Brackley Mayor Chris Cartmell is leading the welcome party for the town’s new Formula One driver after 2008 Champion Lewis Hamilton signed a £45million deal with Mercedes AMG Petronas today.
Hamilton, aged 27, will end his 14-year association with McLaren at the end of the season and join the team currently fifth in this year’s championship.
The three year deal is reportedly worth £15 million a year.
Hamilton, who will be replaced at McLaren by Sauber’s Sergio Perez, has been embroiled in contract negotiations with McLaren all summer, and it was understood they had matched the offer made by Mercedes.
But Hamilton has chosen to make the switch to the team which has only won one Grand Prix since its inception in 2010.
As a former Mercedes Benz employee working at the car manufacturer’s Milton Keynes headquarters Mr Cartmell said he was overjoyed to see Lewis Hamilton sign for the team based in the town it serves.
He said: “I’m looking forward to the possibility of maybe seeing him here in Brackley.”
Mr Cartmell said the F1 team was an important part of Brackley, located in a prominent position at the entrance of the town, and that he is looking forward to a repeat of 2009 victory parade when Brawn GP won the Championship with Jenson Button.
Mr Cartmell added: “When you arrive in Brackley from Oxford the first thing you see is Mercedes Benz on the right and side, and the next thing you see is the three pointed star on the roundabout. It is great to have a blue chip, prestigious company based in Brackley.”
The deal also ousts seven time World Champion Michael Schumacher after his lacklustre come back and it is unclear if he will go back into retirement or join another team..
In a statement he 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.”
The move also sees the revival of the childhood partnership between Lewis and Nico Rosberg who drove together as TeamMBM.com in Forumla A Karting. And with plenty of experience with a Mercedes engine Lewis said he believes the time was right for a new challenge.
He said: “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 championship.”
Today’s announcement also sees three-time world champion Niki Lauda appointed non-executive chairman of the team’s board of directors.
Team principal Ross Brawn thanked Michael Schumacher, who he said had made important contributions to the growth of the team and added: “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.”
Mr Brawn said they have been building strong foundations over the last three years, and now with the ‘dynamic’ pairing of Lewis and Nico, they were on course to bring another Championship trophy back to Brackley.
He said: “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.”
Lewis’ career has been supported by Mercedes-Benz and McLaren since its earliest days. In 2000, he and Nico Rosberg were team-mates at TeamMBM.com in Formula A karting. Lewis drove with Mercedes-Benz engines during his two seasons in the Formula 3 Euroseries, winning the 2005 championship, and every one of his 104 Formula One starts so far have been powered by the three-pointed star. Lewis is one of four drivers, along with Juan Manuel Fangio, Mika Häkkinen and Jenson Button, to have won the Formula One world championship with Mercedes-Benz power. With 20 Formula One victories, he is equal with Mika Häkkinen as the most successful Mercedes-Benz Formula One driver.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh had admitted three weeks ago there was “no plan B” should Hamilton quit. The team also said it was designing its 2013 car around Hamilton.
Current team-mate and 2009 world champion Jenson Button will assume the role of team leader, while impressive Mexican Perez, who has taken three podiums this season, will join him.
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