Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 2016

Who will be first to grab Rosberg’s vacant Mercedes seat?

2016 F1 season

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Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to quit Formula One will create a scramble for one of the most coveted seats on the grid in 2017.

The Mercedes W08 will undoubtedly be expected to be another championship-winning car, giving the two drivers who share it an unprecedented opportunity to take the title.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2016
Rosberg’s 11-year F1 career in pictures
Competition for the seat alongside Lewis Hamilton will be fierce. F1’s three other active world champions, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, are already contracted to rival teams.

Jenson Button, who has already announced he will not race in 2016, is also contracted to McLaren for next season.

Most of the other drivers on the grid in 2016 have found seats for next year already. Of those that haven’t, Esteban Gutierrez and Felipe Nasr are unlikely to be high on Toto Wolff’s wish-list.

Mercedes junior driver Pascal Wehrlein is also awaiting news on his future at Manor. A promotion to the top team may be too hasty, but Mercedes always has the option of offering a one-year deal while it waits on the availability of Vettel or Alonso for next year.

But at this stage it would be unwise to rule anyone our. Faced with a potentially once-in-a-career opportunity to get behind the wheel of a championship-contending cars, contractual niceties are likely to take a back seat in the coming days as Mercedes grapple with this astonishing development.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 398 comments on “Who will be first to grab Rosberg’s vacant Mercedes seat?”

      1. Yes, he’s contracted to Ferrari but all bets are off when you’re talking about a vacant seat at a team who have dominated the last three years.

        Dear Santa, please let Mercedes fill that seat with a big name. Thank you.

        1. I was dealing with F1 post-season detachment. Now I’m just as tuned in as the first race in Australia.
          Thank you Nico and Thank you Lewis’ Malaysian engine.

        2. As much as we’d love to see Hamilton vs Vettel, I can’t see Ferrari letting their best driver leave for their biggest rival.

        3. I can see Massacre being approached behind closed doors

          1. Tommy Scragend
            2nd December 2016, 19:14

            There’d be a bloodbath if that happened.

        4. Verstappen and Hulkenberg have the longest names of current F1 drivers.

        5. No all bets are not off you melon, Ferrari will not let him leave for Merc.

      2. YES. Max can wait. I really like to see an intra team battle between Vettel and Hamilton. The two most successful drivers of the last decade.

        1. of this decade, you person from 4 years into the future.

          1. Ian, Did you know that you can subtract 10 from numbers that do not end in zero? He said LAST, you said THIS entirely different meanings.

          2. A decade is 10 years, it doesn’t matter which 10 years. If you are going to be a pedant at least check it’s correct.

            1. Actually if it does. “The last decade” means preceeding ten years. “Last decade” generally is understood to mean from 0 to 0.

              He said the last decade.

            2. Most people measure a decade from the beginning of a set 10 year period i.e 1980 – 1989 and 1990 to 1999 etc … at least that is the way I have always understood it.

            3. Actually it is generally correct what @GRUMPY says! it is used for a period of ten years as he explained. however, it can be used in arbitrary form as a span of 10 years, but it is usually used for specific events periods… Like “in the last decade of F1”. If you just use decade alone, usually means what grumpy says…

          3. Vettel 4
            Hamilton 3
            Rosberg 1
            Button 1
            Kimi 1
            So yes they are the most successful ones

          4. If your going ot be a pedant then you should point out that the LAST decade is actually 2000-2010, which would mean Schumacher and Alonso.

          5. Pedro Caraballo
            3rd December 2016, 18:06

            Jesus everyone… can we get over the decade crap?.. I would love to see Alonso reafirm the F1 world that he is the greatest driver on the grid.

        2. ‘of last decade’: of 2000-2009
          ‘of THE last decade’: of 2005-2016

        3. David (@billyboltaction)
          3rd December 2016, 19:15

          This was the best pointless argument for a century!

      3. Whoever goes to Merc could be champion next year. Drivers will be going crazy.
        Firstly, to break Mclaren/Ferrari contract, Mercedes will; have to pay big money which they will not want to do. Unless Alonso/Vettel does it himself or one of his sponsorers. Looks like its Wehrlein’s time to get promoted, or someone else from smaller team like Perez, Sainz, Ocon.
        Or Bottas, Wolff manages him.

          1. Great, now he gets to crash into Hamilton with full Mercedes approval…

        1. “Whoever goes to Merc could be champion next year”

          Are you saying Hamilton could be second fiddle to whomever joins Mercedes, or that he would not quit if placed in that situation – again?

      4. Yes. My personal fave line-up to match Ricciardo and Verstappen at Red Bull.

        1. The Blade Runner (@)
          2nd December 2016, 14:50

          My head says it will be Alonso.

          My heart wants it to be Verstappen.

          1. I want Ric in the merc and icon in the bull..just a dream thought

          2. I have to say of all the drivers out there only Max has the balls to really race that car. He reminds me a lot of Hamilton which is why any rival team would want to hold on to him.

            Whether red bull can keep him with the car they’ve got is another matter.

            All the same can you imagine Hamilton with the Mercedes garage 100% behind him? – voom voom!

      5. That would be awesome!

        But I’m expecting it to be Pascal…

        1. Did vettel not attack rosberg because he was told he could get his place?

          I am a bit tired of this Vettel talks. He won 4 championships because he is a good driver, but mostly because he had no opposition

          1. It was Lewis who won the last 2 championships without any opposition! Vettel had lots of opposition, as in going to the last race being #3, and ending up winning it all.

            1. Sheridan Repton
              2nd December 2016, 16:52

              Lewis beat the current World champion in the same machinery over two years. That is hardly “No competition”…

            2. Vettle was WC from 3rd because Red Bull did to an Alonso Ferrari what they did all this year to a Vettle and Kimi Ferrari.
              They sacrificed one of their drivers to push Ferrari into a dumb move. They pitted Webber from second place to scare Ferrari about an undercut. Ferrari pitted Alonso from first place and Red Bull left Vettle out in front on old tyres to clinch the title.
              The two title contenders all year were Webber and Alonso, Vettle was never in it until Ferrari choked.
              Vettel is good when everything is perfect with the car. All year he has been shown up by his team mate. Kimi only problem was poor strategy by Ferrari. Sucked in by Red Bull one too many times.

            3. Ahahahahahahahahah ! Honestly, bro, this sounds comical!

          2. He had a hell of a lot more opposition than any Mercedes driver has had in the last several years.

          3. Tommy Scragend
            2nd December 2016, 19:18

            In 2010 Vettel never led the championship until he won it at the last race of the season.
            In 2012 there were seven different winners in the first seven races.

            No opposition?

      6. Can someone please put Toto on the phone to Maldonado? If someone can teach Hamilton not to drive his teammate out of space in the first corner, it is Mr. Maldonado himself.

        1. No, he is hired by NHTSA now, and busy crashing for safety reasons, and saving NHTSA millions from savings of those expensive dummies

      7. Yes Vettel, the Perez to ferrari and Wherlein goes to force india

      8. Don’t think so.

        When Rosberg was re-negotiating his contract and it was at an impasse Totto threatened to bring in Alonso.

        I would think it’s ALO’s if he wants it and can get out of his current contract. McHonda isn’t going to win for a couple of more years and ALO is running out of time.

        He’d take a pay cut I’m sure:)

        1. Have a source for that? Genuinely curious because I was under the impression that the Rosberg re-up was pretty much a formality.

      9. Hamilton and Vettel .. what a pairing, Toto thought he had is hands full with Nico and Lewis, he would have a nightmare with this one … talk about a powder keg.

        1. One German driver for another German driver, driving for Mercedes – what part of this doesn’t make sense?

          Now let’s where their money is?

        1. Alex McFarlane
          3rd December 2016, 14:52

          He did cross my mind but very unlikely.

      10. I think they should try and temp button. The new cars will really suit his driving style plus he didn’t do too badly as Hamiltons team mate last time!? Even if it’s just for the one season. He probably be cheaper to prize out of a contract then vettel, Alonso etc.

    1. I hope Lewis get’s an experienced team mate, and not one of the Manor boys.
      Alonso vs Hamilton in 2017 spec, imagine THAT, WOW!!

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        2nd December 2016, 16:16

        @lsl1337 They can’t do that because of 2007 – Alonso is even more desperate for a 3rd championship now… especially after the past 2 years. You saw him with Massa at Austin.

        1. I don’t think so. How is it any more desperate than what Hamilton did in the last race?
          It seems to me that ALO has already given up, and not desperate anymore. He’s accepted he has 2 WDC, still better/luckier than most. When his car breakes down, he just smiles and enjoys the sunshine. When HAMs broke down, he runs to the media and cryis in the radio. (I understand alonso has nothing on the line, while Ham has his next championship) Still, I don’t think he is desperate.
          I didn’t say it WILL happen, i just said it would be VERY cool.
          Can you imagine a better pairing for Merc in 2017 than that?
          2007-2017, PERFECT re-match

          1. @lsl1337 I’m with you. I only want to see FA in Nico’s seat. I cannot imagine a better pairing for F1 overall. I CAN imagine that FA is on his way or already at Toto’s house, and would offer to drive for him free if that is what it took.

            1. As much as good pairing, Alo, after a few races with a taste of front row, he wont care about 2007 and go for the win, and 2007 will be all over again…

              Better pairing would be vettel, honestly!

      2. If Alonso goes to merc, I expect vandoorne to become champion.

        1. LOL. Or worse – it will be Button, who gets re-hired in Alonso’s absence.

      3. Alonso to Mercedes will simply not happen.

        1. Why? Merc is tired of HAM’s shenanigans and want to humble him. Alonso would do the trick.

          Also, Merc wants another constructor’s championship and hiring a young probably won’t get it done.

          1. I think ALO and HAM in Mercs is pretty unlikely, but they’ve both grown up a bit since 2007 so a repeat of that season’s antics is pretty unlikely. Would be good to see them both in the same team again, but I suspect HAM is a better driver than he was in his rookie season, with experience of the team he would beat ALO over the first season at least.

          2. Really … they have just lost one world champion, you think they want to lose another by trying to humble him.

    2. I’m pretty sure Fernando is on the phone right now…

      1. but with his luck, 2017 will be a Red Bull clean sweep… =P

        1. @arrows98 With his luck, it would be McLaren that dominate!

          1. @fluxsource
            the funniest thing is, ALO posted a photo an hour ago inside a plane, going to a Honda event in Japan… he might not even be aware of what’s going on (and won’t be for several hours!!!)

            1. Ahaha that’s quite funny 😄

            2. spafrancorchamps
              2nd December 2016, 16:34

              But you can bet that Flavio is!

            3. Let’s see, he can post from inside a plane but cannot get news.

              makes sense!

        2. I dont care I want to see Hamilton vs Alonso properly done!

          1. Didn’t you follow F1 in 2007? Honestly I don’t think current Alonso would do as well as Rosberg has done, people tend to overhype Alonso based on performances years and years ago in his prime, and they underrate Rosberg. If Alonso and Hamilton shared a team again I think LH would be further ahead than in 2007 since he is still in his prime.

