McLaren have confirmed that Sergio Perez will replace the outgoing Lewis Hamilton, who has signed with Mercedes for 2013.
The Sauber driver has impressed this season with three podium finishes which includes two second places in Malaysia and Italy.
The multi-year deal, expected to be a two-year contract with options after, will see Perez partner Jenson Button, which team principal Martin Whitmarsh described as “the perfect two-pronged driver line-up.”
Martin Whitmarsh (Team Principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes) said: “On behalf of everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, I’m delighted to welcome Sergio on board. His performances throughout 2012 have convinced us that he’s an extremely exciting prospect for the future.
“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. 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.
“Uniting Sergio alongside Jenson will give us a very broad base of driver ability. Jenson is one of motorsport’s greatest ambassadors, and his unique blend of prodigious speed and canny race-craft makes him formidably well-armed to fight for victory on any grand prix circuit in the world. While Sergio is still developing his palette of skills, we’re convinced that he’s not only talented and quick, but also that he’s willing and eager to learn.
“He’s perfectly poised to develop into a world championship challenger. His addition to the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team provides us with the perfect two-pronged driver line-up for the new season.
“Finally, it’s entirely appropriate that I should take this opportunity to pass on our thanks to Lewis [Hamilton]. 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.”
The 22-year-old Mexican expressed his pleasure in taking the next step in his racing career with McLaren.
Sergio Perez added: “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 1. For more than 40 years McLaren has been a team that every racing driver has aspired to drive for – I was brought up on the great stories of Ayrton Senna’s many world championship triumphs for McLaren – and I’m truly honoured that they’ve chosen me to partner Jenson from 2013 onwards.
“I’ve spent the 2012 season working very hard to demonstrate my potential, but I’ve always remained humble and focused. I am, and always will be, extremely grateful to Peter [Sauber] and everybody at the Sauber Formula 1 team for their belief in me, and for giving me the chance to race in Formula 1.
“In fact, they gave me the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what I can do – and I’m now equally grateful to Martin [Whitmarsh] and everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for giving me the chance to take this next very big step in my career.
“I’m under no illusion that it is indeed a very big step – as it would be for any driver – but I’m ready for it. So, while I’m still fully focused on doing my best for Sauber for the remainder of this season, I’m already massively looking forward to working with everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, and with Jenson, who’s someone I’ve long admired as a brilliant driver and a great champion.
“I’d like to thank Carlos Slim Jr, who has helped me since I was 14 years old, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. Our journey together over the past eight years has been an incredible one, and I’ll do everything in my power to deliver with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes the results that he and I have been working so hard and so long to achieve together.
“As I say, I’ve worked very hard to get to this stage in my career, and I’m now massively looking forward to this next even more exciting stage. It’s fantastic that all the sacrifices I’ve made are now paying off. For example, I remember very clearly the first day I left my family, when I was 15, to live in Germany to race in Formula BMW. It was tough for me – I was sleeping in a restaurant at that time – but the dream of one day becoming a Formula 1 driver kept me going through those difficult days.
“Finally, I’d like to thank my beloved family, who’ve encouraged me at every turn, and last but far from least the people of Mexico, my home country, whose magnificent support I’ll do my very best to reward with future successes with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.”