Who will Mercedes pick to replace Hamilton at the Sakhir GP?

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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Mercedes were quick to address fears over Lewis Hamilton’s health following this morning’s shock announcement that he has tested positive for Covid-19.

The team say he is only exhibiting “mild symptoms” of the virus. Like all Formula 1 drivers, Hamilton is in excellent physical shape, even after a gruelling season of 15 races crammed into 22 weeks.

It remains to be seen whether he will be able to return to action in the season finale in Abu Dhabi, but Mercedes will need a replacement for the world champion at this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

The upshot is, someone is about to be handed the chance to drive the most competitive car in Formula 1, and a clear shot at winning this weekend’s race. Mercedes’ choice will inevitably be interpreted as a signal of their future intentions regarding their driver line-up: Either a dress rehearsal for whoever might replace Hamilton when he retires from F1, or an alternative to Valtteri Bottas, who has been shaded by his team mate once more this year.

Who will get this extraordinary and rare opportunity? Here are the leading contenders.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Stoffel Vandoorne, Mercedes, Sochi, 2020
Mercedes’ official reserve Vandoorne would be an obvious choice

As the team’s reserve driver, Vandoorne is the most logical option – it’s the job he was hired to do. He’s in regular race action for the team in Formula E and was due to join Mercedes in Bahrain even before the news of Hamilton’s condition broke.

Vandoorne endured a bruising couple of seasons in Formula 1 with McLaren in 2017 and 2018, driving a pair of largely uncompetitive cars and getting hammered by team mate Fernando Alonso. A return in a substitute role would be an opportunity to remind everyone of the class he showed with his emphatic GP2 title win, and points-scoring debut as a substitute for Alonso in 2016.

Nico Hulkenberg

‘Super-sub’ Hulkenberg has raced three times this year

Hulkenberg has already performed brilliantly in a substitute role for two other Covid-19-stricken drivers, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll.

Called up on short notice at Silverstone, Hulkenberg was unable to start the first race due to a power unit fault. But the following week he qualified a remarkable third behind the Mercedes pair, and ran ahead of Stroll until he had to make an extra pit stop.

He returned at even shorter notice at the Eifel Grand Prix when Stroll fell ill. Having been unable to drive the car before qualifying he started last, but worked his way up to eighth place by the chequered flag, which remains the largest haul of points that car has taken in the last seven races.

George Russell

George Russell, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Mercedes junior driver Russell races for Williams

Mercedes junior driver Russell is considered the leading long-term candidate for promotion to the team once a replacement for Hamilton and Bottas is needed. He’s currently contracted to drive for Williams, and though he craves the chance to drive for the top team, his contract may prevent a straight swap. He is the team’s best hope of picking up the points they need to pass Haas and Alfa Romeo in the championship.

Still the possibility Mercedes could offer Williams one of their reserves in exchange for Russell remains. If they do that, it would be taken as a sign of how serious they are about promoting Russell to the team one day. If he were to show up and put one over Bottas, the pressure to give him the seat full-time would be huge. Perhaps that is a headache Mercedes would prefer to avoid.

Outsiders

Esteban Gutierrez, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019
A lack of a superlicence meant Gutierrez couldn’t return to F1 earlier this year

What other possible alternatives could there be? Esteban Gutierrez, Mercedes’ other reserve driver, was not eligible to serve as a stand-in earlier this year as he did not have the necessary superlicence.

Esteban Ocon, a previous member of the team’s young driver programme, joined Renault at the start of this year and is unlikely to be available.

Two-times world champion Fernando Alonso is preparing to make his return to Formula 1 as Ocon’s team mate next year. However Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff previously indicated Alonso’s contentious “history” with the brand rules him out of the running for a drive with them.

Over to you

Who do you think Mercedes will pick to replace Hamilton this weekend? And who should they pick? Have your say in the comments.

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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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203 comments on “Who will Mercedes pick to replace Hamilton at the Sakhir GP?”

  1. With both Championships wrapped up Mercedes have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    Not to mention some free publicity.

    How about Valentino Rossi ??

    1. I do not believe he has a superlicense, so unless I’m mistaken that’s not going to happen.

    2. Harsh Barsaiyan
      1st December 2020, 9:54

      Well they would still want their car back in one piece.

      1. Rossi is not a crasher, in fact no one crashes less than Rossi.
        I demand George.

    3. George Russel please please thank you

    4. As others have noted, he doesn’t have a license and the FIA have indicated they won’t give him one due to a lack of experience.

    5. I like the idea. What about Coulthard or Damon Hill. Does Mansell still drive? Take a retired driver. Would be very marketable. Just tune the engine down a bit to not embarrass Bottas or diminish Lewis’ results ;-)

      1. :D
        Jean Alesi? Or “super-sub” Robert Moreno? Perhaps Gabrielli Tarquini (most failed attempts to pre-qualify) or Marcus Winkelhock (led every race he started!) finally deserve this chance.

        1. Jose Lopes da Silva
          1st December 2020, 19:40

          Loved your comments and I would love to see the 2018 WTCR champion back on track.

        2. Tarquini would be cool :) Or Prost. Michele Mouton. Although you know Toto has some racing experience as well. Let’s not take it as an insult for the first three, it’s just a bit of mockery towards Toto. Would not it be funny to see a Toto vs Bottas, and have some “Hey Valtteri, this is Toto” radio messages? :P “Don’t use the kerbs, don’t lap me again” :D. Or finally let Hans Heyer’s dream come true.

