Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2023

Sainz? Ocon? Schumacher? Who is Mercedes’ top choice to replace Hamilton?

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

The dream opportunity Formula 1 drivers have coveted for a decade has finally become reality.

Lewis Hamilton is vacating his seat at Mercedes, creating a vacancy at the team which won every constructors championship between 2014 and 2021.

Hamilton will become the latest F1 world champion to race for the Scuderia, following the likes of Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Sebastian Vettel, Niki Lauda, Fernando Alonso, Alberto Ascari, Jody Scheckter, John Surtees, Nino Farina, Phil Hill, Mike Hawthorn, Nigel Mansell and Kimi Raikkonen.

But while Ferrari have a history of drivers that include the most successful names ever in the sport, the team who Hamilton is leaving – Mercedes – have run just 12 drivers in their history of competition. And with Hamilton departing, the biggest question in Formula 1 now is, who is the lucky driver who will get to be the 13th?

Although some potential prospects to replace Hamilton in 2025 are currently under contract, that, as Hamilton has just proven, does not necessarily prevent a driver from signing a blockbuster deal with another team. So the following list is by no means an exhaustive one, but these are the most likely shortlist of candidates who could find themselves alongside George Russell next season.

Mick Schumacher

Mick Schumacher, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test
Schumacher is Mercedes’ reserve
Although he might not be the first name on the top of the shortlist for many, it’s natural that the first candidate for a Mercedes race seat is the team’s official reserve driver.

The Schumacher name is one that is very dear to the Mercedes brand as well as the Brackley team which represents it. Michael Schumacher raced for the Silver Arrows in sportscars with Sauber prior to his entry into Formula 1, then came out of retirement to support their return to the grid in 2010, until he retired for good in 2012 – to be replaced by none other than Hamilton himself.

Mick Schumacher entered Formula 1 on his own merit in 2021 as the reigning Formula 2 champion. But over two seasons with Haas, he stood out more for his regular wrecking of his cars than he did for any impressive performances, taking just two points finishes in two seasons before being dropped at the end of the 2022 season.

Without a driver for last year, Mercedes snapped up the now-24-year-old as the team’s reserve driver. Team principal Toto Wolff has previously said that he “deserves to be on the grid.” Will he now back up those words with actions?

Carlos Sainz Jnr

Lewis Hamilton looks at a Ferrari, 2018
Analysis: Why Hamilton to Ferrari once looked like the deal which would never happen
The most obvious external candidate, perhaps, is the only one from one of Mercedes’ top team rivals who is known to be without a drive in 2025.

Sainz will leave Ferrari at the end of this year to make way for Hamilton after four seasons with the team. During his stint at the team, he proved that he was no number two driver by any means – especially even when alongside the highly-rated Charles Leclerc as his team mate.

Sainz out-scored Leclerc in their first year together in 2021 and led him in the standings going into the final round of last season. Even though Leclerc finished ahead of him in the championship the last two seasons, Sainz did secure his maiden grand prix win in 2022 and was the only driver to win a grand prix in a car that wasn’t a Red Bull last season.

At 29, Sainz has experience, a proven race-winning record and has many seasons of Formula 1 racing still left in him. Surely that makes him a prime candidate – unless he already has eyes on another team for his long-term future?

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Esteban Ocon

Cyril Abiteboul, Esteban Ocon, Toto Wolff, Monza, 2019
Ocon has a previous history at Mercedes
As a race-winning French driver in a French team, Esteban Ocon is well set at Alpine. But his contract is up for renewal at the end of this year, and he has potentially useful links to Mercedes.

After losing his race drive at Force India at the end of the 2018 season, Ocon spent a year on the sidelines until he joined Renault for 2020. In that time, he was picked up as Mercedes’ reserve driver, much like Mick Schumacher is now.

The choice of Ocon as reserve for 2019 was no coincidence for Mercedes. Ocon and Wolff enjoy a very close relationship, as the Mercedes team principal had a hand in having Ocon join the team’s junior driver programme before he debuted in Formula 1 with Manor near the end of the 2016 season. As a driver already familiar with the Brackley factory, it would be hard to see Ocon picking to stay with a middling Alpine team over a potential Mercedes seat if the opportunity came his way.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Alexander Albon

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes launch, 2013
Analysis: Will Hamilton’s second change of F1 teams prove as inspired as his first?
When Albon lost his drive at Red Bull for the 2021 season, resulting in him going on leave from the Formula 1 grid for a year, it was easy to assume that was the last time he would race for a championship-calibre team in the world championship.

