Lewis Hamilton stuns McLaren as he jumps ship for Mercedes
Schumacher heads for retirement as Hamilton switches teams, and leaves McLaren shattered
LEWIS HAMILTON has quit McLaren and will race for Mercedes from next season. The unexpected news comes after months of speculation about the driver's future after contract talks with the British manufacturer reached an impasse earlier this year.
Hamilton will take over at Mercedes from veteran Michael Schumacher, who is expected to announce his second retirement from motor racing later today. Young Sauber driver Sergio Perez will replace the 2008 world champion at McLaren.
Hamilton has agreed a three-year deal with the German team that could earn him £60m including win bonuses. He will also be given more freedom to thrash out personal sponsorship deals and that could boost his earnings to £100m, says The Sun.
The move will have "huge repercussions throughout Formula 1," says the BBC. "Hamilton's decision is a huge blow to McLaren, who will now have to do without the speed and inspirational talent of a man they have nurtured since he was 13 years old. And it is a correspondingly massive coup for Mercedes."
The German team is gaining a driver that The Guardian describes as "the biggest box office attraction in the sport" and his absence will be keenly felt at McLaren. "Hamilton is simply irreplaceable," says the paper. "And sponsors may come to the same conclusion."
McLaren are trying to put "a brave face" on the news, reports Sky Sports. But it says: "Hamilton's defection will be a shattering blow to their morale - not least because of heightened expectation in recent week that he would, after months of speculation predicting his departure, ultimately decide to stay."
There is also surprise that Hamilton has elected to quit a team that has won three of the last four Grand Prix and move to an outfit that has one win in the last three years.
But the 2008 world champion feels he has been forced out of McLaren, the team that has nurtured him for 14 years. "Hamilton, it seems, never really wanted to leave McLaren," explains the Guardian. "But after being offered a mere two-thirds of his original pay packet - and, it is alleged, asked to increase an already heavy load of sponsorship commitments, he has changed his mind. It is a huge gamble for the driver."
But it is not just about cash says the Daily Mail. "More important than money - and Hamilton is known to be cautious with his finances - is his desire to improve on a return of one title in five completed seasons, a disappointing statistic for a driver who envisaged himself as a serial champion on his much-heralded arrival in Formula One."
The move also brings the curtain down on another great career, reports The Daily Telegraph. "The announcement is almost certain to end the career of the most successful driver in Formula One, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, whose return three years ago to the sport he once bestrode like a colossus palpably failed to live up to expectations."
Hamilton's replacement at McLaren, 22-year-old Perez, is regarded as an up and coming prospect and could have other benefits. "The attraction of Perez, apart from his ability behind the wheel, is his relationship with Telmex and its chairman and CEO Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man," says the Telegraph. "The telecommunications giant would be a welcome addition to the McLaren stable should Vodafone decide not to renew its title sponsorship deal, as has been rumoured."