          Probably Prost would stand his ground, but Tarquini likely have not driven too powerful cars recently, and that would be a problem, even if I like the idea. Although all of them, including V. Rossi would be there to make a show of it, and if they want to make a show of it, and still have a competitive driver in all aspects from outside of F1, then probably it would be the best time to call some top driver from Indycar, as the season already is over there, a seasoned driver from there is likely and reasonably eligible for superlicense, as Indy awards a lot of points.

      2. I like the idea of a veteran driving the Mercedes this week. I have a perfect candidate actually. Mr Sir Jackie Steward. He can show the world it is just the driver…

    6. Maybe Mss Wolff or Mr Wolff himself should drive the car. As said, both titles are secured anyway

      1. Can’t do any worst than Bottas. lol

        The real question is will the replacment driver do better than Bottas, or will Bottas step-up now that he is the lead driver?

        1. I highly doubt that, given Bottas is usually within a tenth or two of Hamilton I can’t see anyone jumping in the car and beating him straight away.

    7. would love to see mad max in the car

  2. BJÖRN ANDERSSON
    1st December 2020, 9:46

    While I think the Hulk would be the best pick, I also think Russel would be good for Merc to get to test for real.
    I guess Kubica would possibly be blocked, otherwise that’d be fun too.

    Ousider: Marcus Ericsson has some recent oval experience for this almost-oval race.

    1. Estabon de los Casas
      1st December 2020, 15:22

      Give the seat to Joe Biden, Corvette guy. He’s proven he can win and he has a background with a heavy foot. But a real dream would be to see what George Russell should be given a chance to drive a Formula One Car. A real formula one car finally.

  3. Gutierrez should’ve done running in a modern car for at least 300 km at proper speeds earlier this year to renew the super license that expired after last year because of him not doing any F1 race over the last three years.
    Ocon is 100% under contract at Renault, so no use to even ponder.
    The only realistic options at this notice are Vandoorne and Hulkenberg.

  4. It’ll be Vandoorne. This is what reserve drivers are for. As much as I would like to see Hulkenberg or Russell in the car, it doesn’t seem likely.

    1. Vandoorne was also the reserve driver for Racing Point (and McLaren), along with Guitterez. So I doubt that matters. These days being a third driver is more about being the resident sim driver working on set-ups in the factory than actually being there to drive the car in case of emergency.

      Now Merc is a special case in that it has already wrapped up the season, but if it was any other team, you’d want a driver that is most likely to perform the best in a car like that. So preferably someone with more recent real-life F1 experience than a Vandoorne who spend two years away from F1, in that sense a Russell or Hulkenberg makes more sense to promote.

      Besides, with a half eye on the future and knowing Russell was being eyed for 2021 at Merc before Claire closed the door on that, they’d probably love it if they could get a test run with the lad, though I doubt Williams is really game for that.

      1. Lenny (@leonardodicappucino)
        1st December 2020, 10:43

        @aiii Racing Point would have gone with Vandoorne or Gutierrez at Silverstone, but Vandoorne was in Germany racing in Formula E and Gutierrez didn’t have a superlicence

      2. Vandoorne was already in Berlin for the FE season finale when Checo got covid, that’s why he wasn’t available at Silverstone, and I think since Hulkenberg already drove the car and was nearby, he got the call for Nurburgring too. However Vandoorne wraps up his Formula E test today, so he should be available this time around. The biggest thing that works against him is his image in my opinion – I personally like him and he’s popular in FE terms (he always gets the FanBoost), but he’s not really more charismatic or whatever than Bottas, so I think Mercedes could go with Hulk or Russell because of that. Imagine the press they’d get for finally getting Hulk his first podium?

        1. If Mercedes cared about excitement they wouldn’t have kept Bottas. It will be Vandoorne for sure.

    2. Vandoorne has scored once in Bahrain. That said, Vandoorne is not deserving.

  5. They should put Vandoorne, as he is the reserve driver. As much as I desire to see Russell drive a competitive car, it does not make sense to put him as a substitute for Hamilton. However, anything is possible. Let’s just wait, and if I am Wolff, I’d have my cellphone with me every second since that announcement LMAO. If I am the drivers, I’d also do the same.

    Given that this Bahrain layout is a power track, I’d expect this to be an easy win for Mercedes just like at Monza, where the team including Hamilton, threw a clear victory there. Time to see how Mercedes work without Hamilton as well. It will be interesting.

  6. someone or something
    1st December 2020, 9:49

    I’m going for the long shot: Romain Grosjean?

    1. very hard with burned hands so no

      1. someone or something
        1st December 2020, 10:48

        “You don’t say?” aside, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the prospect of getting to drive that Mercedes sped up the healing process significantly …

        1. That is wishfull thinking not a long shot!

          1. someone or something
            1st December 2020, 13:11

            You wouldn’t be able to tell a tongue-in-cheek statement from a serious one if your grandmother’s life depended on it, would you?

    2. I would love to see it happening but that’s the longest of long shots :D

    3. £50 at 5000 to 1?