However, since Albon rejoined the grid in 2022 with Williams, his stock has not just risen, but done so substantially. His exploits for his new team have made him perhaps the most outstanding driver of the lower ranked teams on the grid, snatching points finishes with heroic acts of defensive driving and supreme tyre management.

Albon stands out as a driver who should be under consideration for his abilities and for the leadership his has shown with Williams to help them from the back of the field to seventh in the standings last season. Having made a strong impression on new team principal James Vowles, a former Mercedes man, there’s a good chance that the two teams could come to an arrangement that suits them both should Albon be the one they want.

Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2021
Bottas knows how to win with Mercedes
Out of the five drivers who have raced for Mercedes in the modern era, Valtteri Bottas is the third-most successful behind only Nico Rosberg and Hamilton himself.

With ten victories, 20 pole positions and almost 70 podiums in five seasons with Mercedes, he has already proven to be able to fight and win at the highest level. Although he never managed to forge a championship campaign in his time at Brackley, he admitted he simply was not able to match Hamilton’s performance – hardly anything to be ashamed of.

Although Bottas has the experience and the knowledge to likely slot seamlessly back into Mercedes, it’s unlikely that team and driver will consider reuniting this partnership. Bottas has clearly enjoyed being away from the presser-cooker environment at the front of the field, while the idea of joining the driver who replaced him is unlikely to motivate him either.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Daniel Ricciardo

Another veteran who feels like an unlikely choice but who absolutely deserves to be factored into the discussions at Mercedes is Daniel Ricciardo.

Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, Interlagos, 2023
Ricciardo is a proven winner, but has eyes elsewhere
The 34-year-old’s return to the grid was one of the biggest stories of the 2023 season and he largely impressed with his return Formula 1 after half a season away. Another proven race winner who has made no secret of his desire to fight for a world championship title, Ricciardo will be out of contract at the end of this season – by which point he hopes to have proven he is ready for a return to a top team.

But there is one obvious reason why Ricciardo-to-Mercedes is very unlikely to happen – Red Bull. Ricciardo returned to the Red Bull fold last year by joining their RB secondary team and with Sergio Perez’s poor performance over last season, he knows that the second Red Bull seat alongside old team mate Max Verstappen is his for the taking if he can put in a strong performance this year. That alone means that Ricciardo is unlikely to be replacing Hamilton at Mercedes next season.

Fernando Alonso

A move that would equal Hamilton’s switch to Ferrari for sensation, Mercedes could offer his seat to none other than Fernando Alonso.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Interlagos, 2023
Alonso has longed for a championship winning car
In what would surely be a last hurrah for the two-times champion as he searches for that elusive third title, Alonso would finally get the Mercedes seat he long coveted while former team mate and rival Hamilton won multiple championships while Alonso floundered in unreliable midfield cars. If Mercedes show a marked improvement for 2024, it could make a season with Mercedes before the new power units arrive for the following year a very tempting prospect indeed.

That is, if Alonso can be prised away from Aston Martin, of course. His first season with the team was far more successful than even he likely expected, but even though they faded over the course of the season, Aston Martin are a team who appear to be on the rise over the years to come. Another move away at the wrong time could haunt Alonso at the end of his career.

Aston Martin fans have even more reason not to worry, however. Years ago, Wolff stated that Alonso has some “history” with Mercedes that “was not always the best” – a clear reference to his 2007 campaign with Mercedes former works team with McLaren and the costly Spygate episode. So it seems like that may be one team move that is out of Alonso’s reach.

Lando Norris

Norris has proven he can fight at the front
On paper, this would be an impossible move, as Norris recently committed to McLaren for the foreseeable future. But keep in mind Hamilton himself had signed an extension to stay at Mercedes just six months before his move to Ferrari was announced.

Out of the eight drivers on the 2024 grid who have not won a grand prix, Norris is surely the most outstanding. With a record for the most points without a victory and equalling the most podiums without a win with Nick Heidfeld, Norris has done all but win a race in his F1 career and will surely be able to compete at a top team level alongside Russell.