            1. The Blade Runner (@)
              2nd December 2016, 14:47

              Let’s test that theory…

            2. I wouldn’t base Alonzo on his performances ten years ago, but I would certainly base it on his last couple of years at Ferrari where he consistently gave Vettel a run for it in a crappy car. If he had comparable equipment and aero I don’t know if Vettel would have been as fortunate as he was. Also, there have been several races this year that his racing was on point but he was out on track in a kart.

              With that being said, I don’t know if he would have the passion at his age and his circumstances the past couple of years essentially being a test driver for the McLaren program. He seems content that his time is drawing down and he is looking more at enjoying himself, enjoying life, trying new things, than focusing solely on racing.

            3. rosberg was never an exceptional driver like Alonso. Put Alonso along side Hamilton and it would be one heck of a season. personally I think the cars will be much closer next year, top drivers may not want to move.

            4. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
              2nd December 2016, 18:32

              Hamilton was heavily favoured by Ron Dennis in 2007- Alonso didn’t have a chance. Alonso is the best driver in f1 still.

            5. @peppermint-lemon Ham was nurtured by Ron and co, for a long time coming… But i doubt Alo was treated unfairly, he just wanted to be treated above hamilton as a 2 time world champ, as the no1 driver… he didnt get it, and he threw his toys out of the pram! he did some controversial stuff and got the boot…

              Today Alo:
              http://www.espn.co.uk/f1/story/_/id/17344106/relationship-lewis-hamilton-very-different-were-teammates-now-fernando-alonso

            6. Alonso is far and above ROS and even at the twilight of his career is one of if not the best on the grid.
              As Button said, Alonso isn’t as fast but he’s always there.
              HAM isn’t consistent and isn’t used to a great driver as a teammate instead of a good driver. He would crack under the pressure.

            7. Level on points in 2007 is hardly a big loss. Button only teamate to beat Alonso on points then thrashed the next year. Hamilton has lost to button and rosberg on points. Anything can happen in 1 year Ricciardo even beat vettel over 1 season.

        3. I am just thinking the same thing …

    3. will be a tough call for Mercedes.. Wehrlein for me is the most safe option.
      if they want to stunt… Alonso is the most preferable option

      1. For me Alonso would keep them in the spotlight in a huge way. LH would demolish a safe option and it would be a non-story if they remain dominant as it would just be the LH show, and if as some suspect RBR dominates, Mercedes will be off the map relative to recent years. Don’t get me wrong, I hope no one team dominates.

        So for me, dominant or not, Toto would do the team and F1 all a big favour if he could secure FA for his remaining few years in F1. Just as he did the world a big favour by dominating but not designating a 1 and 2, he should keep it up with two WDCs on the team. He’d obviously prefer to let two roosters race and have to manage that, than otherwise.

    4. How locked in is Ocon at Force India? i’d like to see Ocon in at Mercedes over Wehrlein, and Wehrlein can take the Mercedes junior driver role at FI

      1. I agree. Ocon would be the better choice of the two. However I would really like to see Grosjean in silver. He’s a solid driver that has never really had a chance to show it off. 10 podiums for Lotus though. The only two time GP2 Asia champion, and the only simultaneous GP2 and GP2 Asia champion.

        1. Pascal he’s great on Saturdays and brought home miracle points finish this year. Don’t sleep on him @colinchapman

          1. Grosjean managed 6th from 19th in haas’ first race. And a highest finish position this year of fifth. Arguably more “miracle” points than Pascal. Not to mention he was able to break into the top ten qualifiers on a few occasions. @jcost

            1. @colinchapman Grosjean? You may aswell get Gutierrez if your gonna sign him. Ten podiums were in a Lotus which was the second best car at the end of 2013, whilst Perez has seven podiums in midfield cars.

            2. Only 6 podiums came in 2013. One came last year in spa. Finished 3rd after starting 9th due to a penalty. And lotus 2015 was definitely not a top team.

      2. I hope Perez gets it. FI in trouble with Wehrlein and Ocon. That means they will get free power train next season from Mercs.

    5. sergio e bizari
      2nd December 2016, 13:58

      felipe massa

    6. (very) long shot, but: Porsche hasn’t announced Lotterer yet, has it?

      1. I think tomorrow is the day.

    7. There were serous rumours going around earlier in the year that Pascal wss having an attitude meltdown in the Manor and that wouldn’t be tolerated at the top table, I don’t think.

      1. Also why Ocon got the Force India seat ahead of him.

      2. Any sources? Would love to read about this one.

    8. Mercedes would go preferably for a german driver or a driver from its racing domain…

      1. so long as he’s fluent in English ;)

        1. Wehrlein has the exact same accent as the fish in the American Dad cartoon series. So funny. But I’m not really feeling him as a top driver tbh. Not sure why, maybe he is. He would be a very unspectacular choice imho.

          1. It’s hard to demonstrate talent at the back of the grid, but he did score a point in a Manor though and got into Q2 several times. Probably won’t push Lewis like Nico did, but he’s he’s got some talent.

        2. Which limits it to…

          any of the German drivers then!

      2. RB (@frogmankouki)
        2nd December 2016, 14:56

        Hulkenberg to break Renault contract? It’s about time for him to be on the podium.

        1. @frogmankouki
          I really hope not, he’s the most over rated driver in the sport, and his results are nowhere near good enough for him to deserve a drive with a top team.

          1. He did win at Le Mans,
            But for anyone that was actually paying attention it was Nick Tandy’s stint overnight that won that Porsche the 2015 race.

            Maybe Tandy for the Merc role :)

          2. Kind of feel like he’s been stagnating and needs something to give him new impetus. Personally, I’m a Perez fan, but I’d love to see Hulk against another known quantity in a good car.

      3. They want a WCC, don’t care if the driver is from Jupiter.

    9. Nando in a Merc would be so nice!

    10. I’m a Ferrari supporter, hence I’d be heartbroken if Vettel goes away.
      I’d go for Alonso to fill the empty Rosberg seat, as he actually did deserve a third title at least 2 times in his Ferrari heyday. I would be tough for opposition if Merc would still be the leading car in 2017 (and it will possibly be), but a Hamilton-Alonso team mate battle reloaded would be interesting for everybody ;)

      1. Woudln’t you rather have Alonso in a Ferrari than Vettel if you are a Ferrari fan? I mean, Alonso is quite clearly the better driver.

        1. Alonso is the best of the 2X WDC’s thats for sure…

        2. Vettel is twice as successful. Alonso always goes places at the wrong time. I think there will be a Ballerina Alonso swap and Merc will drop down the order. Wehrlein for the other seat.

      1. And promote Pascal to FI too?

        I can see that happening

        1. But FI has deliberately passed up Wehrlein in favor of Ocon.. why would they want Wehrlein now instead of keeping Perez (and/or Ocon) to his contract?

          1. At the end of the day is all about business. If Mercedes is interested in Perez they can buy out his contract, and there isn’t really anything that FI can do about.

            They can use Pascal as a bargaining coin, FI gets two drivers that have shown talent and basically free, which is ever so important in the midfield.

            Mercedes are the ones with all the cards, they can play them as they like.

            1. I don’t know, that’s how it works in football but we haven’t really seen that in F1 before, did we?

      2. I am vouching for ‘Perez’.. what has he done wrong in last 3 years?

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          2nd December 2016, 16:21

          A solid choice for alternate strategy but for pace I would choose Hulkenberg, Sainz, Bottas. I don’t think Merc have to worry about odd chances of podiums at this point – maybe later on. Perez’s strength is in teams that are 4th-to-6th since he can give the extraordinary result in 2 GPs a season.

          1. So they shouldn’t go for Perez because he gets good results in a midfield team?

            Outscoring and outracing his highly rated teammate is not enough?

            And lets play with your argument a bit. We don’t know how next year will be, wouldn’t be a good idea to have someone that makes different strategies work?

      3. @square-route Yes. FI could keep the sponsorship if they get Gutierrez in the seat and Slim would be prepared to pay even more for Mercedes. I don’t know that much, but Lewis and Checo seem to be friends too

        1. I think vettel, actually and perez to ferrari and wherlein/gutierrez force india

        2. True Lewis has given Praise to Perez on occasions. Also Perez strengths with strategy and a super fast car could crush the competition. Lewis and Perez would get along well.

    11. I wonder if Hamilton will have any influence over his next team mate’s identity. Will he try to pull an Alonso 2007 and get a junior driver to be his number two then immediately be under pressure from a rising star?

      1. Immediately? Alonso was under pressure from Massa.

        In the first 5 races of 2007, Alonso won 2, Massa 2, Raikkonen 1, Lewis 0. Lewis gained two 2nds when Alonso collided with Massa at the front.

        1. Right. So more immediately than that.

      2. I wonder if LH’s sense of entitlement and his disregarding of team instructions has ensured he has no say.

        1. You’re like someone at a public flogging willing the flogger to whip a bit harder. With no idea why they’re being punished anyway. Weird.

      3. HAM antics of late have neutered him a bit and I don’t think he will have a say.

      1. Bottas is under Toto’s wing. I think there will be a deal involving Pascal, Bottas, and discount engine supply for Williams in 2017 (which comes at a good time for them)

        1. I think this is quite a likely scenario. Bottas to Merc and someone to replace him at Williams with an incentive.

    12. maybe Sainz should be a good option if Red Bull will let him go?

      1. Agree, there is no obvious promotion position within RB for Sainz, plus RB don’t have a seat for Gasly.

      2. Paul Ortenburg
        3rd December 2016, 0:04

        I agree, I would pick Sainz as a dark horse in the race.

        It would be a cold day in hell before Red Bull would let Max or Daniel go and Sainz doesn’t really have a future up the ladder unless one of those two calls it quits or they start punch each other.

    13. Got to be Alonso. He deserves it for me but like someone else said if he does take it the car will undoubtably not be a championship winning car. I can’t see Vettle taking it personally.

    14. Every driver will be on to their agent now. I know contracts are signed with their respective teams, but I would like to see either Bottas or Hulkenberg in that seat. It’s too soon for Wehrlein who’s the obvious non-contracted driver.

    15. I think the most probably outcome is Alonso -> Mercedes, and Jenson comes back to McLaren.

      Alonso is getting to the age and stage where he’ll bite off hands to get into a decent car quickly, and while it’s likely that RBR will be on par with Merc next year that is still his best chance of fighting for a WDC in the next few years. Jenson won’t like the way he finished his career either (finishing in failure…), so I think he’ll be amenable to another year in F1. Wehrlein seems unlikely. If he wasn’t considered good enough for a FI drive, then Merc top brass won’t want him in their machinery. Perez and Bottas are the other two likely candidates IMHO, both would be entertaining choices.

      But then it’s such an unexpected decision, who knows what could follow it.

      1. Had totally forgotten about Bottas. Sainz or Bottas for me.

    16. Alonso would make it the perfect rivalry…. but I doubt it highly.

    17. Please Verstappen for massive fireworks next year!

      1. That would be epic.

        I doubt RBR will let that happen though, they have a contract with him. Also, with the current regulation changes in favor of aero, why leave the team that has Newey? RBR might be the best car next year and VES knows that. He wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) burn bridges at this point in his career.

        1. @jeffreyj I totally agree on that. I believe Merc and RB are going to be very close next year and I’d bet on Verstappen to become the WDC. Ferrari will be 3rd again and I don’t see it fighting to become champions again in the near future. 2nd maybe, but not champions.

