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F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 16) - Step aside // Driver changes galore, as Lewis Hamilton kicks off the 2013 switches

Published by Christine Blachford

F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 16) - Step aside audio waveform
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Welcome to the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. We are rocketing along through our bite size mini series, reviewing the Formula One season we have just had the fortune to witness. Today we’re moving on from Singapore to some post-race news that rocked the F1 fraternity with Day Sixteen - Step aside.

Just days after missing out on victory at the Singapore Grand Prix due to a gearbox failure, Lewis Hamilton’s future plans were revealed to the world. It had long been speculated that he was looking for options outside of McLaren, with Mercedes being the name in the frame, but it never quite seemed like the kind of thing he would do. A switch from the team he had grown up and won a championship with to an outfit who had only just managed their first win.

On the flip side, it was clear that Hamilton was getting a little frustrated in his current position at McLaren, that things weren’t as rosy in the team as they had been in previous seasons. Thus, when the news broke that Lewis Hamilton would, indeed, be moving to Mercedes on a three year contract from 2013, it was both a shock and somewhat expected.

Hamilton was very confident in his decision, saying that it would be a fresh challenge to move to a team that needed some work. He said: “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 championships.” He was also happy to be partnered with long-time Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, who he had raced with in a previous karting championship, the pair being old friends.

Although we knew the Hamilton to Mercedes announcement was coming, it was actually pre-empted by McLaren confirming their replacement for the Brit before the official news broke. It was Sergio Pérez who got the call up to McLaren, joining Jenson Button for the 2013 season. The Mexican driver had impressed at Sauber with his ability to maximise the potential of a car light on its tyres, and his appearance on the podium three times.

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said: “It was a string of giantkilling performances, a trio of podiums and a brilliant fastest lap in this year’s Monaco Grand Prix that showed us Sergio lacks nothing in terms of speed and commitment. We’ve been monitoring his progress carefully for some months... our task will be to refine and develop his abilities as his career progresses over the coming years.”

With both McLaren and Mercedes maxed out in terms of drivers, it left Michael Schumacher without a race seat. One week after the driver switch announcement, the German confirmed he would retire from the sport for the second, and most likely final, time. He admitted that he saw out the three year deal with Mercedes but was already starting to feel a lack of motivation and energy.

In his retirement speech, Schumacher said: “It is without doubt that we did not achieve our goals to develop a world championship fighting car. But it’s also very clear that I can still be very happy about my overall achievements in the whole time of my career. In the past six years, I’ve learned a lot about myself. For example, that you can open yourself without losing focus. That losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning.”

Schumacher’s final race in Brazil saw him with a message on his helmet thanking everyone for supporting his passion, and he drove the Mercedes to the grid ahead of the race with a ‘thank you’ flag streaming out behind him. After the race, he pointed out some nice symmetry: “It’s a strange sort of coincidence that I’ve ended my F1 career now in P7, which was my first ever qualifying result at Spa. It also occurs to me that I was driving with the number seven on my car today and I have seven world championship trophies in my cabinet.”

Lots of sevens to add to Schumacher’s list of impressive statistics that ensure the German driver will never be forgotten.

That’s all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. As always, thank you for listening, and I hope you will join me again tomorrow where we will find out what is in store for Day Seventeen.

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