    4. Michael Schumacher is more likely than Grosjean actually.

  7. Put George Russell in for Hamilton, and put Hulkenberg in the Williams. Having seen how well he did n the Racing Point, it would be interesting to see how he compares with the Williams regulars. Might give some ideas how good/bad the Williams really is!

    1. I agree, it would be the better option. I suspect many reserve drivers aren’t actually race fit, so aren’t fit enough to endure an entire weekend of driving, and especially the 2 hour race session. Putting George into the Mercedes would guarantee their car can run the entire session without having to retire. Then put Nico or Stoffel into the Williams, so if they have to retire due to pain and cramps then it is less noticeable.

    2. +1^3
      Nothing like a little chaos to liven up the morning. Loving it.!

  8. ‘[…] but worked his way up to eighth place by the chequered flag, which remains the largest haul of points that car has taken in the last seven races.’

    Oof, I didn’t realise this. Anyway, Russell deserves a shot. Probably be Vandoorne, though. Mercedes strikes me as a team of rigorous protocol and stability, not wildcard decision-making, so I doubt it’ll be anyone other than VAN, given he’s the team’s reserve driver.

  9. I’d like Mercedes to be brave enough to pull some strings to get Russell into the car.

    However as correctly pointed out in the article, Toto has nothing to gain from that. Only us poor fans want to see it.

  10. If he were to show up and put one over Bottas, the pressure to give him the seat full-time would be huge. Perhaps that is a headache Mercedes would prefer to avoid.

    That’s the most crucial decision point. They should avoid putting any good drivers to make Bottas comfortable.

    1. Ok. Just read that Bahrain has strict quarantine rule. Lewis likely missed two races and it appear that the most conservative choice in Vandoorne is not possible as he still in Valencia.

      So George to Merc, Kubica back to Williams?

      1. Vandoorne wraps up the FE test today @ruliemaulana, he was already planned to arrive in Bahrain before the weekend in preparation for the end of season testing to go on.

        I would guess that since he’s been in a bubble, and probably testing as often as the F1 drivers the last week, that would satisfy quarantine measures in Bahrain.

    2. Why would they want to keep an underperforming diver? If Vandoorne beats Bottas on Sunday, he deserves the 2022 seat.

      1. Me : After just one race?!

        The entire F1 viewing world, and me : Yep lol.

  11. Pllleeeaaaassseee let it be Russell!!!

  12. I know that time is on the side of Toto (at least 24h worth) but the fact he hasn’t already confirmed Vandoorne shows a lack of confidence. Doing a quick confirmation prevents the rumour mill from cranking up a few gears and will prevent jim from having to answer awkward questions come Thursday.

    Maybe there is some chicanery behind the scenes. Just not sure what chicanery.

    1. Hm, I think you are overreacting there @chimaera2003.

      First of all, they found out about the test results for Hamilton yesterday late or this morning in Bahrain.
      Vandoorne was already at the test – the last pre season testing day for a championship contender in FE for the coming season. And since he was planned to arrive in Bahrain before the weekend anyway, they knew he’d be available and did not even have to change plans much. In other words, no immediate pressure to act.

      If they do want to consider another driver, that would be discussed with Mercedes during the day, and would have to be discussed with the representation of that driver probably tomorrow. And with the team they are currenlty driving for if they want to have a go at Russel.

      So yeah, either they do consider another driver and we’ll hear about that tomorrow or maybe on thursday, or they will confirm Vandoorne at about the same time – thursday.

      1. Not to mention the rather critical point that they need to make sure that any potential candidate is clear themselves, as well as checking which members of the team might also be at risk of infection, beforehand.

        I would expect that to take at least a day to sort out, if not more – you kind of don’t want to rush that side of the process.

        1. Yeah. Especially since with Vandoorne planned to arrive anyway, they have no pressure on them until thursday afternoon really.

          1. @bascb I didn’t think of that angle but even Vandoorne has since admitted he only has a chance.

            It does make me wonder if any contract he has with the F1 team is worth the paper it is written on if he can’t feel confident he will get the seat. People will engineer this as a stick to hit MB with if Vandoorne doesn’t get the seat, I can almost imagine the snide Horner comments now!

          2. Well, until the team actually annouces no driver will be able to confirm anything @chimaera2003. That would also be the case even if Vandoorne was privately already told that he would be driving. Just like Mazepin probably knew he was going to Haas for some time before they annouced it.

  13. I think with all the championships wrapped up I would just not run one of the cars and give the guys at the garage a bit of a breather to award their hard work for excelling all year long. I am sure they are obligated to run both cars for sponsors and regulations etc but never the less….

    1. Very likely the FIA would take a dim view of a team not running a car.
      Consider the $$$ from the various sponsors and the stir dropping 50% of their exposure would cause.
      As it is they have an opportunity to increase the value to the sponsors well beyond what would normally be the case.
      Just look at the response on this forum. Incredible.

  14. Really hoping Barry’s grandma gets a shot. Hopefully the FIA will grant an exemption to the superlicence rules. It’s clearly the right way to go. https://twitter.com/Barry8892/status/1320376695325626374

  15. Paging Mr. Button… Jenson did a bang up job subbing for Fred at Monaco a few years back… ;-)

    1. someone or something
      1st December 2020, 10:50

      He still has a grid penalty pending for that ‘bang up’ in Monaco, though …

      1. Didn’t Jenson ask the stewards to ban him after that to avoid this sort of thing in the future?

        1. someone or something
          1st December 2020, 13:22

          No idea, to be honest. If he did, the Stewards’ discussion of his proposal must’ve been something along the lines of:
          – Did you hear anything?
          – Must’ve been the wind.
          – Anyway, let’s release Stewards Decision Doc 42.