    18. Let’s not forget that Mercedes is unlikely to keep their 2014-16 form. But still they should have a race-winning car. My dream scenario is having a Alonso-Hamilton there and Button coming back to McLaren. The nightmare and probably the most realistic scenario is having Wehrlein-Hamilton with a new pay-driver coming in Wehrlein’s place to Sauber/Manor.

    19. Haryanto. Look at his activity during these las few days, he knew he would get a seat next season…who would have expect this master move from him? It was the perfect plan

    20. Has to be Pascal right?

    21. My bet is on Vettel – German driver in a German funded team. It’ll work wonders for marketing.
      And a clean image (radio outbursts notwithstanding) makes it easier to use him as a Merc marketing tool.
      Mercedes will also have the money to unlock him from any Ferrari contract.

      Going against this is the cost associated with an experienced driver, vs. promoting someone like Ocon, Hulkenberg, etc.

      1. Vettel and his baby-phone are a marketing nightmare right now. Even German fans don’t like Vettel that much.

        1. @jeffreyj what’s this baby phone thing? Perhaps a story I missed

          1. Vettel complains at every chance over the radio. Not really a story you missed. I’m sure you’ve heard him complain.

            1. Oh I thought you meant like a real-life story involving his kids.

              Germans like rules and consistency, so no they haven’t been happy with the stewards this year.

            2. Yeah its bad but just short of the ballerinas made up excuses and insinuations after taking a damn fine beating.

    22. Sainz would be my choice. It will be hard for Vettel and Alonso to get out of their contracts. No question that the RBR boys are not being let go. Same goes for PER or HUL. I don’t know if I’d put GRO in that car considering how up and down his season has been.

      So this for me is a straight fight between WEH and SAI. Given a choice between the two, I’m going SAI. They are both the same age albeit SAI having one more year of racing in F1(same experience considering WEH was the Merc reserve for a year). They’ve both shown promise his year that they deserve to be in a bigger team. However, this is why I choose SAI. . . If he doesnt get this drive he’s out of F1 in a year or two since there is no clear way to get to RBR. His is a talent we cannot lose. Not only that but Merc need a driver who can deliver consistently because of the two, I’m not giving either of them much of a chance of beating HAM. SAI can do that as opposed to WEH who is so up and down it is maddening.

      WEH could do with a bit more seasoning and join Merc after HAM moves on in 2018.

      1. A very good thought that my whirring brain had not considered! This is actually highly logical for all parties.

        – Mercedes get a very fast driver who they know is at least nearly as good as Verstappen.
        – Carlos Sainz knows that a Red Bull seat will not be becoming available soon (unless RIC/VES now move to Mercedes).
        – Toro Rosso exist purely to feed Red Bull and now have Gasly waiting, getting impatient.

        This could well happen.

        1. Yes Sainz would be a very good pair of hands.

          1. Indeed. At least he looks better than Pascal, and I like Pascal very much.

        2. @ben-n Sainz to Merc would be great for Sainz, great for Merc and the seat at STR can easily be filled BUT… Sainz is under contract with RBR. Why would RBR break up that contract to let him go to Mercedes?

      2. Lewisham Milton
        2nd December 2016, 14:25

        I could see Carlos moving up to fill a vacant seat at Red Bull… I’d love to see that!

      3. If I was a betting man I would put my money on Alonso. He’s currently contracted to McLaren but you just know there are performance clauses in that contract that McLaren has failed to meet for the last 2 years. I bet Alonso can walk out of that contract immediately without problems.
        My second guess would be Vettel, but I think it will be much more difficult to break that contract.

        I highly doubt Mercedes will call up Wehrlein next year. The regulation changes mean that Mercedes will feel less safe than they did going into the 2016-season. Part of the cure for that insecurity will be to have 2 proven world class drivers. If the call up Wehrlein their choice is probably to wait for Vettel or Verstappen in 2018.

      4. How about a Ricciardo going for Merc? It would help RBR to promote Sainz and bring in Gasly. Each team would want at least one experienced driver.

    23. Alonso to Merc and Jenson back to Mclaren? Wishful thinking but we need someone who can give Lewis a run for his money in that second Mercedes. Here’s hoping RBR and Ferrari get their act together with the reg changes for next year.

      1. Alonso to Mercedes and Jenson back in at McLaren, who takes advantage of a massive performance jump by Honda to pip Fernando and Lewis to the Championship! ;-)

    24. The long and short is that every driver on the grid would request to be released from their current contract if they were offered this drive (with the exception of possibly the two Red Bull drivers).

      As such, it’s basically up to Mercedes to “choose their weapon”. Essentially they have two choices which are: 1) Promote from their youth squad OR 2) Steal another teams best driver.

      Option 1 leaves us looking at Wehrlein or Ocon and it’s difficult to know which one they’d be likely to pick. Wehrlein is older and has more experience in the Mercedes team having done several tests, but was passed over for the Force India seat. If Ocon signing for Force India was a Mercedes choice rather than a Force India choice, you’d assume Ocon will be in the Mercedes next year.

      Option 2 is more interesting and probably what most neutrals will want. Alonso or Vettel alongside Lewis Hamilton. Would Alonso risk another high profile move? What if the Mercedes falls back? What if he no longer has the legs to beat Hamilton? Vettel seems unsettled at Ferrari and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move.

      To conclude – I think it will be one of Ocon, Wehrlein, Vettel or Alonso, probably in that order of likelihood.

      1. …having completely forgotten about Perez/Bottas who both drive Merc-engined cars at the moment. Hulkenberg may have jumped at precisely the wrong moment!

        I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen, but I could not be more excited!

        1. I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen, but I could not be more excited!

          I could not agree more on this. This has spiced what is usually a very depressing time for Motorsport fans.

        2. Agreed and if Perez gets selected it would be something special.

    25. David (@billyboltaction)
      2nd December 2016, 14:09

      I think Merc have an opportunity here to do what Ferrari did with Schumi. Put a number 2 in the other seat and push HAM as the defacto number 1. The field is likely to close up next season as the engines get closer in performance and having two driver taking points off each other isn’t helpful for winning the drivers title. Maybe Pascal is that number 2? Would he want to drive knowing all strategy calls would favour the number 1. Massa and Barichello certainly didn’t lose any credibility being in that position. Two very well respected drivers.

      Wonder if HAM would like to drive without any heat from his team mate? He’s never asked for such status. I guess there is always the possibility it would slow him down. Maybe he needs the pressure from the other side of the garage.

      1. Merc’s first priority is WCC. WDC is second to them. They need a consistent driver if the field closes up next season.

        1. David (@billyboltaction)
          2nd December 2016, 14:35

          Consistent yes, like a Rubens or a Filipe…

          1. Bring Massa back. He openly admitted that he retired because he couldn’t find a competitive seat and didn’t want to be a backmarker. I’m sure he’d do great in a merc.

          2. the last of those breed have just retired, Button, Massa, Rosberg,
            the remaining drivers are going to look at knocking Lewis of his perch, not playing lap-dog.

            1. Wehrlein might be a perfect fit. He isn’t expected to be as quick and talented as Hamilton and will likely be happy to play second fiddle given his minor status compared to Hamilton.

              I think you are right @billyboltaction Mercedes does have the perfect opportunity to get rid of that pesty rivalry-dynamic that devides the ranks and put a muppet in the second seat. As long as that muppet is good enough to get consistant points and podiums and a occasional win. That might also be Bottas instead of Wehrlein I guess.

    26. Poaching someone from the red bull family might be an option, sainz is going nowhere career wise at the moment, with red bull locked down for the needy few seasons. he’d be a safe pair of hands at bringing home points

    27. kyvat, i would love him to get the drive and run rings around verstappen.

      1. Oefff that would be spicy!!

      2. Like how Hamilton and Rosberg have been running rings around Verstappen this year?

        :)

      3. The Russian trolls that got Trump elected are now infiltrating F1 comments

    28. The logical choice is Bottas. He is close to Mercedes and he would be leaving a Mercedes powered team and Mercedes would be able to offer them a ready made replacement in Wehrlein.

      As much as Wehrlein impressed on track, reports seem to suggest his attitude leaves something to be desired.

      1. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
        2nd December 2016, 18:54

        I think they’re both over rated, we need Alonso in Merc

    29. Wehrlein will get it at least for one season, no sense buying drivers out of contracts that are up at the end of next year early when Vettel and Alonso become available for 2018 so why rush when they can pop a solid number two driver in and avoid all the Hamilton Drama they’ve had for 3 seasons?

      Then I believe Hamiltons and Ricciardo’s contracts are up at the end of 2018 so Mercedes will strengthen their bargaining power for driver negotiations in 2018 by having a happy Hamilton in the other seat while trying to get another top driver for 2018. Then come Hamiltons contract renewal post-2018 if they have a top driver already, and Ricciardo is also available his position is weakened.

      1. I believe Red Bull have an option on Ricciardo’s contract til 2019 which they exercised this season.

        1. To or including 2019? I thought both his and Hamiltons contracts last year were both 2018?

          1. I believe it was til the end of 2019. Both RBR drivers are available in 2020 at the earliest.

    30. I tend to think of Bottas or Perez. Everyone else seems pretty firmly tied in. I mean so are Bottas and Perez, but Mercedes has leverage with being the engine partner.

      I do find it funny, the idea that Alonso might go there. Firstly a repeat of 2007 would be fascinating to watch and for all the ‘I’m retiring’ from Button he finds himself back anyway.

      I really doubt Vettel would go there, I can’t see Ferrari releasing him. As for Ocon, too new. Wehrlein got snubbed for Ocon so… nah. They, for me, are the ‘there’s nobody else’ choice.

    31. I’m going to say Bottas. He is the next driver in Mercedes hierarchy by Toto Wolff being his manager. By giving a massive discount from their engines Mercedes will easily lure Bottas out of Williams despite Bottas having a contract for next season.

      1. We Finns can hope, eh?

        I’d be ecstatic to see Bottas go to Mercedes. Not because I think he’d beat Hamilton next year (he wouldn’t) but for his long-term prospects. I don’t think it will happen, though. His star has faded a little bit since the high of 2014, which is unfortunate, because it has a lot more to do with the car he’s driving than his talent. My hunch is that Mercedes will play it safe and give Wehrlein a one-year deal before seeing who’s available for 2018. This announcement has come as such a surprise that most drivers who would have loved to get the seat have already made commitments elsewhere.

        1. Not because I think he’d beat Hamilton next year (he wouldn’t)

          That is why he might be the safer option if they want to go for a clear #2 driver. Bottas has proven that A. he won’t be a threat to Hamilton at all but B. is good enough to get the goods home for the team.

        2. @estesark I think the biggest reason for Bottas’ low reputation is that we haven’t been able to compare him to a world class driver. Sure he has beaten Maldonado and out-of-date Massa, but apparently that doesn’t prove anything. Now he’d have a once in a lifetime chance to prove his skills. I agree he won’t beat Hamilton during the Mercedes debut year, but he could learn a lot from Hamilton and be the next new champion in a few years.

          However if Mercedes don’t pick Bottas but rather go with the one-year deal plan then I think they’ll pick Ocon. Wehrlein’s reputation isn’t that good and even Force India prefered Ocon over him.

