Lewis Hamilton says it is 'time for a fresh challenge' after swapping his McLaren for Mercedes

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Speculation surrounding the future of Lewis Hamilton came to an end today with the announcement that the former world champion is to join Mercedes.

The 27-year-old from Stevenage has signed a three-year deal with the Brackley based team, ending a 14-year association with McLaren.

Today's announcement appears to spell the end of Michael Schumacher's disappointing comeback, with the seven-time world champion due to retire for a second time. Nico Rosberg, a close friend of Hamilton's, will remain at Mercedes.

Meanwhile, McLaren have been quick to announce Hamilton's replacement at Mclaren, so quick in fact it was announced before Hamilton had officially revealed he had left the Woking based side. Their new driver is Mexican Sergio Perez, with the 22-year-old, who is yet to win a Grand Prix, joining Jenson Button.

Rumours have been flying around about Hamilton's future for months, although a move to the Silver Arrows still represents something of a shock. Hamilton was signed up to McLaren's driver development program at the age of 13 and it was Ron Dennis' team that provided him with a drive in Formula One and powered him to an incredible world title triumph in 2008. Yet it would appear a change weighed more heavily for Hamilton than remaining loyal to McLaren.

"It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin a new chapter racing for the Mercedes Formula One Team," Hamilton said today.

"Mercedes-Benz has such an incredible heritage in motorsport, along with a passion for winning, which I share.

"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."

The move to Mercedes will see Hamilton team up with Ross Brawn, the man behind Button's title triumph in 2009 and Ferrari's incredibly successful spell during Schumacher's better years.

"I am delighted to welcome Lewis Hamilton to our team," Brawn said today.

"The arrival of a driver of Lewis' calibre is a testament to the standing of Mercedes-Benz in Formula One and I am proud Lewis shares our vision and ambition for the success of the Silver Arrows.

"I believe the combination of Lewis and Nico will be the most dynamic and exciting pairing on the grid next year, and I am looking forward to what we can achieve together.

"Over the past three years we have been putting in place the foundations and building blocks that are needed to compete regularly for the world championship.

"Behind the scenes, we have assembled a team that is technically stronger, more experienced and better resourced, thanks to the support of Petronas and all of our loyal team partners.

"The potential is now there to match any other team on the grid, which is the minimum standard for a Mercedes-Benz works team.

"Our task is now to translate that potential into on-track performance for next season and beyond."

It is understood that Mercedes offered Hamilton a better deal than McLaren, particularly in terms of the freedom for the driver to pursue other sponsorship deals.

In terms of their on track offer, Mercedes represents something of a risk with the team having only won one of 52 races since they took over Brawn GP at the end of the 2009 season, but the core of people behind the scenes is second to none.

Importantly, with new engine regulations due to come into force in 2014 as F1 switches to a new turbo era, Mercedes should have an advantage as a manufacturer and with McLaren as a customer.

Hamilton will continue to race for McLaren this season where he currently lies fourth in the world championship standings, 52 points behind leader Fernando Alonso.

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