  16. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    1st December 2020, 10:11

    I’d love to see Mick Schumacher step into the car formerly occupied my his dad, but cant imagine his Ferrari ties would allow it.
    Wouldn’t say its impossible though, Merc would get a nice headline and Ferrari some F1 experience for him before his Haas debut next year, although he has an F2 championship to think about.

  17. Oh god, please give Russell a chance! Hulk is da monster but let George show his talent in a top car. He deserved it so much!

  18. The problem with Russel is, it would steel Williams of the chance to at last get some points this season.

    1. That’s not going to happen anyway.

    2. How about Mercedes lend Hamilton to Williams for the Abu Dhabi race as a payback for using Russell in Bahrain.

      A great chance for us to see if Hamilton is that good, or if it’s all about the car, and maybe a shot at some points if he is……

  19. Whoever it is, if they beat Bottas then he has nowhere to hide.

  20. If he were to show up and put one over Bottas, the pressure to give him the seat full-time would be huge. Perhaps that is a headache Mercedes would prefer to avoid.

    This quote applies to all the 3 candidates, not just Russell. The way I see it, Bottas has nothing to gain & everything to lose no matter who occupies the other cockpit. If he wins against the other driver, nothing special; if he loses, major loss of face. Hence, no point trying to make Bottas’ life easier. He is anyways not a long term prospect for Mercedes.

    They should look to test out the driver who has the highest long term potential for Mercedes. Go George!!

    1. I highly doubt any driver is going to just hop into that car and win with it. Would it be a fair test to just throw a driver into the deep end and then be critical enough of his one performance to base his future on it? But yeah for sure one would think VB would be pretty embarrassed if someone did come in cold turkey and beat him fair and square, but it would also show that LH truly has a car that anyone can just hop into and win.

      1. Bottas has more experience in the car than any of the candidates, so not much chance he would get beat.
        BUT … if he did, no doubt there would be a piece of someone else’s bodywork stick in his barge-board or a mechanical problem, likely in the electrical system.

        1. Or a big bee …
          Perez or Stroll Could hop in, they’ve been running virtually the same car all year. Perez has nothing to lose, his contract is gone anyway.
          Kubica?
          I’d actually like to see Vandorne get a go, I feel he was shafted by McLaren and Alonso and is a lot better than the record shows. He’d be the only one who’d used DAS too.

  21. Well for George Russell’s future career, I hope Mercedes have a serious conversation with Williams!

    As much as George is Williams’ best driver, the likelihood of them scoring points in either of the 2 remaining races is VERY slim! So why not let George have the chance of a Mercedes drive and Williams still get extra publicity for allowing George to drive and for whatever result the substituted replacement achieves!

    1. your right but why would Williams do it? It’s not that George can say srew it i take the Mercedes then he is out of a seat next year….

      1. I´m pretty sure that if Williams let Russell go to Mercedes for this race, they will get some money out of it (or maybe some other kind of arrangement..). Williams can get an additional cash by putting Nissany on Russel´s car for a complete weekend.
        I know Vandoorne is the “Official” reserve driver, but for me the most logical choice would be Russell. I doubt that Williams is in a position to block that move.

        1. Nissany has nowhere near the super licence points needed for a full weekend. There’s a different dispensation for FP1

    2. Even essentially being a Merc owned driver, I feel Russel’s career needs to get out of Williams ASAP. Just cos of his ties to Merc does not mean he’s got a seat at Merc whenever one is free. At least that’s the feeling I get

      Hell he might not be as good as we think, but he needs a break like this IMHO.

      1. I just question throwing a driver into the deep end and calling that a future deciding moment. And that’s what everyone would inevitably do. I don’t think it would be wise to throw Russell into this when they have a reserve driver and whatever he does won’t be scrutinized ad infinitum.

  22. Two-times world champion Fernando Alonso is preparing to make his return to Formula 1 as Ocon’s team mate next year. However Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff previously indicated Alonso’s contentious “history” with the brand rules him out of the running for a drive with them.

    @Keith, No matter how improbable, you just can’t resist writing Alonso’s name in EVERY Mercedes driver related thread, can you :)

    1. Alonso? Keith are you high or something? a bit serious please.

    2. I have to admit that as soon as I saw the article I was ready to put Alonso down just for lolz but since it was mentioned the joke would have been pointless.

  23. Perez. Get Seb to Racing Point early. Get Carlos to Ferrari early. Get Daniel to Mclaren early. Alonso to return this weekend with Renault. There. Fixed it! Ah we can but dream…

    1. @tommy-c That’s a heck of a lot of contract negotiations and COVID bubble swapping to sort out with only four days before the next event.

      1. All this talk about this driver or that driver really. Bite the bullet an put Danny Ric in the car just to mess with Max’s head.