          1. i keep hearing about Wehrlein’s reputation and attitude, but i haven’t read anything on the topic, and i follow F1 news pretty regularly. He doesn’t really seem the attitude type.

    32. I’m betting on Bottas or Alonso. Bottas as the mild-mannered replacement. And Alonso if Toto’s ego gets the better of him and he thinks he can manage what Ron could not.

    33. I’d be amazed if it isn’t Wehrlein.

      I wouldn’t be too shocked if it is Bottas or Ocon though. I don’t think Alonso would necessarily be a wise choice given how Mercedes has struggled to manage Hamilton and Rosberg over the past few years, and the likes of Button and Massa decided to call it quits for good reasons.

      1. My thoughts exactly. Wehrlein on a one year deal with extension options if he shows potential. If he doesn’t deliver the goods then out he goes at the end of the season and in comes a contract free driver.

      2. I agree – the chaps making decisions at Mercedes don’t like rocking the boat, as seen by last Sunday’s radio messages. Why would they go spend a lot of money releasing Alonso or Vettel from their contracts, to create a huge rivalry with Hamilton, potentially leading to problems, in a season where the reg changes may mean Red Bull can challenge them? Would Toto Wolff / Paddy Lowe really want to present this plan to the Mercedes Board? They will want more assurance of stability, and probably a solution within the Mercedes universe.
        This either means Wehrlein, Ocon or getting Bottas/Perez with a sweetener of a young driver + a better engine deal.
        Their main concern is going to be finding a #2 driver to Hamilton who can help win the Constructors title.
        Unless there is a big surprise, I would expect 2017 to be either Hamilton dominating or Hamilton vs. Ricciardo and Verstappen. For the sake of us fans hope it’s the latter.

        1. I think Mercedes feel they need another top driver. They do not feel totally at ease gambling everything on Hamilton.

          There has been some issues related to his lifestyle and his dedication to the team lately. What would happen if Mercedes produced a car that was not dominating next year, an inexperienced second driver and a Hamilton less than 100 % comitted?

          That’s putting all your eggs in the same basket and Mercedes can’t afford that. Mercedes is not Ferrari, a bad season or 2 might mean pulling the plug on the programme.

    34. After Rosberg’s shock retirement the big question in F1 is, who will replace him at Mercedes?

      Even with the major rule changes for 2017 Mercedes will be the favourites to have the best car again and the drive that everyone one wants.

      However with the vacancy arriving after the end of the 2016 season all the decent drivers are already signed up for next season, from the top drivers in the sport down to the midfield drivers who you would back to do a job as a number two driver.

      Wehrlein is the only driver without a contract who would be a halfway realistic choice but I don’t think he has done as good a job at Manor as many hoped he would.

      My bet would be that Mercedes will get someone who is currently under contract with another team and after the inter-team tension between Hamilton and Rosberg they may prefer not to try and get one of the top drivers, besides the better the driver the harder and more expensive it will be for Mercedes to sign them as the other team will be more able to put a bigger fight.

      My early thoughts are that they may go for a driver at a team they supply engines to as that may make things easier.

      Perez is probably the highest rated driver not at a top team and I think Force India have said in the past they wouldn’t stand in a drivers way if an opportunity opened up at a team that could win championships, but then they have already lost Hulkenberg and that would mean having two new drivers next year.

        1. I don’t think she’d fit very well into the car by the time Australia rolls around.

    35. This all starts to make sense. A while ago, Fernando said something like “if i were to have Lewis as a team mate again, it will be completely different now; we are both grown-up and we have more respect for each other”.
      So he will move to Mercedes, and considering the trend of his moves, Mercedes will not be the team to beat anymore, next year.

      Now, seriously, with the big aero changes next year, Mercedes will need the best race day driver next season, and even if we don’t like to admit it that is ‘Nando.

      Tough times for Ferrari ahead. Mercedes will be strong no matter what next year, and even if RedBull is not the class of the field in March, they showed every season, they are the best at in-season development.

      I can’t wait for next year! Sherlock S04, mean F1 cars, new StarTrek!!!

      1. Hate to burst bubbles… but at this point, I wouldn’t count on Star Trek launching. It’s a mess currently.

        F1 wise, I expect Mercedes to still be the team to beat, although Red Bull won’t be too far behind. I also expect the McLaren/Honda partnership to finally pay off, since Honda can fix the mistakes they made with their original engine design.

        I suspect the top 4 will be Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, and Ferrari fighting for 3rd, and Williams / Force India fighting it out for 5th.

    36. Seriously, I want Ocon. After 2014, I want to see him against Verstappen at the front of F1. Sure, Ricciardo should win the championship ahead of them :D But an Ocon v Verstappen would be fantastic.

      1. Watch the 2015 European F3 championship. Classic season.
        I wont tell you who wins.

        1. 2014 *facepalm

          1. Why do you think I said after 2014 I want to see them at the front of F1? ;)

    37. Please, please, please sign Vettel!

    38. Hamilton to Ferrari
      Vettle to Mercedes
      Ocon to Mercedes
      Kimi stays

    39. …aaand Mick Schumacher will be 18 years old on March 22nd.

      1. Let’s all have a good laugh at this… it’s one of those bonkers ideas that actually happens in F1.

      2. @hoshino the question is, has got enough points for a super license yet?

        1. No. He’s only done 2 seasons, and has 2 2nds and a 10th in F4 series to show for it. As such, Mick has only 24 points out of the 40 he’d need. He would need 16 points to be eligible by the end of 2017, let alone the beginning, though would be possible with a repeat of this season (when he got the two 2nds, in German and Italian F4).

    40. We are all excited about the possible big steal Mercedes can perform, but maybe now Hamilton is in a better position to negotiate too. He can ask unchallenged number 1 status and make Mercedes choose a driver who agrees to play second. Heck, even they could use a McLaren style and put two drivers, each one just for half a season, so even if they are on par with LH, none of the newbies would have a real possibility to become champion. But the WCC, the one that matters the most for Mercedes, would be safe.

      1. HAM’s insistence on not asking for no 1 driver status has to be admired but apart from Nando joining the wrong team at the wrong time, it is one of the most baffling decisions from a top driver.

    41. No idea at all. I think what Merc would want is someone who has already proven he’s fast, and has some years of experience in F1, so that would mean Bottas, Perez or Sainz. Bottas and Perez have the Merc link, and Sainz kept up with Verstappen. All of them are under contract, of course, but they can probably be bought from their teams without too much issue. Personally, and with no regards to any real-world considerations, I’d go with Sainz. The guy has shown flashes of brilliance.

      Vettel or Alonso? They already signed, and unlike the ones I previously mentioned, they’re earning some big bucks and their respective teams are heavily relying on them. I think Ferrari and McLaren would be much more reluctant to let their star drivers go, no matter how much money Merc is offering.

      Wehrlein seems to be an obvious choice since he has the link with Merc and is not under contract, but this is a guy that was passed up by Force India. To drive for Mercedes in 2017 automatically means he’ll be a de facto number two driver. With all respect for the guys capabilities, no way he’ll be able to stand up to Lewis.

      Button? McLaren probably won’t mind much as he’s not driving next year, and he is experienced, fast, knows the team, and I’m a huge fan so I would love this. But even I would have my doubts if he’d be able to genuinely compete with Lewis…although he probably would be capable of pulling a Rosberg, even at his age.

      Honestly, no idea. One thing’s for sure, whoever ends up at Merc will count himself very lucky indeed.

      1. Wehrlein seems to be an obvious choice since he has the link with Merc and is not under contract, but this is a guy that was passed up by Force India. To drive for Mercedes in 2017 automatically means he’ll be a de facto number two driver. With all respect for the guys capabilities, no way he’ll be able to stand up to Lewis.

        I think people said similar things about Ricciardo when he joined Red Bull alongside Vettel but look how he turned out. Who is to say it won’t be the same situation with Wehrlein if he gets picked to be Hamilton’s teammate…

    42. BAD timing for Hulkenberg to find a seat at Renault…

      I can’t think of anyone bar Ocon. Force India would make way for him, I’m sure.

      1. True but no more bad than when Sauber accidentally signed a small army of drivers the other year. If they want Hulk, they’ll probably not have to spend that much more than they would have to re-sign Rosberg when you include wages.

        It’s Vettel for me. He’s quick enough, has the experience, is German and his contract is up at the end of the 2017 with both sides not exactly being positive about signing a new one. Vettel put talks on hold saying he was focussed on the car for 2017 in October and Arrivabene said Vettel has to earn his new contract.

    43. WOW!! Surely it has to be Pascal Wehrlein! He lost out to Ocon at FI but i think he’s at the top of the list.

      But i would love it if Alonso joins Mercedes! Then we will have World War III!

      Final Word to Nico: A strange decision but fully understandable. Like the say it is best to retire when your at the top.

      Wonder what Hamilton is thinking??

    44. Quick quick get Fernando in. Please racing gods I’m begging, make it happen.

    45. It’s a shame Josh Hill gave up racing, this would have been perfect for Damon’s son…

    46. Wehrlein…that’s if Mercedes don’t get the Contract Recognition Board to give Nico seven or eight million reasons why he really should be in the car. I don’t know if F1 contracts have some familial clause, but really, Nico has left his team high and dry. They will have to expect to be putting Wehrlein in the car, or they give Williams or McLaren nine or ten million reasons why Bottas, Vandoorne or Alonso could be at Brakley next year.

      1. OK, thought about it about more in terms of the contract cycles. It is a shame but we can rule out Vettel, Alonso, Ricciardo, Perez and Hulkenberg for next year. For next year, Mercedes only have a choice of Bottas, Wehrlein or Ocon – my bet would be Bottas with Wehrlein moving up in his stead.

        For 2018, Daniel Ricciardo is available, as is Vettel. Mercedes will likely spend the year putting a package together with principally Ricciardo in mind. Hate to say it, but Alonso is probably too old to be considered, and Verstappen will be near impossible to shake from Marko’s clutches. Sainz and Vandoorne will also be out of contract if the board fancies a cheaper, younger vintage.

        1. @william-brierty – I wouldn’t rule out Vettel. If Ferrari aren’t willing to let Vettel go to Mercedes, he can agree to join them for 2018. Ferrari will not want Vettel running off to Mercedes with all their secrets but with 2017 having lots of rule changes, drivers are going to have to be heavily involved in testing the parts and without knowing what is going on underneath them, it makes the job much more difficult.

          We’ve seen previously how important contracts are in F1 – anything can happen.

          1. @petebaldwin Vettel + Hamilton at Mercedes, versus Kimi + WHO at Ferrari? There is no chance they’ll release him. Ric + VES is bad enough.

          2. @petebaldwin Well you can rule Vettel out for 2017 – there is no way in seven hells that Ferrari would release a driver so deep into their 2017 programme to their biggest rival.

            For 2018, yeh, Vettel’s a good bet. Ricciardo starts next season as my title favourite, and if he does challenge for the title, Mercedes may have trouble in coaxing him away from Red Bull. Vettel? No problem. That said, I would imagine that given the choice Mercedes might prefer the younger and somewhat more congenial Aussie…

            1. I think firstly that the contract cycle likely won’t be a stopping block for anything. Once a driver indicates he’d rather be somewhere else, you might as well take his (or his new team’s) big cheque to buy the contract out, and move on.

