Hamilton: Decision at last!
RISE AND FALL OF A LEGEND: Lewis Hamilton (L) will replace veteran Michael Schumacher after the F1 legend failed to make an impact since his return to the sport.
LONDON - Lewis Hamilton will move from McLaren to the Mercedes F1 team in 2013 in a deal likely to send Michael Schumacher back into retirement, according to media reports in Britain and Germany.
British newspapers said an announcement could come later on Friday once the Mercedes board had signed a new commercial agreement committing the German automaker to the sport.
Sergio Perez will replace Hamilton at McLaren in 2013. McLaren said: "Sergio's new deal means he will begin a driving partnership with 2009 World champion Jenson Button."
Bild, Germany's best-selling tabloid, said on its website that Mercedes had opted for 2008 World champion Hamilton.
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said: "Our thanks to Lewis. He wrote a huge chapter of his life and career with us, and was, and always will be, a fine member of an exclusive club: the McLaren World champions' club.
"It goes without saying that we all wish him well for the future, just as it also goes without saying that we hope and believe that Sergio, too, will become a member of that exclusive club before too long."
Hamilton's contract negotiations have been a running saga all season with reports that he was close to a deal with Mercedes emerging early in September. More recent indications were, however, that the 27-year-old was in favour of staying with McLaren, the team that had nurtured him since his early teens and that handed him his F1 debut in 2007.
The Daily Telegraph said championship contenders McLaren were understood to have been informed of the driver's decision only on Thursday.
The Daily Mail added that Hamilton would be accepting a three-year contract, including win bonuses, worth nearly R800-million. Mercedes had made no secret of its desire to sign Hamilton in place of seven-times champion Schumacher, the sport's most successful driver, whose return to the sport after retiring from Ferrari in 2006 has been unremarkable.
Schumacher has been on the podium only once since he began his comeback in 2010 and has retired from half of the 14 races this season.
Schumacher 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."
Mercedes took over champions Brawn GP at the end of 2009 but has had only one win - Nico Rosberg's success in this year's Chinese GP - to celebrate. While that was the first by a works Mercedes since 1955, McLaren is a regular challenger for the title and has won five times this year - three of them provided by Hamilton.
On paper, Hamilton would be swopping a place with proven winners for a British-based team with little success but plenty of potential. Mercedes also makes the engines used by McLaren and has a substantial development budget.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn has a highly impressive track record after multiple championships as technical director at Benetton and Ferrari and boss of the Brawn team he saved after previous owner Honda pulled out in late 2008.
A move to Mercedes would reunite Hamilton, whose management company XIX Entertainment also looks after the business affairs of former England captain David Beckham and tennis player Andy Murray, with former karting team mate and friend Rosberg.