Perez to leave McLaren at end of F1 season

Alan Baldwin

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Mexican Formula One driver Sergio Perez issued a statement on Wednesday confirming he would be leaving McLaren after just one year with the former champions who are enduring their worst season since 1980.

Neither the 23-year-old nor his team mate, Britain's 2009 world champion Jenson Button, have finished higher than fifth in 17 races so far.

"I would like to wish the team the very best in the future," the Guadalajara-born driver said ahead of Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix, the closest he gets to a home race with thousands of compatriots expected to attend.

"I will always be a fan of McLaren. In the meanwhile I will be looking at my future to ensure my position in the best possible package to fight for wins."

Perez's position at the former champions had looked safe, with McLaren seemingly prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, until last month when momentum began to build behind rising Danish prospect Kevin Magnussen.

In a dignified letter posted on his Twitter feed, Perez left no doubt he had been forced out and would be looking elsewhere after the final two races in Texas and Brazil.

However, he refused to air any grievances or engage in recrimination.

Thanking McLaren for giving him the opportunity of driving for the second most successful team in the sport, in terms of titles won, he said it had been an honor and he had no regrets.

"I have always given the best of me for the team and still despite this I could not achieve what I aimed for in this historic team," he said, thanking everyone from senior management to the cooks and catering staff.

"I have met a lot of new people at McLaren this season and I have made many good friends as well...I am eternally grateful to them. It has been a learning experience to me.

"Thanks to McLaren and all of its partners for this season, you can rest assured that I will never give up."


In a response to the 'kind and gracious' statement, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh thanked the driver for being "a fine team member" since he joined from Sauber at the end of last year as replacement for Lewis Hamilton.

"Checo has made many friends during his time at McLaren - and, together, as a team, we intend to do our utmost to help him finish his year with us with two good results, especially here in Austin, where he has so many fans," he added.

"We wish him well for the future, and are sure that he will have many successes ahead of him."

McLaren sources say Magnussen, a McLaren development driver and son of former McLaren and Stewart F1 driver Jan, has been lined up to replace the Mexican after winning the Renault 3.5 world series title.

The Dane would be the first rookie to make his debut with McLaren, one of the biggest names in the sport, since Hamilton's sensational arrival in 2007. Hamilton won the title the following year and is now with Mercedes.

"As regards our driver line-up for next year, no 2014 deal has yet been signed with any driver except Jenson, and we therefore have nothing further to announce at this time," said Whitmarsh.

"As and when that situation progresses, we will make a further announcement accordingly."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)

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