              With all the talk that RBR might be the team to beat next year, I can see their two drivers not even being tempted. Vettel? Perhaps, but he’s had less reason to be disappointed at Ferrari than Alonso has had at Mac, and Alonso is in his last few remaining years.

              I’m betting that Alonso and his management are trying the hardest, by a long shot, for Nico’s seat. That’s what I hope to see. I think we need a WDC against a WDC on that team, not LH and a natural number two who he will demolish. Top teams should always have the best drivers possible on them. Right now Mac is not a top team and they have arguably the best driver on the grid, who should now be in the best car currently and the natural favourites next year until we see more from the new chapter.

              Fingers crossed, FA at Mercedes for his remaining few years in the sport. He’s gotta be on his way if not already at Toto’s house as we speak.

            2. @robbie – I disagree. Today is already testing the value of F1 contracts, albeit it is not unreasonable to assume a driver won’t be likely inclined from quitting a top table F1 team paying eight digit sums per annum, but drivers cannot leave a team simply because they want to. At the lowest level, it puts intellectual property at risk by drivers absconding despite having been embroiled in the technical parameters of the 2017 programmes. Alonso and Vettel will have no doubt driven their respective 2017 mounts in the simulator.

              And there is a world of difference between a driver not wanting to race in F1 at all, and a driver tempted by the prospect of a more competitive car. And it is not just contracts; Alonso and Vettel are manufacturer-affiliated. Alonso is a Honda ambassador. I might be a fairytale, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a raft of lawyers waiting to stop it. Not wanting to be in the car you would have racing anyway is not a good enough reason to think you are entitled to a more competitive drive when it becomes available.

            3. @william-brierty No, you’re right and I know it is not as simple as just saying you don’t want to be there. But what I meant was that that is the start of the end of a relationship, and I just wonder given particularly FA’s lack of years remaining if there isn’t some way for this to happen out of urgency. But hey, maybe it will still happen for 2018 with less legalese if not 2017…just hard to know how much longer FA has and I think it would be best for F1 overall to see two roosters at Mercedes.

            4. @robbie Discount Alonso. It pains me to say it, but he’s too old for Mercedes to seriously consider. Vettel, Ricciardo, Sainz and Vandoorne are the long-term, 2018-onward candidates, but for next year Mercedes are going to have to make do with Bottas. The only way Alonso goes to Mercedes is if Bernie “facilitates” it as a parting gift to F1, just as he tried to “facilitate” a Hamilton move to Red Bull in 2011. But it’s not going to happen…just like Rosberg was no way going to retire…

            5. @william-brierty Hmm…Michael wasn’t too old for Mercedes even on a comeback, so I’m not sure why Alonso would be. And Bernie certainly is one to try to orchestrate things.

              Anyway I also think that whoever get’s the seat, if it is just a short-term contract until others are freed up, it certainly will give everyone a chance to see how the Merc is vs all others in the new chapter about to begin. Maybe the Merc seat won’t be so attractive as it seems right now anyway, although that’s hard to imagine. But with the talk being about RBR more suited to the new regs, for what that talk is worth perhaps Ricciardo and Sainz will be stricken from your list.

            6. @william-brierty Just reading a few other things and it made me wonder if FA has an out in his McHonda contract based on their lack of providing a competitive car. Stranger things have happened, no?

            7. @robbie Well, all I’ll say is Alonso to Mercedes makes no sense by any measure of logic, but nor does Rosberg’s retirement, so I won’t rule anything out.

            8. @william-brierty you mention Alonso is a Honda ambassador and they would not want to let him go. But to be honest, Fernando is decent only when in front of the cameras, but when he’s in the car and starts yelling “GP2 engine!!!” he’s no ambassador.

              It only makes Honda look bad with his repeated outbursts, so they might even be relieved to see him go and have some young guns like Stoffel lead the way for which seems to be another evolutionary / not revolutionary year at McLaren in terms of performance.

    47. Jenson is the best pilot from free of cockpit in 2017. Contract with McLaren not for racing, cos may be easy to rejected. I think so. ;-)

    48. Come back Jenson – you’ve beaten Hamilton before in the same car

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        2nd December 2016, 16:31

        @malc please don’t jinx it:-) Mercedes might as well retire from F1…

    49. My opinion….

      Although Wehrlein is available, I don’t think he will get the seat. Ocon, more probably.

      But that being said, I don’t think MB will go after one of the ‘past champions’ to fill the seat. I believe they will get someone a bit junior, but who is still capable. This way they will avoid the kind of season they had in 2016, will likely ensure Hamilton gets an easy WDC as a consolation for this year (yes, I put on my tin-foil hat to say that), and will, with the right pick, probably still pull of the constructors championship.

      Will be interesting to see how this new saga plays out.

    50. My prediction is this: Wehrlein will get the seat, but with a one-year (short-term) contract only, because drivers like Vettel and Alonso both have a year left on their current contracts, but I wouldn’t be surprised about these line-ups either: Hamilton/Ocon Mercedes, and Perez/Wehrlein FI, but I think that Wehrlein getting the seat is the most probable outcome.

    51. Poor Hulkenberg and his Renault contract.

    52. Jenson Button !

    53. Get Alonso please. That would be fireworks, and would love to see him fight for another title.

    54. I think it will be Wehrlein, whats the point of having a young driver programme if you don’t bring them through and if they think he’s good enough then he’s old enough. I’d love it to be a Vettel/Verstappen though but I cant see it

    55. My heart wishes for Alonso, but my money is on Wehrlein:
      – has a pre-contract with them
      – doesn’t have a contract for 2017
      – test-drove the W07 just a few days ago
      – is probably not going to be such a tough challenger for Hamilton straight away, making the team easier to manage

      1. My hope is that Mercedes, as proven these recent years, are racers and are not afraid to manage a tough rivalry. I share your enthusiasm for FA to get that seat and for Toto to give it to him while FA is still in F1. His last best chance. Don’t pass the opportunity up, Toto.

        For me I already know what next year will be like… If it’s FA at Mercedes then go Nando go…if it’s anything else, then go Max go!

    56. I think they’ll choose my Grandma just to prove to everyone that it’s the car.

      She also won’t be a threat to Hamilton unless he has a bit of an off day.

      1. Or gets into his head.

    57. Sainz would be the best. Top driver who is stuck.

    58. I have just three words: Juan. Pablo. Montoya.

      1. Heinz. Harald. Frentzen.

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          2nd December 2016, 16:48

          Guido. Van. Der.

          Dammit

          1. His name is Rio and he drives for Mercedes!

            1. I call your Haryanto and raise you one Jacques Villeneuve

            2. Mal – do – nado

      2. @fletchuk
        I have five: Colorless. Green. Ideas. Sleep. Furiously.

      3. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        2nd December 2016, 16:47

        Oh deer!

        I don’t think Juan’s chassis is very aero-formula friendly these days :) great idea though, if only

      4. The same thought had crossed my mind, along with Kubica.

      5. Had the same thought. I would love to see that happen. A bit unlikely though…

    59. I know it’s nearly impossible, but I would love to see Sainz in that seat so he can prove he’s as bit as a great driver as Verstappen! Two youngster fighting it out with the champions (plus Ricciardo) would be brilliant!!

    60. Kmister for the seat – merc is the only top team He has not driven for!

    61. Might be Wehrlein just got really lucky!

      It’s doubtful Merc will want to go through and intra team battle again, especially by buying out one of the other world champions on short notice.

      All the midfield teams have partnered youth with experience and might be unwilling to give up the experienced side of that to Mercedes.
      And if it was a close call between Ocon and Wehrlein at FI, the latter one now has his passport up his sleeve.

      (Hulk must really regret the move to Renault at the moment)

      1. Isn’t bad luck what defines Hulkenberg in F1?

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          2nd December 2016, 16:27

          Yes, you can say that again. Maybe this one time, the good luck might make up for all his bad luck… Fingers crossed!

    62. I think it could well be Bottas or Wherlein. I personally think it would be more sensible going for Bottas as he’s had far more experience and had proved to be very consistent over his years in F1. But as Wherlein doesn’t yet have any contract confirmed with a team, I really don’t know who is more likely. I wouldn’t discount Perez either but I think he’s more unlikely to be the pick. Over Bottas’s F1 career, he has proved to be one of the most consistent on the grid. He may not be the most exciting to watch but he it easily a very solid driver and should do as good a job or better that any other drivers that may go to Mercedes. You never know who they’ll go for as they may want a German driver in a German team which wouldn’t be surprising. That would make Wherlein likely again.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        2nd December 2016, 16:26

        @thegianthogweed true, Bottas brings in many points – he’s a favorite for sure although I would like to see Hulkenberg there but of course, if Hulkenberg goes to Mercedes, Renault will sweep the championship next year, no doubt:-)

        Read comment above yours by @clive-allen.

        1. @freelittlebirds
          Although I do think Hulkenbrug is also pretty solid, he has made a lot more mistakes over his career than Bottas. I personally think that both Perez and Bottas are better than Hulkenberg now although but only a small difference between Bottas and Perez. I would say that Bottas would do a more solid job at Mercedes as he’s hardly made any mistakes in his f1 career and has brought many points to his team. He’s also more likely to go to Mercedes as he is sort of in their line up of drivers. Much more than Perez or Hulkenberg.

    63. I would love to see Max Verstappen in the seat but how likely is it that RBR let their golden boy go? They might, however, be prepared to let Ricciardo take the seat and, no doubt, he would jump at the chance to get away from Max.

      Having said which, I must admit that Wehrlein appears to have the best chance.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        2nd December 2016, 16:23

        @clive-allen I don’t think Max is the kind of guy that would leave his employer in the cold. Red Bull have been very nice to Max and one way or another, he’ll get his chance with them or another team.

    64. I have not idea, but drivers like Perez, Bottas, Sainz, Hulkenberg, Grosjean are good choices perhaps.

    65. Watch Fernando Alonso! He’s the best driver out there and he’s won only 2 world championships. Since his Benetton days he’s always been in mediocre cars which goes to prove that its never about the driver but always about the car. Senna, Prost, Schumacher, Vettel and Hamilton would have won nothing if they had been driving a Minardi or a Manor! ITS ALWAYS ABOUT THE CAR!What we are seeing every year is a world champion IN THE BEST CAR! The drivers should be made to drive a different car at every race and then if they have the biggest number of points at the end of the year then they will be worthy world champions! Sounds incredible? Of course it does, but can be made to work like all things in this world if only we could find the political will! Go Fernando! You deserve the seat! Tear up your contract! You don’t like Ron Dennis anyway!! Lets see how much Hamilton will back you up into the rest of the field next year!

      1. @Mauro I’m with you.

        Just to add, and sorry if you are an LH fan, but after hearing some of the stuff that went on this season that gt-racer revealed about Hamilton, I don’t want to see his life made easy next year with a junior driver that won’t be a challenge. And I hope Toto sees it the same. LH’s entitlement needs to be given a rude awakening, if it hasn’t already.

        Toto is not afraid to oversee a rivalry…they’re racers…they’re a top team…and LH has had hissy fits and said he doesn’t need them, has made constant jabs in public about being conspired against (remember the lengthy letter Toto published after Lewis’s ‘no apparent reason’ comment, defending the 1500 staff on the team) and then his ignoring of team instructions in the last race, and Toto’s comment afterwards that LH did what Horner suggested he should, so maybe he should be driving for Red Bull. In other words and in my opinion we deserve to see a top driver beside LH making his life miserable, and that can only be Alonso as far as I can see. It would be the best thing for F1 too Toto, and you know it.

