FORMULA 1 star Sergio Perez has shocked the racing community by announcing he will leave Racing Point at the end of this season.
The popular Mexican driver said the 2020 season would be his last with the Silverstone-based squad, despite having signed a three-year contract last year.
He said had no Plan B in terms of a drive for 2021, and that the move ‘hurt a bit’ in reference to the period in 2018 when the team went into administration before being rescued by a consortium led by Canadian fashion millionaire Lawrence Stroll.
“Everything in life always has a beginning and an end, and after seven years together, my time with the team will come to an end after this season,” Perez, popularly known as ‘Checo,’ said.
“It hurts a bit as I bet on the team during very rough times; we managed to overcome obstacles and I am very proud of saving the jobs of several of my team mates.”
There had been speculation that Racing Point was courting Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and this was confirmed within hours of the Perez bombshell.
The four-time world champion, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of the year, will be joining Racing Point from 2021.
Formerly Force India, Racing Point, will be renamed Aston Martin from next season, despite the fact it uses Mercedes power.
Of the move, Vettel said: “I believe we can build something very special together.”
That said, his new teammate will be Lance Stroll, whose dad, Lawrence, owns the team. So it will be interesting to see how the partnership fares.
Vettel does not handle being upstaged by younger drivers too well.
This is evidenced by his days with Red Bull when Daniel Ricciardo comprehensively outraced him, and now with Ferrari, where young Charles Leclerc has proven to be the better of the two.
Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer spoke highly of Perez.
“Checo has been part of the Silverstone family for seven years and in that time has become one of the most complete drivers on the grid.
“Blisteringly quick on Saturday and Sunday, he’s established his reputation as a tenacious racer and together we have enjoyed some fantastic moments.
“If there was ever a sniff of a podium, Checo was ready to pounce, and those five podiums represent some of the finest days in the history of this team.
“Outside of the car, Checo is a true character and a good friend, and it’s been a pleasure working with him for such a long time.
“Although we will say goodbye at the end of the year, there are still nine races to go and plenty of opportunities for Checo to make some more special memories with this team.”
Perez, who had to sit out two races this year after testing positive for COVID-19, joined the team in 2014 after one season with McLaren.
“I will always be grateful for the opportunity given to me by Vijay Mallya, who believed in me and allowed me to continue my F1 career with Force India,” he said.
“I don’t have a plan B.
“My intention is to continue racing here, but that would depend on finding a project that motivates me to continue giving my 100 per cent in each lap.”
Interestingly, Vettel has just bought the 1992 Williams FW14B that Nigel Mansell drove to victory 9 times that year.
“I like the history of the sport, I like the old cars, I like the old drivers,” the German said.
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