    2. Tommy, I like your thinking… Impossible to happen, but that’d be awesome…

  24. Give it to Big Sam ’till the end of the season

  25. They have not something to lose so why not george?

  26. I don’t care if it will be Hulk or Vandoorne, these two are my clear favourites and it would be a career highlight for both of them. We’ll have a nice story either way. But I believe Hulk would squeeze more out of that car.

  27. About time for Häkkinen to come back from his sabbatical.

    1. Finally a sensible suggestion in the comments.

    2. Check his tweet from October 23rd, he’s ready!

  28. Paul de Resta. You heard it here first

  29. Apparently people don’t realize that there’s a reason why Hulk lost his place in F1 not just once but twice already. It’s not money, that much is clear.

    1. someone or something
      1st December 2020, 13:25

      Very interesting perspective. Might I interest you in this fine bridge by any chance? It happens to be for sale …

  30. This is sensitive for Toto, Ham and Bottas.
    One hand Toto needs a whipping boy for Bottas to substantiate his claims. It would really look bad if Bottas is beaten by the replacement and the way his luck is going currently it could just happen.

    Ham, is bothered by the fact he has the fastest car and there are some claims from some quarters he only wins because of the fact. So he would want someone who won’t perform because if who ever takes over wins or finishes 2nd it will only give credit to their claims.

    I’m sure behind the scenes Ham and Bottas have a say in who steps in.

  31. Who will Mercedes pick to replace Hamilton at the Sakhir GP?

    Someone presumably useless. Toto, since he is earning a piece of Bottas contract, will make sure to prevent his driver being embarrassed by someone that steps in the car for the first time. My money is on Vandoorne even though Hulk or Russel are the obvious choices.

    1. @tifoso1989 I would look at the the other way around. Toto probably wants the best driver he can get since if they win (or demonstrate equivalent performance) he can use this as leverage to drive Lewis’ salary demands down.

      1. Then again, if he throws in an unproven race winner and they win the race, it could really push that price down. What Mercedes will show, is they can maintain high level performance without Ham. The best driver he can get is Russell or a Hulkenberg.

        The World titles are already sorted and they can have a Marketing exercise have a German in the car and winning races. Hulkenberg would be relatively up to speed if he gets in some FP1 and FP2 sessions.

        Russell could get the call because this is one area Mercedes are failing, their young driver programmes.

        But I do worry for Bottas. He can not afford to be beaten. Imagine if Russel thrashes him and Max beats him to 2nd, I would really like to hear Toto’s excuse for him after the race.

      2. @chimaera2003
        If Toto have had any intentions to out-negotiate Hamilton in present or past negotiations with regard to his demands, he would have brought Fernando Alonso’s name on the table. Hamilton and Toto get on very well with each others. It’s just a matter of time and Hamilton will renew his contract.

        1. @tifoso1989 Possibly true about using Alonso in that regard but Lewis could have just called Toto’s bluff as not really sure Toto wants the agro.

          However if someone like Russell is used in the same way, Lewis may have to take that more seriously as Toto has backed him for a while is seems to be maneuvering him for a promotion in the future. Especially as current commercial considerations at MB due to Covid will be to reduce his salary (he will be highest paid employee across the whole group).

          Anyway, all speculation!!

        2. @tifoso1989 I should have said that I agree that both parties want to continue with each other. However the size of the contract will mean that Toto can’t approve himself and will be under pressure to secure a reduction.

          1. Yes, Toto himself if he could unilaterally approve the contract, I think it would have been done and dusted long ago, he is a Lewis fan no doubt. But the board will want a reduction and if someone is parachuted in and wins by a similar margin to Lewis on Bottas, they might take this opportunity to make a fresh start on their new star. Remember Perez does not have a seat and he is currently a Mercedes driver, at least with a Mercedes engine. If they offered him 3 Million to drive for Mercedes I say he will jump at it.

  32. I think Merc will want to give the slot to someone who is on the grid now, not someone who sat on the sidelines for a couple of years.

    That makes the most obvious choice Russell, with Stoffel given a race by backfilling at Williams.

    But I’d like to throw this scenario in. Racing point Mercedes seems to be able to call up the Hulk at short notice.

    Would Mercedes be interested in giving Perez a shot given his fluid consistency and the way the RP car is said to be a Merc copy? He would be a podium chance in a Mercedes, whereas Russell would be a top 10 finisher, but maybe not top 5.

    1. It would be embarrassing for F1 if Sergio won the next two races and then couldn’t find a seat for 2021.

      1. Embarrassing …. it would be awesome.

    2. I don’t think Mercedes have anything left to achieve in terms of results. They’ve already secured the WCC and WDC.. so I guess using all the political influence for a race where results don’t matter as much isn’t a priority for them.

      I would see them trying to get Russell in and make the most of the situation. In case that isn’t possible, I’d expect them to go for the Hulk.. a driver they considered signing at one point in time anyways. I just don’t see Stoffel getting the gig, too much F1 race rust.

  33. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    1st December 2020, 11:41

    I’d like to see Hulkenberg in the car, he’s been thrown into this situation twice before this season (in a very, very similar car) and done well. It would be a great feel-good story should he finally get on the podium.

    1. Hulkenberg gets my vote by a mile

    2. Lewisham Milton
      1st December 2020, 19:55

      Yep, he’s raced that car (in pink) somewhere between 2 and 3 times already this year!

