S$90 million) and an additional £15 million (S$30 million) in bonuses if he performs well. This marks the end of the 27-year-old Briton's 14-year relationship with McLaren since he signed with them at the age of 13. Critics believe that one of the main reasons behind Hamilton's move is for monetary reasons.
"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 1 Team. 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," said the 2008 Formula 1 World Champion.
Sparking off a series of musical chair movements within the Formula 1 paddock, Hamilton's move to Mercedes sees Sergio Perez taking over his place at McLaren. Managed by Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment, Mercedes will be granting more freedom (than McLaren did) for the securing of personal endorsements.
Hamilton will be teaming up with childhood buddy Nico Rosberg once again. The two of them go way back to their younger days as rivals on the track and even being team-mates in 2000 at TeamMBM.com in Formula A karting.
From the beginning, Hamilton's career has been strongly associated with Mercedes-Benz and McLaren from the beginning. He drove with Mercedes-Benz engines during his two seasons in the Formula 3 Euroseries where he won the 2005 championship.
Every one of his 104 Formula 1 race starts have been powered by Mercedes-Benz and Hamilton is one of four drivers, along with Juan Manuel Fangio, Mika Häkkinen and Jenson Button, to have won the Formula 1 world championship with the power of Mercedes-Benz. With 20 Formula 1 race victories to his name, he is on par with Häkkinen as the most successful Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 driver.
Mercedes returned to Formula 1 in 2010 with a stake in Brawn GP, which was created from the remnants of the Honda Formula 1 Team, hence rebranding the team to become Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 Team. Close to almost three seasons now, the team secured its first victory when Rosberg won the Chinese Grand Prix this year. Rosberg later took another podium finish at the Monaco Grand Prix and Schumacher scored his only podium finish of his comeback when he finished third in Valencia.
Meanwhile, seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher's appearance at the Mercedes-Benz Singapore Centre during the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix week might have been the last you saw of him in the capacity of a driver. He is possibly making his second retirement from the sport and remaining with the team as a brand ambassador.
Schumacher said, "I have had three nice years with the team which unfortunately did not go as well as we all would have wanted on the sporting side. I wish Lewis well and for the team to achieve the success we worked so hard for in the build-up. 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."
It was also announced that three-time World Champion Niki Lauda will be bringing his extensive experience to the team in the role of a non-executive chairman on the team's board of directors.
Team principal Ross Brawn commented on the latest proceedings, "On behalf of Mercedes AMG PETRONAS, I would first of all like to thank Michael Schumacher for the important contribution he has made to the growth of our team over the past three seasons. His energy and commitment have never wavered, even when results have not matched our own expectations, and we are determined to finish the 2012 season together on a high. As always, it has been a pleasure to work with Michael.
"Looking ahead to 2013, I am delighted to welcome Lewis Hamilton to our team. The arrival of a driver of Lewis' calibre is a testament to the standing of Mercedes-Benz in Formula 1 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."
Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.