        1. Hey Robbie
          Have you heard that sir Jackie Stewart referred to him as a “ballerina”? Well, now you have it from one of the most respected names in F1. Enough said!

    66. I think they should put Pascal Wehrlein in the seat for 2017, and if he doesn’t perform to expectations then there will be several good drivers out of contract to choose from for the 2018 season.

    67. Lewis showed a big interest in adding more tacos to his diet, therefore Perez can be the perfect match for him and provide good feedback.

    68. Bring Alo on I would love it just for the “Oh Alo would be WC” Rosberg would kill Alonso in qually let alone Hamilton. And that it half the battle(more than half in these non passing regs). Alo would rely on Hailton being an awful starter which has happened once in 10 years. Button do not even get me started…

      Now to Vettel the guy who ran from Ric just been beaten by Rai in qually who Alo made look silly would not like to team up with Hamilton

      1. Button do not even get me started…

        Yeah, after all, Hamilton would smash Button wouldn’t he?

        Now, where have I heard that before???

    69. It will have to be Alonso they would want. Remember, they have a “feisty” Hamilton to contain and what better way than to pair him up with an old nemesis. I don’t believe Alonso has lost any of his fight and will serve to help ‘tame’ Lewis without undue management interference. I speak from a management perspective. Lewis would run rings around all the junior players mentioned here – I believe they will want to pair him with someone even better than Rosberg leaving them in a win-win situation…

      1. Agree wholeheartedly.

      2. Lewis won’t perform unless he’s pushed. What better way to spark a fire in Hamilton than with Alonso.

    70. Luis Rodrigues
      2nd December 2016, 15:40

      The powers that be have a golden opportunity to restore some of the popularity that this sport deserves.
      Many things have been tried to enhance the show, some of them total nonsense, some of them total gimmicks, some of them total fails.
      Among the attempts to generate more audiences and improve the show, there’s the degradable tires that most if not all drivers dislike, there’s the DRS that some fans hate, the easy to follow cars, the qualifying format change fiasco, the double points races, the search for a female driver, the track sprinkles suggested by Ecclestone, etc.
      The list goes on and on, but were this measures successful into improving the Formula1 appeal? I don’t know. I don’t think so.
      The viewing figures don’t look that great despite a close fought championship and in some cases this year, some great racing as well. But to me, some of the excitement is missing and falling asleep during GP’s became quite common.
      Now, Rosberg unexpectedly retires and leaves the most sought after F1 seat vacant and the question is: Who is going to fill it?
      What an opportunity it would be for any driver to inherit the championship wining seat but If I was the one who had to decide who would that driver would be, there would be only one option.
      Can you Imagine how many would turn out to watch another Hamilton vs Alonso saga?
      I am a die hard Mclaren supporter but I would gladly let Alonso go just to watch these two at it again in the same championship wining cars.
      I think that would be something really worth watching and a golden opportunity for Mercedes to do they’re bit to improve the show and ultimately successfully promote they’re brand.

    71. Has been a big part of success of his team in the last years. Has been beating his highly rated teammate for 2 consecutive years, has scored unpredictable podiums for a midfield team, quick and mature as still young, this year the best of the rest, has been running Mercedes engine since 2013, his name is SERGIO PEREZ.

      1. spafrancorchamps
        2nd December 2016, 16:18

        Forget it. Perez was gifted a chance and he blew it. Besides, every season he has proven he is too inconsistent for a top team. He has a couple fantastic races each year (always on the same few tracks) and that’s it. No, there are bigger talents out there.

        1. The gift of driven a McLaren dog ? not even Fernando Alonso can handle that “gift” BTW Perez has toroughly sweep the floor with Mclaren alone

        2. Luis de la garza
          2nd December 2016, 21:28

          Gift? Really? I would define it more as a curse!

        3. Did U even check the Drivers Standings???? Get This Perez is the Best of the Rest. Ur Bias of Perez is appalling. Perez is the Best choice for me as well. Not Even Vestrapon got a podium in his mid-field Toro yet everyone thinks his the new Fangio.

    72. Firstly, as much as I’d love it there is no way the current Mercedes management are going to put Alonso next to Hamilton and attempt to manage that.

      I think Ocon has a chance. There’s probably some clause in the Force India contract. One thing for sure though, if I’m Hulkenberg I’d be gutted. He would have been a perfect fit.

      1. I think the shine might be off the LH apple with Toto at this point, and he might find it refreshing to manage two WDC’s that have a history but a different history than one that goes back to their childhood. In other words Toto and Mercedes are racers and not afraid to have two roosters on a team, so FA is a no-brainer, for me anyway. From a marketing standpoint, a standpoint of what would keep Mercedes on the forefront of the headlines for the next few years…retain Alonso for his last two or three years in F1.

        1. @robbie Mercedes have been on the forefront of the headlines for the last several years BECAUSE of Lewis Hamilton.

          Has anything changed?

          1. @stubbornswiss Well I know you’ll likely disagree but Mercedes has also been on the forefront of the headlines because of the rivalry, and because of their dominance, not just the presence of LH. So I’m just imagining scenarios such as Mercedes not necessarily being dominant next year and/or LH demolishing a junior driver all season long, which is a far cry from the headlines of domination and a tense rivalry. Imho Mercedes could keep it all going with a signing of FA, no matter how the car rates relatively. Put a relative underling beside LH and his domination of said underling is nothing noteworthy. Dominant or not, they’ll gleen way more press with a potent rivalry, as the racers they have said and shown they are.

    73. spafrancorchamps
      2nd December 2016, 16:13

      I just hope it will be Fernando taking the seat. So that JB can return from his retirement and FA can win his third title. He’s one of F1’s ever greatest racers, and he should end his career on a high, not in a slow McLaren. Even though I would prefer him to win a title in a McLaren, chances are bigger that he can do that in a silver arrow next season, than in a McLaren.

      It would also proof to be an amazing season to see LH and FA together in a team again. Ten years after their famous inter-team rivalry.

    74. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      2nd December 2016, 16:14

      My choices are:

      1. Hulkenberg
      2. Sainz
      3. Bottas
      4. Perez (only because of McLaren)

      1. Hulkenberg an Bottas were outclassed by Perez this season. The only two real options of your list are Sainz and the mexican.

    75. Alonso, Vettel. Totto mentioned Alonsk. I would like to see thatone happen

    76. cmon guys
      we all know that Toto is the master chief of F1, the only option he is considering is Bottas.

      1. Yep, I think you’re probably on the mark here. @tiagocomodoro

    77. Still stunned by the news…..Its got to be experienced drivers..Vettel may be the obvious choice…german…but the buy out clause will be huge…compensation huge…and Nico although joint Number One (Anyone believe that??) was probably not on the same salary scale as Lewis…so Mercedes will discount Vettel as too expensive….Alonso though with a year on his contract, will with the lack of performance of the team, can probably walk away for next to nothing..and would take a salary cut just to get into Mercedes…the millions he has now, it wont trouble him too much…..also he can handle Lewis
      that promotes Jenson back in…or at least he could take a year at Mercedes…then retire properly….
      Am certain Lewis has an input in whatever is decided….
      How many days to the start of the season?????……….

    78. It will be a Niki Lauda come back. And he will drive with the red cap he always wears:-)

    79. My money’s on Pascal Werlein, he’s German, good, already under contract to M-B and will drive for peanuts, or less. He’s the modern day equivalent of Lewis back in 2007, but with real race F1 experience, also scored Manor’s only point this year.

      On Tuesday, after Rosberg had handed his notice to Toto, Lewis had a mysterious illness and stopped driving the car partway through the Abu Dhabi tyre test, Pascal took over the car from then on. I’m betting Lewis was asked to put in his best time, then Pascal was put in the car to see how he compared, a job interview..

      1. Couldnt agree more. Also think the retirement is not as much as a surprise to Toto as he makes out, reckon it was decided at start of season if he won that would be it.

    80. My vote would be Sainz. He’s been very consistent, has lots of potential, great personality/demeanor, he’s mature enough to be molded and fine tuned in a proper program like Mercedes, and he is too young to stay in the Red Bull family because there won’t be any chance for advancement anytime soon in that program. Buying out a junior driver from Torro Rosso I’m sure would be much cheaper than someone like Alonso or Vettel.

      Otherwise, if they were determined to spend the money on someone more experienced I would love to see Ricciardo get the opportunity to move up to a team like Mercedes and then promote Sainz at RBR. Daniel is young enough to take advantage of an opportunity like Mercedes and hone his skills even further to compete against Lewis and be a proper team leader in a couple of years when Lewis retires.

      1. IIRC, Red Bull blocked Sainz from moving to Renault earlier this year. If they wont’ let Sainz go to Renault, they sure a heck won’t let him go to Mercedes.

    81. I think after trying to manage Lewis and Nico and how tough that was with 2 competitive guys in the best car, they may go with a ‘number 2’ driver, Wehrlein seems the choice then, but I think he will do very well all the same. That said I think Red Bull will be dominant car next season so Max I would put as favourite. If Alonso did come to Merc though, can pretty much guarentee McLaren will be best car !! He has no luck with moving teams.

    82. Wehrlein. That would be fun, or someone completely out of the blue. Even if it’s only for a year.

    83. Give the seat to Pastor.

    84. Kvyat would be great option. Faster Ricciardo. And Red Bull needs a seat for Gasly.

      1. Yes, Kvyat!
        Anyway Mercedes sells more road cars in Russia than everywhere!

    85. I guess Jos Verstappen already knows.

    86. Wehrlein was not selected by Force India. Ocon got the seat instead, even though Wehrlein is provably quick. The choice of Ocon over Wehrlein seemed a little odd, given Wehrlein’s performance.

      So Wehrlein is now available, should Mercedes want to sign him. No messy contractual issues to sort out.

      Fortuitous. And he’s German.

      I have no more ability to predict the selection of Rosberg’s replacement than most others. But I would not be at all surprised if Wehrlein gets the Mercedes drive.

      1. Do you think Mercedes always knew that seat for Wehrlein was going to become available so put Ocon in at Force India? Knowing Mercedes it’s quite plausible.

        1. @john-h

          Impossible to know John. Even if Wehrlein gets the Merc drive, that is not conclusive proof of anything.

          But the Rosberg decision was so stunning, one could be forgiven for thinking there is more to it than meets the eye. One or two Fanatics have suggested there is more to Nico’s announcement than we think, but we’ll all just scamper back to our wee corners, lest we be accused of being too conspiratorial.

    87. Robert Kubica has had contact with Toto Wolff in the past. He would be an awesome choice but his arm remains an issue unfortunately.

    88. why not sainz? his contract with Torro Rosso can’t be worth that much, and he did well against max minus his reliability trouble, and we see how max has done in a car that can fight at the top.

    89. People are so funny. We are talking as if this was really a “shock” decision that caught Mercedes on the hop. Maybe a shock to the fans, but certainly not to the team. They knew about this the moment Rosberg made the decision – which i believe was around Spain 2016 (don’t ask me how i know). I also believe this decision is related to Lewis’s recent behavior, and the threat to quit mid season.