Still relatively young aged just 24, Norris still has room to grow as a driver and plenty of racing in his future. Getting an opportunity to race for a team that has so recently been fighting for and winning world championships might be worth breaking his contract with McLaren over – should Mercedes want him badly enough.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Mercedes junior Antonelli has won plenty
The ultimate wildcard factor in this hunt, Antonelli is a young driver who has not even raced a Formula 2 car in his career yet – but he is an outside chance of factoring into the fight for the factory Mercedes seat.

The most exciting Mercedes junior driver prospect since Russell, Antonelli has made a strong impression since moving into car racing in 2021. A German and Italian F4 champion in 2022 and a double Formula Regional champion last season in the Middle East and Europe, the 17-year-old has been fast tracked by Mercedes straight into Formula 2 for this season.

Racing with Prema, Antonelli has every chance of having a very strong debut season in the category. But even if he does, he might be too early onto the scene to be rewarded with a rookie season with a championship-contending team like Hamilton was at McLaren, all those years ago.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Formula 1

Browse all Formula 1 articles

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

94 comments on “Sainz? Ocon? Schumacher? Who is Mercedes’ top choice to replace Hamilton?”

  1. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    2nd February 2024, 9:27

    There only option has got to be Alonso for 2025. If it doesn’t work they can pick up a Piastri etc for 2026. Or get Hulkenburg in!

    1. For one race replacement, Alonso would be the driver to pick but for longer commitment with technical transition, I’m not so sure.

      From the realistically available options, I would say Albon might be the best pick. They could make for good team dynamic with Russell and he has shown some good driving if we exclude his RedBull time.

      Norris would otherwise be the first pick but not sure how realistic that is.

      1. Alonso vs Russell, fireworks.

      2. I would also think that getting Alonso for a year – provided he wants to grab that chance instead of keeping with his bet on AM – would be a really top of the line replacement. Then they can either get Antonelli in for after that or whomever is up for grabs by then.

        The most likely alternative IMO is Albon (and possibly get Antonelli in the Williams to develop there), that would give Mercedes a really solid lineup for a few years too, and as you mention it should be a good team with Russel there too.

        I could see Norris, but that depends a lot on how expensive it would be to buy him out and really whether Lando would even take the offer (Surely McLaren AND Norris had heard some rumours of this move being on the cards).

        Mick Schumacher? Sure, I guess. Would be interesting to see how he does in a more competitive car and somewhat more supportive team, but does anyone really feel he has the pace to do the job if Mercedes wants to fight at the front? Ocon might have pace, but I’d think that would not be a healthy dynamic with Russel at all. And he’s never shown to be consistent enough.

      3. They don’t need a long term solution (if the young Italian works out in the end). They would need Alonso for a year or two, which is viable. Albon is a nice “solid” solution, but if Mercedes has any ambition to fight Ferrari, let alone RB, they can’t hire “solid” drivers. Albon is not Leclerc, nor Hamilton. We also know how he compared to Verstappen (yes, he probably got better since then, but so did Verstappen). If they want to throw away points and chances at winning something then they should seek the most realistic options (and hire Sainz, or at least Albon). But their competition will have better drivers, if that is the case. They will be 4th or 5th best team when it comes to drivers… RB (even with one “real deal” option), Ferrari and McLaren will definitely be far above. Besides, I don’t think that Russel can compare favorably to Verstappen, Leclerc, Hamilton or Norris. They need someone better than him (if he repeats the last season) or at least at the same level, not someone to play his own Bottas. Just my humble opinion.

    2. Alonso will have no interest if Mercedes isn’t clearly out performing Aston Martin or it’s clear they have something up their sleeve. This will be a make or break year to see it Fallows knows what he’s doing.

      1. After a brilliant start of the 2023 season for AMR that soon petered out, Mercedes was clearly outperforming them. McLaren and Ferrari were also outperforming AMR for most of the season

        I think Alonso might do better in any of these three teams than at AMR, their brief stint as 2nd best team is unlikely to return.

        What I would really like is a Max-Alonso pairing at RBR, but how unlikely is that?

        1. @34rthl1ng I agree. I meant, we’ll have to see how the start of 2024 goes to see if it’d even make sense to move. If Mercedes fails to be competitive out of the gate again, not sure AMR wouldn’t present equally good/bad odds of winning. But, yeah, Max and Fernando is the dream. I’d pay A LOT of money to see that happen. The Red Bull brand should love the insane excitement produced when people talk about that pairing. I know Marko likes the idea, but Horner is dead set against it.