  34. As others are predicting, I think they’ll go with the option that gives them less chance of a superior result over Bottas. Would look bad for Bottas (and Mercedes) if he gets beaten by someone who’s actually decent, and also Lewis would not want the replacement to beat Bottas either (makes himself look better if the replacement does poorly). So probably Vandoorne.

    1. I would go for Hulkenberg or Perez.

      In case Bottas gets beaten Toto could always say that Valtteri had a damage to the floor losing 40% of downforce and blah blah blah….

  35. Put Hulkenberg in the Merc, give him the podium and end the curse !

    1. @redbullf1

      Win win situation for everyone. Mercs.. Hulk.. the fans.

  36. I realise that Bottas already has a contract for next season, but it would feel like a wasted opportunity from Mercedes if they didn’t put Russel and Bottas side by side for a couple of races for a direct comparison.

    I think Bottas, with his familiarity with the current Mercedes, would have to convincingly beat Russel to show he’s worth keeping, and if Russel could out qualify and out race Bottas in both of the next 2 races Mercedes would have to promote him early.

    With the clout Wolff has if things worked out well for Russel he might be able to place Bottas back at Williams for a season. I’m sure they wouldn’t complain about having a more experienced driver pedalling for them next year.

    1. Anything to show how dire Bottas is in that car is good enough for me. Considering the car, he’s an awful driver. You cant even rely on him being a good 2nd driver to help Lewis, on purpose at least.

      Merc rely on Lewis getting pole and winning. Bottas relies on the Merc being so much better than everything else to not show up how bad he is.

      1. @invisiblekid

        I wouldn’t go as far as calling him awful.. but surely… he’s nowhere close to the top tier of drivers in F1. Maybe because of Mercedes’ current machinery advantage, Bottas is being flattered as a genuine race winner and the best #2 driver money can buy.. but you’re right.. if there was nothing to choose between the Red Bull and Mercedes cars this season, I really doubt Bottas would be giving Max a hard time. He seems like he would be ahead of Albon but not near Verstappen.

        Mercedes are not going to be able to sustain this dominant machinery edge for long and they’ll need a worthy talent in that #2 seat to keep Verstappen and Leclerc at bay. So yes… maybe evaluating Russell vs Bottas is a good move on their part.

      2. Bottas is certainly not awful. None of the driver in F1 are awful, they wouldn’t be there if they were, but he’s not a great driver like Lewis or Max…few are. He’s a decent solid No.2 driver but I seriously doubt that Merc are looking at him as a team leader replacement for when Lewis leaves the team. That’s the position they’ve got to be evaluating Russel for.

        If he does well in these next 2 races, promote him over Bottas to learn alongside Lewis next year

        PS. Called it ;-)

  37. What about Mr Davidson? He apparently does all their sim work, and surely his recent WEC outings have kept him both race sharp and licence worthy.

  38. If Hulkenberg ends up in the Mercedes, and somehow manages to win, it’ll be too much in the universe to cope with, even by 2020 standards.

    Prepare for the apocalypse!

  39. Dear Toto
    Keith has my number, and I’ve cleared my diary from Friday.

    1. Dear Rodber

      You have repeatedly stated that your granny could drive that car. So unfortunately you won’t be required.

      Love and hugs,
      Toto

      P.S. Could you let us have her number?

  40. Also here’s a thought. If Lewis does not sign for 2021 and also misses Abu Dhabi, then we’ve seen him race his last F1 race. Extremely unlikely I know since he is almost certain to do 2021.

  41. Probably only Vandoorne has had a seat fitted. So him. Can’t see that there’s time to get anyone else in comfortably and safely.

    1. Russel will have a seat ready as it would be left over form the testing he did for Merc at the end of last season.

  42. If Mercedes want to win the next two races, they need a proven winner. Can Valtteri be relied upon to deliver those wins… The last two races proved otherwise, he was miles of Hamilton and barely scraped into the Bottas.

    Hulkenberg whilst he is fantastic & super quick, he has an unfortunate record of throwing ahead good results… Id love to see him in the car though!

    What about Russell? No questions about his speed… But how does it affect the team dynamic if Russell comes in and beats Bottas… How do the team justify keeping Bottas for 2021, forget the public but to Russell.

    Vandoorne & Gutierrez are no where near good enough…

    So who do they turn to??
    ENTER FERNANDO ALONSO! He’s a free agent until next year, the only driver who can match Lewis Hamilton’s consistency and it will gaurantee Mercedes two wins in two races.
    But Nando’s is off to Renault next year? Would Mercedes want to give him insight to there car? I doubt it therefore unlikely to get the seat

    Therefore the most likely option would be Esteban Ocon which means Alonso would be return to Renault early and we get to see the best teammate battle since Hamilton Alonso in the form of Ricciardo Alonso!!!! Super exciting either way… Cant wait

  43. Nyck de Vries should get it.

    1. Yeah, Vandoorne is their reserve driver and he’s beaten Nick the whole season in FE

      1. Stoffel has a year more experience in that Racing Class. So unfair comparison.

  44. I think Toto should give his old friend Kubica a drive. Back in 2013 Toto said he would make an f1 car available to Kubica one day, so the day is now! Kubica has probably been the most active of the test and 3rd drivers, having driven very well in preseason testing, and 4 fp1s including last weekend. He has also been racing and got his first dtm podium in a hastly put together privateer team just a month ago. It would be a fan favourite moment for the sport to see him in a winning car like 2012 was meant to be at ferrari.

