Mercedes: Lewis, Lauda in…Perez up, Schumacher out

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It’s official, Lewis Hamilton will be driving for Mercedes AMG Petronas in 2013. The long-time driver for McLaren will move to Mercedes and team up with existing driver Nico Rosberg starting in 2013. The move will see the retirement of Michael Schumacher who 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’s the second time Schumacher has been set out to pasture in favor of a young charger as Ferrari parted company with the 7-time champion for Kimi Raikkonen which prompted his first retirement. Having returned to Formula One, the German ace hasn’t had the success he’d wanted.

For Lewis’s part, he’s looking for a new challenge:

 “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. 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.”

Ross Brawn, team boss of Mercedes, is grateful for Schumacher’s help and excited about Lewis’s arrival:

“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 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.”

Many suggest the timing of the entire event was crucial. Mercedes were mulling over their investment in F1, the Concorde Agreement was being negotiated and no one was quite sure if Schumacher would stay beyond his three-year deal. Apparently all the planets aligned and things fell into the place but AUTOSPORT reports that Schumacher’s delay in announcing his plans for 2013 are what spurred the team to actually seek Hamilton out in the first place. Mercedes Benz motor sport boss Norbert Haug said:

“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. Over the past three years, Michael has been a great driver and an exemplary ambassador for MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS. His experience has been an important factor in guiding the development of our team in Brackley and we extend our sincere thanks to Michael for his loyalty, team play and commitment. We will be working very hard together in order to achieve the best possible results in the remainder of the 2012 season.

“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.”

I can’t help but read into the words the notion that the team can now really focus on winning with a talent like Lewis. No doubt they can, Lewis is brilliant but I doubt very much that Schumacher and rosberg were the elements holding the team back. There are other factors at play and perhaps that is why the team have announced the appointment of Niki Lauda in a management role as a non-executive chairman on the team’s board of directors. It would be interesting to know what the conversations at Mercedes have been over the last three months at the board level. bringing Niki in is fine but it seems there was a tenuous moment this summer with the Concorde Agreement negotiations that could ahve seen the team leave F1 all together and rumors suggest that F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone was keen to work this out and keep the marque in the sport.

So how do you feel?

Regardless, Lewis has a new lease on life in Formula One and Mercedes will aim to give him the best possible car they can. That, should it come to fruition, could be a daunting prospect but that Rosberg kid can hustle a car as well and in Nico, Lewis will have a competitive teammate to work with. I’ll be honest, may fans have tweeted shock at the move…this was as shocking and secretive as the infamous Ralf-to-Toyota move so I’m not quite sure where the surprise is coming from. The big question is, do Lewis fans feel positive or negative about the move? I’ve seen both.

As a Sergio Perez fan, I’ve now got to reconcile the very thought of cheering for McLaren victories but that’s okay, Grace had to cheer for Kimi victories at Ferrari and I know that hurt. Will you be cheering for Lewis Hamilton victories at Mercedes? Is your love of all things Lewis transcendental? Can you cheer for Merc instead of McLaren? Was your F1 viewing sadly deprived of context that begged for more Niki Lauda? For Macca fans, can you get behind Sergio as the Lewis replacement? Will Button be your man now? let us know how you’re feeling.

 

 

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