    3. LOL, you must have started watching F1 in 2023. Hope you enjoy your second season in the months ahead.

  2. I honestly don’t know!

    I cannot recall in all my years of watching F1 a bombshell like this.

    1. There’s more action in the off season than in the races.

      1. Do they need a quick fix or will they look long term?

    2. Jungle, I think Schuey moving to Ferrari was a much bigger bombshell. At the time, he was driving the winning car and Ferrari really wasn’t producting great cars. Good cars yes, great ones no. Everyone slated Schuey saying he was only going for the money, cashing in on his world champion status. That move was seismic.

      1. Hi Alan,

        Yes that was big news.

        It was still early in his career though and it wasn’t uncommon for drivers to play musical chairs back then. Big names like Prost, Mansell etc spring to mind. Hill being flicked by Williams as a WC.
        The V12 dinosaur Berger and Alesi drove still had a few good performances through 94-95. Alesi in particular was getting good qualifying results in 95 but not always coverting to good points. Canada 95 he bagged a win. Not so good on the more nimble tracks.
        I read a few years later that when Schumacher drove the 95 Ferrari said he thought he would of been able to win the championship in 95 with it.

        I think Hamiltons move is a huge blindside, not just a Ted Kravitz rumour that never gains momentum. He has been imbedded into that team for a long time and would just simply drive for them until he decided to leave. Money and contracts are somewhat obsolete he could probably buy himself out of his current contract.

        Ballsy move straight from left field, can’t wait to see what happens. Wish they just swapped now.

  3. I honestly think that Toto will definitely consider giving Vettel a call, just to sound him out.
    Whether Seb can be tempted… only he knows.

    1. That’d hardly be bold or wise.

  4. Toto still owes Grosjean a drive, right…? ;)

    1. My first thought ;)

    2. My god. That’d be hilarious.

    3. Surely this!

  5. I think that during the season some of the opinions, both from potential drivers regarding the team, and the team regarding potential drivers might change, but as of now, I would take my chances with Albon. But I’m not Wolf, so, can’t really say.

  6. Ocon is a good and known pick. But if Antonelli does well in F2, I hope he gets the call.

    Sainz is probably heading to Sauber/Audi, and the rest of the guys are largely “old news”.

    1. MichaelN,
      I disagree. Ocon has a history of crashing into his teammates, the last thing Mercedes want in this period of time. Antonelli is a bold choice but without any F1 experience, the burden on his shoulders seems substantial. Even Max, acknowledged as a generational talent, spent a season and a half at Toro Rosso before joining RBR.

      Personally, I’d choose Alonso every single day of the year. The complication lies in his past history with Mercedes. The real question is whether they can set aside their egos and prioritize the business aspect.

      1. That seems a bit overstated, Ocon has had clashes with his teammates, yes, but he’s far from the only one. It happens when you’re often near each other in races because the car is the same. I’d much rather see teammates have a few rough moments than having a subservient ‘wingman’ sitting in the other car.

        You’re right that it would be better to have Antonelli do a year elsewhere – and that’s assuming he impresses in F2 – but sometimes a bold risk is just the way to do it. With 2026 coming up, a 2025 debut makes more sense than it would in other circumstances. I imagine most teams will want to start 2026 with a known set of drivers.

        1. It’s not an exaggeration. Not only has he had tons of crashes, contact and feuds with teammates, he actively seeks to block or kibosh teammates even if he loses out to another car in the process. He’s a solid pilot, but has shown no growth in maturity or ability to be a part of a team. I honestly cannot think of someone worse to put in a team during a turbulent time.

    2. Ocon is decent (I guess), but I find it easier to name better than worse F1 drivers than him. He can shine, but on average he seems quite limited. Not the most inspired choice in any case. He seems to lack intelligence, and you need that go advance to the next level.

  7. Honestly, could be any of these, or none of them. Is Mika Hakkinen finally ready to end his sabbatical?

    1. I think he just signed a new long term contract with McLaren unfortunately.

    2. lol…I thought he was still waiting for Ron to call back?