    1. I would rather put Jamie Chadwick in thst Merc.

      1. She’s objectively better than Pietro, the other substitute.

  45. Are you reading these comments Toto?!?

    This is your chance to perform a bit of fan service the likes of which has never seen before: Put Hulkenberg in that seat and pit Valterri early to “unfortunately compromise his strategy”.

    Give Mercedes all the front-page real-estate that is printed globally on a Monday (or two).

    1. Chadwick would be a better real-estate investment.

      ;)

      1. Seriously? You are immature and pathetic.

        1. You don’t understand jokes?

  46. I’d imagine it’d have to be Vandoorne, but failing that I’d love to see Hulkenberg do a third return.

  47. I would love to see Sophia Floersch in there.

    1. Someone has a crush😍🤫

      1. A guy could do much worse LOLZ

  48. Would love to see what Juan Manuel Fangio could do in a 2020 Merc. Or Jim Clark, Stirling Moss, Gilles Villeneuve, Jochen Rindt.

    1. Even Ayrton Senna (though I used to dislike the guy with a passion) but only in a very rainy day. Most unlikely at Shakair

      1. They would all take the chequered flag so early they’d have time to sit and have a coffee and piece of cake before Bottas led the rest home.
        It would be a new tradition for F1, the Fangio/Clark post flag coffee break.

        1. Make it a four-course meal LOL

      2. The myth around Senna makes feel the same. Good driver but mythically overrated.
        “A danger to others when racing “ were printed words from a fellow driver in the 90s. My comments seem to get cut when I say how I honestly feel about him. He could have been so much more. But his fate came way to early.
        My opinion is shallow as I and you really know little about the man.
        My opinion was shaped by the way he drove around others. The first incident at Suzuka cemented my feeling.
        So there are two of us who understand the Brazilian as we do and the opinion of most others changes things very little.

    2. They would be hopeless

  49. Looks like a great opportunity for Häkkinen to return from his sabbatical.

  50. Obviously Vandoorne. Is reserve driver and has proven he can sub very well.

  51. All the lovely suggestions above and no-one has mentioned the previous champion from 2016. Praise be.

    Just hope the superlicence is well expired…

    1. Well he has been keeping his hand in with the Heineken drives.
      That has to mean something, or does it mean 0.0 ??

  52. A complete wild card, probably doesn’t have a super licence and hasn’t done single seaters lately, but did jump into an international geared superkart at the end of last season and beat all the top drivers to win the meeting.

    Who? Ash Sutton, the most exciting touring car to emerge since, well, probably Jim Clark’s exploits back in the 1960s. A clinical, brilliant, instinctive driver and this years BTCC champion in a brand new TOCA independent entry.

    http://ashleysuttonracing.co.uk/news/ashley-sutton-scores-sensational-win-in-iame-super-shifter-international-final-at-le-mans/

    and yes, I am a fan…

  53. Who wants one of these forgotten also-rans in that car? I want someone box-office that’ll potentially make the race interesting. E.g…

    – A one-off Verstappen gig.
    – Rosberg (lol)
    – Mick Schumacher (who cares about his contractual obligations)
    – Barrichello (why not?)
    – Montoya (does he even still fit in a car?)
    – Mansell (the original super-size-sub)
    – Pedro Diniz (what’s he even doing these days?)

    The list of entertaining subs is almost endless.

    1. Montoya has fit in every formula and prototype car until even today and you still go for this 2002 joke of montoya being fat? Plus he never wanted to c9me back to f1. Not funny. Ha

      1. You don’t like humor?

    2. Jose Lopes da Silva
      1st December 2020, 19:41

      Pedro Diniz is a entrepreneurial farmer in Brazil. Search for them and you’ll find an interesting and unusual change of lifestyle.
      Put Jacques Villeneuve in Hamilton’s car.

    3. – Mansell (the original super-size-sub)

      I’m not sure super-size-Mansell he’d actually fit in the car.

      Verstappen, that would actually be good fun.

    4. Alonso?
      He’ll probably manage to create a crisis at Mercedes during the formation lap. Who knows what he could stir up in the rest of the race. Grab your popcorn.

  54. I think it will almost certainly be Vandoorne. With a small outside chance for Hulkenberg as he has substituted at short notice before this season. I cannot see anyone else is in the frame really.

    I doubt very much if Williams would release Russell. Why would they.

    1. Because he is contracted to Mercedes and only on loan to Williams.

    2. Williams need 3 points more than Haas to release millions in prize money. They are not going to release Russell, particularly as Haas will be on the back foot and we may see a high attrition rate given the amount of time expected at top speed.

      1. He is contracted to Mercedes they decide who he races for not Williams!

  55. George “Mr Saturday” Russell!

    We have seen George get some speed out of the Williams it would be really nice to see him get some points in the Merc!

    Could be a difficult weekend for Bottas, expectation is he will win…

  56. Russell. Any other choice is pointless. He’s clearly the driver Mercedes have lined up for a seat, not Vandoorne etc. so just get on with it and stop faffing around. This really irritates me. A young Leclerc is already well-established at Ferrari, a likewise young Verstappen is completely dominant at Red Bull, while Mercedes are frankly pi*sing around with resigning Bottas and leaving Russell to stew at the back of the grid. Why? He should be learning alongside Hamilton already.

