McLaren signs Perez, Hamilton set for Mercedes
WOKING, England (AP) - Formula One team McLaren has signed Mexican driver Sergio Perez for next season, part of a shakeup that is expected to see Lewis Hamilton move to Mercedes.
Hamilton's switch to Mercedes is expected to be announced later Friday. He would replace seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who has also been linked to a move to Sauber to replace Perez.
Hamilton has been at McLaren throughout his F1 career but the team had been unwilling to match a lucrative offer from Mercedes, where he will team up with Nico Rosberg.
Perez signed a "multi-year deal'' with McLaren after an impressive 2012 campaign that initially sparked interest from Ferrari.
"I'm thrilled and delighted to have become a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver. The McLaren name is one of the greatest in the history of Formula One,'' Perez said. "I was brought up on the great stories of Ayrton Senna's many world championship triumphs for McLaren and I'm truly honored that they've chosen me to partner Jenson (Button).''
The 22-year-old Perez was part of Ferrari's young driver program and was at one stage tipped to replace Felipe Massa, but that prospective move was reportedly overruled because some within Ferrari thought he was not experienced enough.
Perez has finished on the podium three times this season, and his performance at the Italian GP in Monza this month, where he finished second to Hamilton, was hailed as one of the most impressive drives of his young career and a sign that he could be a genuine contender for race wins in a faster car.
"It was a string of giant-killing performances, a trio of podiums and a brilliant fastest lap in this year's Monaco Grand Prix that showed us that Sergio lacks nothing in terms of speed and commitment,'' McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said. "We've been monitoring his progress carefully for some months and, now that he's become part of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, our task will be to refine and develop his abilities as his career progresses over the coming years.''
Hamilton won his only F1 title with McLaren in 2008, but the past two seasons have been a mixture of brilliant driving, clashes with other drivers - such as Massa - and controversial moments.
Hamilton angered team management by posting a photo of a telemetry sheet showing data from his and Button's car on his Twitter page at the Belgian GP recently. It was considered an unwise move by Hamilton to post such sensitive technical information and Button publicly criticized him for it, increasing speculation that Hamilton's move was imminent.
SI Now: Brooklyn could make serious playoff noise
SI Now: The last playoff run for Miami's Big Three?