Sergio Perez was another candidate to oust Michael Schumacher at Mercedes, a German magazine claimed on Monday.
Auto Motor und Sport said it means the great seven time world champion was therefore only the third choice to line up alongside Nico Rosberg in 2013, after Lewis Hamilton and Mexican Perez. Ultimately, Mercedes secured its number one choice Hamilton, leaving McLaren to sign Mexican Perez to succeed him — and Schumacher out in the cold.
Prior to signing Hamilton, “the Silver Arrows bosses had stretched out their feelers to the Mexican (Perez),” journalist Michael Schmidt claimed. It remains a fact, however, that Schumacher could have definitely kept his seat if, early in the summer, he exercised an active and unilateral ‘option’ for 2013.
“Why play poker until October when the best time to extend the contract had already come?” Schmidt wondered rhetorically. “Had he signed after qualifying in Monte Carlo, Hamilton would never have been a topic.”
A Mercedes insider is quoted as saying: “Michael’s stalling until October forced Mercedes to think about alternatives.” But other issues were also at play, including Ross Brawn, Norbert Haug and Niki Lauda’s task in convincing the paymasters in Stuttgart to sign a new Concorde Agreement and keep the three-pointed star in Formula One.
Correspondent Schmidt said the task was easier when pitching the contemporary star Hamilton or the “fresh blood” of 22-year-old rising sensation Perez, rather than “the 43-year-old veteran”.
So Hamilton will join Rosberg in Mercedes’ 2013 garage, but only after his final title tilt with his boyhood marque McLaren is done and dusted. It could be an awkward last six races in one shade of silver, but McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh insists he is not worried.
“Lewis has assured me that at the moment he is a McLaren driver and he’s focused on winning,” he told the BBC. “He will be professional, the team will be professional around him and we will be seeing if we can do the best job we can.”