    1. I agree Russell should have been Hamilton’s proteje after one year at Williams. It’s clear Bottas wasn’t going to ever perform any better than he has at Merc all these years so why waste another year. We saw what happened with Leclerc and Ferrari, Russell could have been in the same position now with Merc.

  57. Hulk. I doubt that Williams will want to let Russell go even for 1 race when they have a chance of beating Haas. Vandoorne…no, never. Losers go Formula E, let them stay there. (Ocon looks quite similar: promising but 0 progress.) Guttieres… are you kidding me?

    1. I see a clear advantage in putting Russel in. But Hulk over Vandoorne ? Why ?

  58. I tell you what would be cool, if Vettel told Ferrari where to stick it and did a one off drive in Lewis’ Merc.
    That would create a fair bit of excitement.

  59. When was the last time we had two substitute drivers in the same race? 2020 craziness continues

  60. The honourable thing would be to retire the car.

    1. Someone’s still got to drive the formation lap. [Safely]. [That cuts down the choices].

  61. Vandoorne obviously

  62. I imagine it will be Vandoorne who will surprise us next Sunday although I hope George Russell gets a chance. Mercedes does not need a single point this season but Williams needs at least 3 – good reason for George to stay at Williams for the race.

  63. The clear choice: Mario Andretti.

    1. +1
      Probably more realistic than Jim Clark…

  64. Full disclosure: I’m a Mercedes/Hamilton fan. But I can’t help but giggle when I think “Let’s put the weakest driver choice we have in the car, maybe then it won’t show how dominating the CAR is!”

  65. As much as i want it to be Hulkenberg to get a result thats escaped him. If Toto & Mercedes have any real intention of using Russell in the future, they can’t not put him in the car this weekend.

  66. When I first read the news this morning I immediately thought that Vandoorne would be the obvious straight-forward choice. However, the fact that he was not confirmed immediately (as one would have expected) makes me suspect that Mercedes are negotiating someone else (Russell). I believe both would be deserving this golden opportunity; pity only one will get it: I am hoping for Russell to Mercedes and Vandoorne to Williams.

  67. Easy, Perez on the Merc and Hulk on RP. Best of both worlds.

  68. Bernd Mayländer? Nobody can overtake him.

    1. well… he does have Mercedes experience !

      1. Jose Lopes da Silva
        1st December 2020, 19:43

        Always in front of Hamilton, unlike Bottas.

        1. Not always, remember Valencia 2010? Why it wasn’t an instant black flag, I still don’t know

  69. Well.. First pick Russel, if not then Russel, if not then Russel…
    In that order..
    :)

  70. What about Jamie Chadwick?

  71. Do Brendon Hartley or Pascal Wehrlein

  72. Hulkenberg, just because I think he really deserves his podium, and this is a good chance for him to get it.

  73. Twitter f1 journos, the Race, etc, seem to think first choice is Russell if Williams agree.

  74. Toto called my granny, but she refused. Not enough of a challenge for her, she said.

  75. It has to be Hulkenberg surely! Has proven himself twice this season in a pink Mercedes!

  76. Kinda weird you mention Esteban Gutierrez. While F2 Champion and Mercedes Driver Nyck de Vries had a Superlicence 😅

  77. Vandoorne please. Would like to see him get another shot.
    His GP2 results were impressive and he’s always done well when Alonso’s not around ;-p.

    I like Russell too and it would be great to see him in a winning car, but he’ll get his shot soon enough. He’s got one more year with Willams, after that Merc for sure.

  78. Any news regarding HAM’s crew and covid? If the crew get’s it, Merc might be able to only run 1 car.

  79. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    2nd December 2020, 1:10

    It’s a bad week to be Toto Wolff;-)

  80. This is bad news for Bottas even if the stand in only gets close.

  81. You can almost guarantee there will be a problem with the Bottas car if the stand in gets anywhere near him.

  82. I want it to be Hulkenberg.

    It’ll probably end up being Vandoorne.

    But the only one who truly makes sense is Russell.

    When else will they ever be able to give him a chance to put him up directly to compare v Bottas over an entire race weekend, with both championships wrapped up already?, It’s a luxury position. A competitive test session.

  83. I’d like it to be Russel. There is so much hype around him and it’s hard to tell what he can really do in the Williams. But I’m not sure Toto would want his heir apparent to be rushed into the Merc without some more recent testing like he would get during preseason. Just like this is a no win for Bottas, this is high risk for Russel. If Russel falters it would damage his future prospects for the Merc seat. If he blows everyone away the clamor to put him in a Merc will be louder than ever. But why would Toto risk all that? Russel is already the clear front runner for the seat. Putting him in would either make them look foolish for promoting him so hard if he falters, or would increase the pressure on them to deal with an already complicated conscious uncoupling of their drivers. I suspect it will be Vandorne or Davidson. Neither choice will complicate the future driver situation.

  84. Peter-John Maart
    2nd December 2020, 10:35

    Hulkenberg is the best candidate to replace Hamilton this weekend. He has the drive and the right attitude even replace him as Hamilton’s successor one day

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