Lewis Hamilton will be confirmed on Friday as a Mercedes driver from 2013, according to UK newspapers the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.
In conjunction with that dramatic announcement will come the news that Michael Schumacher is leaving the team – but whether that is for retirement or a swansong elsewhere remains to be seen.
The move will reunite Hamilton with his former karting team mate and F3 rival Nico Rosberg.
The Daily Mail says that he will have a deal worth £15m a year, with bonuses on top. And as has been widely discussed, he will have more freedom to earn from personal sponsorship deals.
While many have been sceptical in recent weeks, a move to Mercedes always seemed like a worthwhile choice for Hamilton – if a little risky.
Although the team’s results this year have been disappointing since the win in China, the potential of the outfit remains huge. Under Ross Brawn’s guidance the stellar technical team of Bob Bell, Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis came together too late to have a proper impact in this season, but it should pay dividends next year, and especially as F1 makes the transition to the turbo era in 2014. Hamilton is undoubtedly convinced that, working with Brawn, he can make the difference.
For Mercedes hiring Hamilton is a massive PR coup and also relieves the pressure on the team from the Stuttgart board, who now have one of the very best drivers on the grid, and some good motivation to sign the new Concorde and stay in the sport.
As noted it’s not entirely clear whether Schumacher’s second retirement will be confirmed. If it is, the question will be whether he jumped or was pushed. He recently attended the young driver test at Magny-Cours, which was not the action of someone coasting towards retirement.
However his Singapore crash, which received widespread criticism, could not have been more poorly timed.
Schumacher is believed to have a contract that pays him a huge sum to stay on in an ambassadorial role should he stop driving, but he didn’t enjoy a similar experience with Ferrari, and he could yet be hungry for more.
McLaren is now looking for a replacement, with Sergio Perez and Force India drivers Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg among the obvious candidates. A seven-times World Champion is also available…