      There is certainly a lot more to this than meets the eye. Either way, the search and negotiations for Rosberg’s replacement began long before now.

      1. @kbdavies

        — There is certainly a lot more to this than meets the eye. —

        Agreed. There is more to this than a decision coming out of the blue.

        Some fans questioned why Wehrlein was overlooked by Force India, in favour of Ocon. I won’t be at all surprised if Wehrlein is signed by Mercedes

        1. Ah sorry, I hadn’t read your comment and I’ve said the same thing above! It’s going to be either Wehrlein or Bottas, but the Hamilton ‘illness’ tends to suggest the former.

          1. @john-h

            — the Hamilton ‘illness’ —

            That was another oddity that piqued my interest. I suppose Hamilton could not have been well enough to drive, given that there could have been safety/liability issues associated with allowing even a slightly unwell driver to drive.

            But it’s another oddity that exercises the mind.

    90. I’ve never seen Wehrlein do anything on a race track to impress me. Promoting him will probably hand the title to Hamilton on a plate. For the sake of the sport, Mercedes need to put Vettel or Alonso in Rosberg’s seat.

      1. Mercedes need to put Vettel or Alonso in Rosberg’s seat.

        Agreed. I would be massively disappointed if they didn’t.

        1. Me too. Particularly if FA doesn’t get it, since he’s the one in the worse car right now, and in his remaining few years in F1.

    91. I suspect Mercedes, as the supplier of engines to 3 other teams, will have a clause in their supply contract that gives them some sort of control over that team’s drivers. If so, then I think it would be fairly easy for Mercedes to promote one of those drivers to the “Number 1” team compared to if a potential driver was in a non-Mercedes powered team. The Mercedes powered car driver with the most points after Lewis Hamilton is Sergio Perez (Force India – Mercedes), and not far behind him is Valteri Bottas (Williams Mercedes).
      I don’t really think anyone below Bottas would be considered, except maybe Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, who will have poor performance clauses in their contracts, so they could invoke those if they wished to get out of their current contracts.

    92. Think they will go with Bottas.

      Pretty quick, not particularly showy, but consistent and dependable.

      Perfect Rosberg replacement.

    93. Mercedes will need a consistent driver for the constructors championship. They will also need someone who can do the 1-2 s for the team. Ideally they would want to keep Lewis on edge for the optimum performance. Here is what I feel about the options:
      1. Bottas: By no means an aggressive driver and that includes defending too. So a safe option. But is it enough to lock the front row? I have my doubts.
      2. Wehrlein: Overlooked by Force India. Still not ready for a top seat.
      3. Vettel: This will depend whether the romance is still alive. It was Vettel who took the Ferrari call. Is two seasons enough to do what Alonso did?
      4. Alonso: Still competitive despite his age. Mclaren Honda is still an uncertain project and Alonso has little time. But will contacts permit and will Lewis want him? Jenson can always come back at Mclaren.
      5. The RBR drivers are the best bets but will they be available and how costly will that be?
      6. A wildcard entry?

    94. Montoya. Available, too.

    95. Needs to be Stoffel Vandoorne.

    96. rafael martins
      2nd December 2016, 18:51

      Good Move:

      Ferrari: Massa in, Vettel to Mercedez.

      Other drivers will be just puppets in Hamilton’s landslide in 2017 if they put Maldonado, and other new drivers on the seat.

    97. Only Alonso is faster than Rosberg. The rest: Perez, Sainz, Bottas, Occon, Wherlein.
      Vettel and redbull drivers, has hard contract s.

      1. How do you know Alonso isn’t tied down Mclaren? At the end of 2014 it was either Mclaren or retire/sabbatical. I doubt Alonso has ways to leverage out of his contract tbh.

        1. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has an out due to their lack of production of a competitive car.

    98. It has to be Fernando, for me. I wouldn’t say that either Ocon or Wehrlein are ready for the seat; although both are undoubtedly talented, are either of them mentally prepared to be taken on by the team that has dominated the past 3 seasons? I’m doubtful. In any case, rushing their F1 careers seems like a risk Mercedes do not need to take, particularly when they could have their pick of almost any driver.

      Alonso seems like the perfect solution to me. He’s still one of the best out there. And perhaps with a career only likely to last another 2 or 3 years, it gives the junior drivers some time to get prepared.

      But maybe I’m a tad biased because I badly want to see Alonso and Hamilton as teammates again!

          1. As in 2 WDCs on the team, please.

    99. Kvyat!

      No one would expect that.

    100. Is going to be a reshuffle now, Mercedes most likely want two have two world champions drivers and as Perez did the best job this year with the available car.
      option 1
      Vettel to Mercedes, Perez to ferrari, Wherlein to Force India, GTZ/Nasr manor

      option 2
      Perez to Mercedes, Wherlein to Force India, GTZ/Nasr manor

      1. I mean the only with real chances for a top team drive now is Perez as Force India will love extra cash to step aside as they did with Hulkenberg, all other teams will be expensive even the driver eagerness

    101. Breaking on channel 6:

      SAI got the seat! MAG is going to replace SAI at red bull…

    102. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
      2nd December 2016, 19:35

      Wehrlein for a year and then Vettel would be amazing for Mercedes, for Vettel and for the fans. Personally I’d like to see a re-run of Hamilton versus Alonso, but I think he’s too long in the tooth now for Mercedes, given there may be a young 4 x WDC German available!

    103. 1. Alonso: no opt out clause as per Ron Dennis. expires 2017 (http://www.skysports.com/f1/news/24184/9831212/fernando-alonso-signed-three-year-mclaren-deal-reveals-ron-dennis)

      2. Vettel: Ditto, no opt out. BUT contract expires after 2017 (http://www.skysports.com/f1/news/24182/10625128/sebastian-vettel-puts-talks-on-a-new-ferrari-contract-talks-on-hold)

      3.Verstappen: Signed thru 2017 (http://www.forbes.com/sites/allenstjohn/2016/05/15/18-year-old-f1-racer-max-verstappen-may-be-the-worlds-most-valuable-athlete-after-spanish-gp-win/#4b8bdbd45fe8)

      4. Ricciardo: signed thru 2018 (http://www.skysports.com/f1/news/12433/10315612/f1-news-daniel-ricciardo-extends-red-bull-contract-until-2018)

      5. Hulkenberg: signed to Renault thru 2018 (http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/126644)

      6. Sergio Perez: signed at ForceIndia thru 2017 (http://www.bbc.com/sport/formula1/37536845)

      Most intriguing options, unless someone gets out of a contract are Esteban, Massa un-retiring, Jolyon Palmer, and Magnussen, who is free. Jenson Button is still going to be at McLaren, just not as a driver.
      My money is on Esteban getting a 1 year contract. then Mercedes will have it’s pick: Vettel, Mad Max, Alonso (arguably the top 3 drivers aside from Hamilton).
      Hamilton better watch out who in the car next to him.
      I don’t see any of the GP3 or Formula E drivers getting called up.
      Antonio

    104. My informant Garcia has the actual info. Through his connections to Flavio Briatore, he has heard that this was all planned at a beerfest in Munich a few months ago. Toto was there and Niki as well as Nico and Keke Rosberg and several others who might prefer to go unmentioned. The more alcohol was consumed the greater the BS and bets were being made and then Nico burst out with his intention to retire if he got the championship. Of course, that started talk of his successor at Mercedes and the usual names were all discussed and discarded until it seemed that they wouldn’t find a replacement. One more beer and then Niki says, “You know, I’ve always regretted my second retirement…”

      Dead silence for a moment and then Keke gets to his feet (a bit unsteadily), throws away his cigarette and yells, “Oh no you don’t, Niki – you’ve had your chance. It’s my boy who’s retiring and I get first dibs on his seat!” All hell broke loose with bets being made on both sides and, finally, Toto shuts them up by reminding them of who has the final say. “Ja,” he says, “I like this idea. Keke, if you can fit in the car, the job’s yours. Best of all it will save a lot of admin work – no need to change all those mentions of Rosberg…”

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        3rd December 2016, 15:48

        @clive-allen great story. Just one question: If Keke gets the ride, will they continue to measure the Mercs in horsepower or will they switch to reindeerpower?

        Once thing’s for sure, kids around the world will be very happy that Santa is racing:-)

        1. @freelittlebirds Ah, if only it were possible. Keke was one of the last of the free spirits in F1 and he drove like there was no tomorrow. But he was quick, much faster than people realised at the time. Most of his career was spent in dragging no-hoper cars higher up the grid than they had any business being and it was not until the fire of youth was beginning to wane that he finally got a couple of drives in decent cars. Even so, some of his races with Williams are a joy to re-run in YouTube. It would be wonderful to see him showing the robotic breed of drivers today how to drive sideways.

          As it is, I guess I’ll have to depend on Max for that…

          1. Haha nice Story my friend enjoyed it. One thing tho Keke fast!! I would have taken Alan Jones or Depallier over Keke any day. A driver I think has it that is ofter overlooked is Perez.

    105. What youngsters do they have?
      Felix Rosenqvist?

    106. Mercedes need a big name, WC, top driver. Their relationship with Lewis has broken down. He’s unreliable and inconsistent. There were rumors of him being sacked/suspended before this. If Hamilton threatens to quit or throws a tantrum during the season, they need a top driver to take over.

    107. Mercedes should sign Alonso as a *bleep* you to Hamilton

    108. I’d be amazed if it was Alonso; i’m even surprised that he is second favourite according to the present betting odds right now. My money is on Bottas. Proven points scorer, experience with the mercedes power unit and would, I imagine, be happy to collect a few wins along the way as Hamilton’s number two.

    109. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      2nd December 2016, 21:40

      I keep changing my mind every 5 mins, I just have a feeling Alonso will somehow force the move. There’s always a way around these contracts. But if they don’t give Wehrlein the job that effectively says they don’t think he’s good enough, so I suspect it will be him, plus he’s German. I don’t think Vettel will put himself alongside Hamilton, he needs to be number 1 and Ferrari will have too much pride to let their number 1 go to a rival even if tension has been building, not without someone decent to replace him anyway. Bottas could happen with the Wolff and Merc/Williams connections, Wehrlein to Williams, I could see that. Is Button a realistic option for one short term year contract? Probably not.

      My gut feeling…. Wehrlein unless they can get Alonso out of his contract.

    110. Well I guess that’s Ocon out of the question..

    111. For me VET to Mercedes, even if he personally has to pay, (as we have seen money means little at this level, see ROS walk away from millions) and as for Ferrari been there, done that).
      From left field, RIC to Ferrari and SAI to Red Bull

    112. When Rosberg was renegotiating his contract and it was at an impasse Totto threatened to bring in Alonso.
      I would think it’s ALO’s if he wants it.

      1. You’re thinking of Lewis, playing hardball with his renewal, and it was for Alonso instead of Hamilton. Alonso wants it, it’s a question of do Merc want him, and would Mac release him?
        My guess is a lot depends on Wehrlein’s data, which Merc have plenty of.

