Sergio Perez has announced he will leave the Racing Point Formula 1 team at the end of the current season.
The Mexican took to social media to deliver the news, leading to the rise of further speculation his replacement will be four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel who splits with Ferrari at the end of the year.
Perez joined the team under its Force India moniker in 2014 for his fourth season in grand prix racing. He has gone on to claim five podiums for the Silverstone squad and has been a consistent member of its line-up since joining.
Perez had presumably inked a three-year extension deal with Racing Point last year and his announcement via social media subtly suggests he was not keen on leaving.
“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,” he wrote.
“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 team-mates.
“I don’t have a plan B,” he wrote. “My intention is to continue racing here [in F1], but that would depend on finding a project that motivates me to continue giving my 100% in each lap.”
The move does end speculation about which contracted driver at the team makes way for Vettel should the Ferrari driver come onboard.
Vettel’s has been vocal about his future and has reiterated that he is open to all options, including a sabbatical or retirement.
But he has regularly underlined his desire to continue with the right project which has appeared as the Racing Point/Aston Martin team after both Mercedes and Red Bull closed the door on a possible move for Vettel.
Perez should have little trouble landing a drive with another of F1’s midfield teams given his strong financial backing and respected performances.
However, only a move to Alfa Romeo or Haas, both Ferrari customer teams, are available and they might not entice his interest as he leaves a team just starting to be on the brink of winning.
“Checo has been part of the Silverstone family for seven years and in that time has become one of the most complete drivers on the grid. Blisteringly quick on Saturday and Sunday, he’s established his reputation as a tenacious racer and together we have enjoyed some fantastic moments,” said Racing Point team boss Otmar Szafnauer.
“If there was ever a sniff of a podium, Checo was ready to pounce, and those five podiums represent some of the finest days in the history of this team. Outside of the car, Checo is a true character and a good friend, and it’s been a pleasure working with him for such a long time. Although we will say goodbye at the end of the year, there are still nine races to go and plenty of opportunities for Checo to make some more special memories with this team.”