After weeks of speculation, it has been confirmed by Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team that Lewis Hamilton will drive for the Silver Arrows alongside Nico Rosberg in 2013. The move ends Hamilton’s long association with McLaren, and also heralds Michael Schumacher’s departure from the Mercedes cockpit. Hamilton’s seat at McLaren will be taken by Sergio Perez, the team confirmed this morning.
In Hamilton’s six seasons at McLaren, he has won the 2008 World Championship, taken 20 race victories, stood on the podium 48 times and secured 24 pole positions. He is regarded, rightly, by many as being the quickest driver on the grid, and is always a good bet to be competitive, regardless of the quality of his car. Mercedes have found themselves a driver who will almost certainly deliver World Championships.
Hamilton has taken an important step by leaving McLaren. His association with the team started when he was a teenager, and he has been nurtured through the ranks by Ron Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh. It is now time for him to leave the proverbial nest and create his own place in Formula One, without being forever thought of as a McLaren driver. McLaren is a great team, but Hamilton is more than just a team member. He has the potential to become a truly great driver and needs to start building his own legacy.
Michael Schumacher’s future has yet to be announced by either himself or Mercedes. While it is clear that he will not be driving for the Silver Arrows past the end of 2012, no firm indication has been given of an intention to retire. In recent weeks, there has been speculation that the seven-time World Champion could move to Sauber to replace McLaren-bound Sergio Perez, but that is just a rumour at this stage. It has also been suggested that Schumacher could move into a management role at Mercedes. With the wealth of experience he has at the top level of motor sport, Schumacher would certainly continue to be an asset in the team, even out of the cockpit.
Although 2013 is now decided for Hamilton, for the moment he needs to remain focused on 2012. He is a massive 52 points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso, but history has shown that as long as the title is mathematically open, anything can happen. With six races to go, Hamilton can still win the championship. That being said, will McLaren give full support to a departing driver? Or will they look to 2013 as their title year?