FORMER FORMULA ONE champion Lewis Hamilton will leave McLaren at the end of the season.
The 27-year-old Briton will be replaced by Sauber’s Mexican driver Sergio Perez at the start of the 2013 championship, McLaren said in a statement on Friday.
Hamilton is to move to Mercedes, the BBC and the Press Association said, but there was no immediate confirmation. The move is expected to be formally announced later in the day.
The three-year deal will be worth £15 million to the 2008 world champion, PA said.
“It’s entirely appropriate that I should take this opportunity to pass on 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,” team principal Martin Whitmarsh said.
Speculation has surrounded Hamilton’s future after he was initially offered a pay cut of a third on his £10 million-per-year deal by McLaren, putting him on a par with team-mate Jenson Button.
Reports said they later increased that by a further £2 million.
The 27-year-old Briton is fourth in the overall standings, 52 points behind leader Spaniard Fernando Alonso heading into the last six races after suffering a gearbox failure during the Singapore Grand Prix.
Hamilton has won three races this season, in Canada, Hungary and Italy, and finished on the podium in the opening three races in Australia, Malaysia and China.