      1. Frank was signing him out of retirement and Ron talked Mika out of doing it. He didn’t want to sign him, but he also didn’t want him driving for another team. lol

  8. Apart from Verstappen last year the true outstanding performance was from Albon. In every conversation he has you can see what he has learnt from past experiences and how he has grown.

  9. I’d like to see Toto Wolff put Andrea Kimi Antonelli in the car. I don’t see why this has to be a difficult decision. In fact, as long as Kimi finishes top 3 in Formula 2 by the end of the year, which is ultra respectable seeing he’s the youngest driver in The Formula 2 field by more than a year, it should be very straightforward.

    1. The other Kimi went straight from F Renault to F1.

  10. I bet Mercedes will want a big name and someone experienced who will be able to steer the development – Russell hasn’t fully proven himself in this regard yet. I see two main candidates – Vettel and Alonso. For Alonso it’d be an amazing and unexpected turn of the career and probably the last chance for something big – but the dynamic with Russell would soom turn explosive, imo. Therefore, I see Vettel – who is also a legend, a German, and would satisfy with no.2 status since he was past his prime in his late years – as more viable option. Seb would be able to deliver results and would be far more comfortable in supporting position, knowing he can score occasional podium or even a win. Two years and then, based on results, they would sign up a young star.

    1. I think Vettel lost his magic back in his days with Ferrari.
      Alonso and Russell are friends – it would get competitive but fair racing.

  11. Allow me to throw another hat in the ring – Nico Hulkenberg! I believe he was in the running for a Mercedes seat in 2013, before they ultimately secured Hamilton as their long-term prospect. Could Mercedes decide to give him the call up just 12 years later? Probably not, but i still feel the spectre of the ‘zero podiums’ record has made him a significantly underrated driver over the second half of his career. He would be solid if unspectacular in my opinion.

    In all seriousness though, I see reasons not to pick all of these drivers, and some will have reasons they might be more optimistic about their current teams than Mercedes. Really couldn’t call it at this point, and I think Mercedes might bide their time and see how some of these drivers perform over the first part of the season rather than having a knee-jerk reaction and rushing to fill the vacancy immediately.

    1. I think it’s a good suggestion. He doesn’t deserve to suffer at MoneyGram F1. People either tend to massively short change him or act like he’s the best driver on the grid and just never got a real shot.

  12. Absolutely, F1 could do with a higher turnover rate. Some of the people being named had their best seasons 10+ years ago. Time for some new faces and stories.

    1. This obviously in response to Brell.

      But to add, look at the excitement this announcement of Hamilton generated, and now people want to fill his seat with the same old same old? Why? Do we really need to see even more of guys like Bottas, Ricciardo, Hülkenberg… or even guys who retired years ago? It just seems so unimaginative. Let the next generation have some time. It’s not like rookie Piastri has embarrassed himself. The opposite! Heck, even Zhou is giving race winner Bottas a good run for his money from time to time.

      1. I love the prospect of a brand new Kimi in F1. He seems to be named after the original Iceman too. Born in 2006: that would be just after KR’s heroic 2005 campaign when mechanical failures scuppered a nailed on WDC.

      2. It’s hard to explain… I feel as though the majority of drivers on the current grid have already shown their hand, and it seems none of them can compete with Max. Leclerc, Norris and Russell are very very good drivers. They are the absolute best of the current lot in my opinion. But I don’t believe any of them can defeat Max Verstappen in a season long battle in relatively equal cars.

        1. Yeah, this came up a few times during the season rankings. The fact that Alonso and Hamilton are still so highly regarded and ranked is a bit of an issue. The situation in terms of drivers feels a bit similar to the late 1990s, when it was basically Schumacher… then some fast guys like Villeneuve, Häkkinen en later Montoya, but nobody quite on his level.

          And the thing with those guys is, they’re not new. Leclerc, Norris and Russell have all done over a 100 GP already. They’re hardly the ‘new generation’ anymore.

          1. Leclerc, Norris and Russell have all done over a 100 GP already.

            That’s a real eye-opener. Even if you measure it in seasons, they are not new faces any more.

          2. Yeah, but they do like 22-23 races a season. That would sound different 20 years ago.

      3. No on Bottas. Yes on Ricciardo. He’s shown a much higher ceiling than any of the “young guns” or top 3 adjacent drivers in the field. If he doesn’t deliver in 2024, I’ll second your opinion though. As for Hulk, there’s only about two prospects that’d be worth kicking him out of a seat for.

