Sergio Perez has confirmed he will leave Racing Point at the end of the season, paving the way for Sebastian Vettel to join the team set to be renamed Aston Martin in 2021.
While Perez was believed to have a watertight contract until 2022, the Mexican driver confirmed on Wednesday night he will not stay with the team. On Thursday, Racing Point confirmed Vettel will join on a multi-year deal starting in 2021.
Perez joined the Silverstone team in 2014 under its former guise, Force India, and has claimed five podiums since. He played a key role in saving the team from financial oblivion in 2018, taking legal action which put the team into administration and allowed it to be purchased by a consortium.
That consortium was led by Lawrence Stroll, father of Perez's current teammate Lance. The Canadian billionaire agreed to purchase up to 20 percent of Aston Martin stock at the start of the year, an agreement which included the renaming of the team for next season.
In a statement, Perez mentioned his regret at leaving given his loyalty to the team in difficult times.
"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," the statement said. "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. I will always be grateful for the opportunity given to be my Vijay Mallya, who believed in my in 2014 and allowed me to continue my F1 career with Force India.
"To the current administration, led by Lawrence Stroll, I wish nothing but the best in 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 percent in each lap."
The news continues the busy driver market F1 has seen develop in 2020. Ferrari's decision not to renew Vettel's contract was followed by news it will sign McLaren's Carlos Sainz next year. Sainz will be replaced by Renault's Daniel Ricciardo next year, with the Australian's role at the team to be taken by the returning Fernando Alonso.
Racing Point's CEO and team principal Otmar Szafnauer said: "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.
"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."