    113. It has to be Verstappen. He is the young hungry champion in waiting and reminds me of Hamilton in 2007. Exciting to watch and after his performance in Brazil he must be at the top of the Merc shopping list. He is the first driver since Hamilton who has actually got me on the edge of my seat, as you just know he is never going to be content to follow when a chance of passing is even slightly possible.
      Alonso is tainted goods after 2007 and Vettel has gone’ off the boil’ since leaving Red Bull. Anyone else would be a waste of a great seat unless Merc chose to make life easy for Hamilton and save cash at the same time with a number two driver.

      If you were actually Merc management and not a fan , who would you choose? My money would definitely be on a Verstappen. If anyone can give Hamilton a challenge it would be him. Young and fearless but would he be the team player?

      1. Sure Mercedes would go for Verstappen if they could, every team on the grid would by now.
        But there is no chance in hell Red Bull would let him go, he’s by far the hottest property in F1 now. Everybody knows he’s the star of the future now. There is absolutely no way Red Bull will let him go. They’d rather give away both Ricciardo and Sainz for free than to loose Verstappen at this point. I bet Red Bull has allready started contract negotiations with Verstappen.

        1. Given that there seems an underlying sentiment that RBR could be really good with the new regs next year, I have a feeling Max wouldn’t be interested in Mercedes right now anyway.

    114. Almost nobody mentions Ocon?!
      He beat Verstappen in F3

      1. You have to start looking at more then just numbers, Ocon beat Verstappen with a top racing team against a mid-field team. He even had more victories then Ocon!

    115. If I was in Toto Wolff’s shoes, the first thing I would look at is the situation for next year. Of course with the new regulations it is impossible to know which team will be the strongest, and as it appears right now it could well be a close fight between Mercedes and Red Bull. Thus Mercedes will need the best driver possible alongside Hamilton since Red Bull has an incredibly exciting driver line-up. Putting someone like Wehrlein could be a big risk that might end up losing them the constructors championship (although who knows, he might turn out to be the ‘real deal’ when in a competitive car). However the new regulations the driver appears to be able to make more of a difference, so I reckon they should try to get their hands on an established top driver. Thus my wishlist would be the following one:

      1. Daniel Ricciardo – Why not try to hit two birds with one rock? Getting two of the ‘big five’ drivers while weakening the biggest rival’s driver line up. This would likely mean that Red Bull would promote Carlos Sainz, leading to a renewed partnership between the two youngster rivals who were fighting each other hard at Toro Rosso as late as the beginning of this year. Thus perhaps there would be an added risk of them ‘falling out’? Nevertheless this could of course also be the case in Mercedes with two exceptional drivers. However snatchingthe contracted Ricciardo from Red Bull will probably be almost impossible.

      2. Fernando Alonso – Possibly still the best driver in the world. This could be his last chance of ending up in a championship winning capable car, so ought to be almost desperate to jump ship from the slowly improving McLaren Honda. Whilst they won’t want to let him go, one has to assume that Alonso has a clause in the contract to leave if the McLaren has been underperforming, so it seems much more likely for him than for Ricciardo to make a move. And the risk of Alonso and Hamilton to fall out a la 2007 seems almost negligible, those two drivers have such an enormous respect for each other these days so I think this might actually be one of the safest options in that regard.

      3. Sebastian Vettel – German four time world champion driving for a German world champion team? Sounds good, but this is the same driver who fled Red Bull after being beaten by Ricciardo, would he really want to go head to head with Lewis Hamilton? Well probably if the car is good enough to fight for the championship since he appears to grow frustrated over the relatively uncompetetive Ferraris. However, will Ferrari let him go? Probably not. Personally I also wonder if he would really be a match for Hamilton.

      4. Max Verstappen – Basically the same argument as for Ricciardo. However this youngster is uncompromizing and I feel there would be a large risk of Hamilton and Verstappen falling out. However getting Verstappen free from his Red Bull contract is probably even less likely than getting Ricciardo.

      Those are the only four drivers that I feel would could match for Lewis Hamilton, and make Mercedes’ driver pairing equally strong/stronger than Red Bull’s driver line-up. All those are under contract with other manufacture teams, however Alonso ought to be possible to get. If none of these is possible to get, then Bottas, Perez or Hulkenberg would probably be the best options, followed by the Mercedes junior drivers Wehrlein and Ocon. However they would then be dependant of either having a better car than Red Bull, or Hamilton being at his very best.

      Personally I really hope Alonso will land the seat. That would really make me look forward for what could be the best season ever, with the four best drivers in the world in the four best cars on the grid, with hopefully almost equal performance. And the team mate battles would be almost impossible to predict on beforehand.

      So dear Santa… all I want for Christmas is to se Fernando Alonso in a Mercedes!

        1. apparently nando has the jinx

    116. Maybe now we know the real reason the Werlein was passed over at FI.

      Merc held him back knowing this vacancy was potentially coming up.

      I don’t wan to see an “old name” in the seat, I want them to do a RBR and promote from within, and I think that’s he most likely outcome.

      1. I think Wherlein will get Bottas seat, and Bottas will go to Merc.

    117. Wherlein or Bottas. I bet on Bottas, more experienced and reliable. But it’ll be so harsh for him to compete with Hamilton. If Bottas go to Merc Wherlein will get Williams seat for sure. Manor maybe will line up with Nasr and someone else. I think Gutierrez will get Sauber seat. But I strongly believe that Sauber can be worse than Manor in 2017.

      Alonso? I doubt he will accept to run alongside Hamilton again, besides the problems they had, Alonso will prefer to get out of F1 rated as the better driver than giving the chance to Hamilton to prove the oposite.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        3rd December 2016, 15:43

        I agree and it’s practically a name shoo-in:

        Nico Ros berg
        Nico Hulken berg

        Instead of Roses you get the Hulk!

    118. Nico again shows the world what a class act he is. I would love to see Fernando go head to head with Bieber-Hamilton . I would actually start watching again with the sound turned up. Hopefully Button stays out of the game.

      1. New to F1, eh? Lewis against Alonso in the same car already happened. In 2007. Alonso was double defending world champion, Lewis in his rookie season.
        Guess who came out on top? You know who.

        1. +1

          Lots of hate towards HAM, all this talk of ALO being the best driver, i guess everyone is entitled to their opinion. Would it really be a good thing him going to Merc, maybe, possibly, yes, no, in my opinion, HAM would beat him again.

          Concerning who else is a measure for HAM, at the moment, RIC, VES, VES, RAI, so hopefully with the new rules coming in, there’s more of a competitive team fight rather than a team mate fight.

          1. Incidentally, Lewis has also wiped the floor with Vettel in the same car. Check out the 2005 Formula 3 Euro Series. If Vettel signs for Mercedes we will see more of the same – Lewis is too good for Vettel.
            Verstappen would be a good singing for Mercedes’ future, but would be no match for Lewis. Ricciardo too.
            Remember, Lewis is the only driver on the grid to win a race every season he has been in F1, no matter how bad his car or circumstances.
            We underrate him but when he does retire, we will realise just how good he was as a driver. To the point of never demanding number one status on a team!

    119. This late in the day merc have three choices
      1. Pay a release fee (Alonso, Vettel etc)
      2. A younger driver they already have under contract (Wherlin, Ocon etc)
      3. Someone in the free agent category

      Much as id love to see nando vs lewis 2, i cant see it happening, and the fee to get any other top line driver would be astronomical.

      On no 2 only they know if their juniors are ready for front end of the grid racing

      No 3 i cant really think of anyone who would be availible, willing to jump in and reliable.

      I think itll be wherlin. But if they are going to pay a fee Button m

      1. Cont. Might not be too far away from the top of their list!!! Previously driven for the factory, got on okay with lewis at mclaren, still relitavely quick

        1. Button would be a great choice now you mention it. That would be interesting, seeing a shock retirement followed by a shock curtailment of a retirement in just a few days ! It would certainly get the media buzzing and talking about F1 during the off season.Button is an all round popular driver, a true team player and very relaxed with Hamilton. Perhaps a chance to be in a WDC car and continuation of his previous battles with Hamilton would bring him back to F1 ? Two Brit drivers together in one of the best cars with new rules. What is not to like about that ?

          1. Button is not German :( but it sure would be a sweet team.

    120. Wehrlein is the obvious choice. What do Merc have to lose. They can give him a year and see how he gets on. If he’s not up to it they can replace him for 2018 with someone whose contract ends.

      My outside bet is Bottas. Doesn’t rock the boat and has connections to Toto. With a compensation deal for Williams.

      1. Bottas on Merc Wherlein on Williams.

    121. There’s some sound reasoning for a number of drivers to take this seat:

      Wehrlein – already in the Mercedes driver programme. Has test driven for Mercedes. Still rough around the edges but is fast, similar to Massa when he joined Ferrari. He is also German, which is good for the Mercedes brand. Would allow Hamilton to be clear #1. May not be a good for Mercedes constructors wise, however.

      Bottas – managed by Toto and is a no-fuss, sensible and fast driver. Drivers a car with a Mercedes in the back. Moving to Mercedes could see Wehrlein pick up that Williams seat.

      I imagine these two would be the most likely. After that, you’d imagine Alonso and Vettel would be pretty interested in the seat. Perez and Sainz would be more wildcard options, but would be worthy, nonetheless.

      Also, funny there are so many comments saying “it’s got to be Driver X who takes the seat” which has seen 14 different drivers mentioned who raced in F1 in 2016. That’s over half the field! Whoever takes the seat (Wehrlein aside) will also leave a gap in a reasonably competitive car, so it’ll be interesting to see who fills that seat, too.

    122. I think Mercedes will need to go with someone who has proven themselves to be capable of winning races. The main objective for them this year will be to retain the constructors title which even without the new 2017 challenges will be even harder for someone less experienced.
      Also slightly surprised after this years performance that Raikkonen along with his one year contract is hardly being mentioned as a contender.

    123. It’s got to be Alonso. The all-round best driver in Formula 1 alongside the fastest, Hamilton. What a pairing! And Alonso’s chance to get some more silverware before he retires.

      I’m not religious but I almost feel like praying!

      Never mind existing contracts. Everything and anything is possible!

      1. How is Alonso “the all round best driver in formula 1”, on what basis?
        As a background….
        Ex-F1 driver driver Alex Zanardi reckons Lewis is “a step aabove Alonso” – see http://www.gpupdate.net/en/f1-news/320558/zanardi-says-hamilton-is-better-than-alonso/
        Alonso himself reckons Lewis is “the best driver in Formula 1” – see http://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/alonso-vettel-not-the-best-driver/
        F1 bosses have voted Hamilton the best on the grid – see http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/sport/319323/f1-bosses-vote-hamilton-best-driver
        Etc.

        1. I don’t imagine it would be difficult cult to cherry pick a competing background.
          The only way to find out is to have them in the same car for a year or three.

    124. Evil Homer (@)
      3rd December 2016, 13:12

      Head: promote either one of Pascal or Esteban if the team really has faith in them! But its too early for both just yet.

      Heart: Bring Jenson back in! He would beat Lewis I think ! Or Dan, easy win, but honestly I want Fernando in that car “for sure”, if not Max!!

      Silly….or not so silly: Give Checo the drive !!

    125. Sainz is in a dead-end situation at TR/RB. I think he’s up to it.

    126. Bottas?

      With Mercedes sweetening the deal with an offer on the engine front?

    127. 2017 Second Mercedes F1 driver confirmed!!!

    128. Can Kubica drive an F1 car yet?

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