Sebastian Vettel has made the “ideal” choice in moving to Aston Martin next season, says Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel’s move to the team currently known as Racing Point was announced on Thursday, one day after current driver Sergio Perez said he was leaving.
Hamilton said: “I was really pleased to hear it, the team has new ownership and has already taken huge steps forward.”
The world champion feels Vettel’s nous will “help steer that team in a better direction in terms of car development”.
The world champion, speaking on the eve of the Tuscan Grand Prix weekend at Mugello, added that he was “sorry for Sergio” but said the Mexican was a “great driver and hopefully he will other options”.
Vettel said joining Aston Martin, as the team will be called next year, “wasn’t an easy call” and that he had come “close” to retiring before deciding on a route he believed was “best for me”.
The German said the fact new regulations are being introduced in 2022 in an attempt to close up the field, his new team’s strong performances with a small budget in previous years and their development this year under the new ownership of Lawrence Stroll – who bought the team in 2018 – were all factors in his decision.
“The last weeks and months have been quite intense,” Vettel said. “I felt like I wanted to remain if something really attracted me. The team’s performances this year are very encouraging.
“If you are fair, Mercedes has the edge over everyone and that’s not just valid for next year but also probably the years after that.
“But it is an exciting challenge. I want to race at the front not the back so I think the team is giving me that chance.
“The team is ready to grow and I am happy to do those together. Next year is the first year with the budget cap, but the team is in a much better place than in the past.
“It is a team that is growing. Other teams have to go down in size (next year). So lots of things make me confident and happy. It is a good step and an exciting project and I am sure we will fight for some good results in the near future.”
Perez had previously insisted he had a contract and the team had indicated to him he would be staying.
He said the team had not told him anything about their plans to recruit Vettel until he was called by Stroll on Wednesday to be told he was dropped – but added he had an inkling something was happening in the background.
Perez, who has been linked with moves to the Alfa Romeo and Haas teams, said: “I have been long enough in this business. It is part of this crazy world called F1.
“The team will be stronger next year than this year, so it hurts a bit more knowing you will be leaving a good car.
“There is no secret. I put a lot of effort into this team in many ways. But at the same time they gave me a great opportunity to continue with my career.
“In the end, it didn’t work out, a better opportunity came to the team, to the brand and there is nothing I can do.
“My priority will be to carry on and try to do at least a two-year contract and try to be here for 2022 because once you go out, you might never come back. I’d rather retire than take a sabbatical.”