Mexican F1 driver Sergio Perez announced today he will leave Racing Point at the end of the season, which could lead to him being replaced by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel is set to leave Ferrari but has yet to declare his future intentions.
Perez, 30, originally joined Racing Point in its former guise as Force India in 2014 and missed this year’s British Grand Prix after contracting coronavirus.
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“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 said on Twitter.
“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 teammates.
“I’ll keep the memories of the great moments lived together, the friendships and the satisfaction of always giving my all.
“To the current administration, led by Lawrence Stroll, I wish nothing but the best for the future, specially with the upcoming Aston Martin project.
“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.”
Perez’s axing comes as a shock after late last month he announced he was confident he would keep his seat at Racing Point in 2021.
His affirmations came as speculation mounted the team was hunting Vettel, the Mexican keen to downplay suggestions he would be moved on by saying his position was “quite secure”.
“I’m not making way either (for Vettel)! I hope not,” Perez told Sky Sports. “At the moment everything is looking as if we’re going to carry on with the team.”
But a few weeks later the story has changed. Vettel, who is suffering a horror time in his final season with Ferrari, where he has spent the past six years, is now the hot favourite to continue his career at Racing Point.
In a recent interview with Sky Sports, the German said he was still motivated to excel at the top.
“I’m not here to just participate, not here to ‘be a Formula 1 driver’, not here to make money,” Vettel said. “I’ve been in a very fortunate position and I should be OK unless I completely mismanage.
“But I’m really here to achieve something. I will see in the next time whether that’s in the cards or it’s not. That will drive my decision.”
Vettel said previously he had held “loose talks” with Racing Point about a possible future at the outfit — a future that now seems more inevitable than ever.
Racing Point are set change their name to Aston Martin next year after Canadian billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll’s investment in the British brand.
Their current season has been marred by controversy with other teams claiming they had cheated by copying Mercedes’ brake ducts.
On Sunday, Racing Point dropped their appeal against the 15 points deduction and $AUD650,000 fine.
The team is fourth in the constructors’ championship, two spots above Ferrari where Vettel and teammate Charles Leclerc have struggled. Vettel is languishing in 12th in the drivers’ standings and will be hoping a fresh start at a new team next season revitalises his title hopes.