'McLaren make Perez approach'
Reports suggest team lining up Mexican as Hamilton talks hit "crisis point"
Last Updated: September 17, 2012 9:12am
McLaren have reportedly begun the search for a successor for Lewis Hamilton should the Briton defect to Mercedes with reports on Sunday suggesting they have approached Sauber's Sergio Perez.
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Claiming that talks over a contract renewal between Hamilton and McLaren have reached "crisis point", The Mail on Sunday suggests that "contact has been made with Perez as Hamilton ponders a £60million offer from Mercedes".
Although Perez is on Ferrari's young driver scheme the Italian team's President Luca di Montezemolo this week effectively ruled out the 22-year-old being signed to partner Fernando Alonso for 2013, telling Sky Sports News that the Mexican remained too inexperienced to join the Scuderia despite claiming the third podium finish of his impressive season at Monza last weekend.
That stance appeared to increase the likelihood that Perez would stay at Sauber for at least another year - yet it appears the highly-regarded young star has now come onto McLaren's radar.
Although McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh said over the Italian GP that the team had "no plan B" should Hamilton leave, The Mail suggests the Woking team have now began their search for an alternative as they don't want to be left "outmanoeuvred" by their long-time driver and his management.
"McLaren's approach to the 22-year-old Sauber driver is an indication the team are growing impatient with the negotiating strategy of Hamilton's management, XIX Entertainment," the newspaper reports.
"The move is the beginning of the end game. Hamilton may find his future is taken out of his own hands with the spectre of Perez being courted by McLaren, who do not want to be outmanoeuvred by the 27-year-old British driver."
The same newspaper reported on Friday that McLaren 'now have have no better than a 50-50 chance' of convincing the driver they have nurtured since the age of 13 to stay into 2013, with a resolution to the saga likely before next week's Singapore GP.
The suggestion has been that McLaren, minded by the current financial climate and the fact they have to pay for their supply of Mercedes engines for the first time next season, have offered Hamilton a new deal on reduced terms compared to his previous five-term agreement - although the Mail on Sunday report says this notion is "flatly denied by McLaren" with a deal close to £45 million over a two-year term, with a one-year option, on the table.
Hamilton himself has remained tight-lipped about his future intentions and would only say at Monza that his management remained in "advanced talks with McLaren" despite speculation going into overdrive that he was on the verge of leaving the team for Mercedes where a £60m three-year deal is said to have been offered.