        Magnussen, Bottas and Stroll all need to go. Probably Zhou too.

  13. I’d probably choose Schumacher for 2 years, go all-in on Russell for 2026, then judge from there, if the car is good they will be able to have free-pick if the competition is close and they need to find someone better than Russell as a number 1.

    I think a lot of drivers will be keeping options open for 2027 and trying to work their way into whatever teams are at the top. I think the worst choice right now would be to introduce someone that will unsettle Russell’s confidence and fight with him, they should be able to focus on the car for 2026 and enjoy a more settled dynamic.

    That way Schumacher would also get more of a fair chance to deliver, it’s never right to see a driver dismissed after not performing with a terrible car. Held together by duct tape the Haas was in those years.

    1. Completely agree. Mick could be a good option if Russell has what it takes to be their number one. I also think his F1 story terminated prematurely and he should have at least one more year to see what he can really do. If Mick can step up then they may have a problem, but having two competitive drivers isn’t the worst one to have as either should be able to find another team (and possibly should if they don’t have the team on their side). They already have Mick and he needs to get racing in F1 again soon. The Mick arrangement would be a little similar to all those drivers gunning for the Red Bull seat – give them a go and let their performances speak for themselves.

      This move would be a vote of confidence in Russell. If he has what it takes having either a novice or a number two driver as a team mate gives him the best chance to maximise his points haul.

    2. It makes sense if they’re both so unconvinced so far by George yet also still think he could turn into what they were hoping they’d waste a seat just to ensure total focus on Russell.

      I really like Mick, but he’s done nothing to deserve that seat or showed hidden flashes of amazing speed to risk finding out. He definitely deserves a seat at Haas more than Magnussen though.

  14. I don’t understand the stock value of Ocon or Mick Schumacher. Why would they deserve a seat in a top team like Mercedes? Specially Ocon, he’s so volatile when it comes to intra team battles and Russell is not a guy you’d think would enjoy being messed with.

    1. I dunno, he was going against Alonso, a guy who literally tried to blackmail his own team during spygate. That said, Alonso is obviously the choice for Mercedes. Russell is who they are focused on going forward.

  15. Antonelli, Albon, Alonso

  16. Hulkenberg –> Merc
    Sargeant –> out
    Antonelli –> Williams
    Bearman –> Haas

    After Antonelli gets experience at Williams, he joins Russell at Merc.

    This plan only comes to fruition if Alonso doesn’t get the seat at Merc.

    Albon is an option, but I think he’d rather settle somewhere longer term than feel threatened at being replaced by Antonelli in the near future.

  17. Definitely not Bottas, Ricciardo, Antonelli, or Mick in any case to be perfectly realistic.
    Regarding Norris, while providing financial compensation for contract termination is possible itself, that aspect already got ruled out once by Zak, so also doubtful.
    Sainz & Alonso could be viable, although, in the former’s case, Team Hinwil seems his most likely option.
    Ocon already had his chance in the past that never occurred in the end, so doubtful this long after anymore.
    All in all, I see Albon as the most likely successor by gut feeling thanks to his general recent-past performance level that has raised his stocks.

    1. that aspect already got ruled out once by Zak

      But you should take into account who Zak needs to ring when he needs a new spark plug.

    2. I also think that Albon is the most likely man for the job. He is definitely on an upward trajectory. That’s who I would choose if I were in Mercedes shoes.

    3. If Ricciardo performs anywhere near his old level in 2024, he’d be perfect and realistic option…but only in the event RBR didn’t give him a seat next to Max.

  18. How about they just swap Sainz and Hamilton around now?

  19. A new Kimi?! I’m intrigued by this Mr Antonelli.
    Meanwhile I think Sainz would flourish at Mercedes.

  20. My motives for this are shamefully impure, but that nasty little voice in the back of my mind keeps saying: “just not Schumacher“.

    It is not because of anything with Schumacher himself. He was climbing a learning curve, and his handling of being let go from Hass was a class act under difficult circumstances.

    It is just that I would enjoy seeing Wolff having to backpaddle on his words: “well, of course when I said that it was bad of Haas to drop him and that Schumacher deserves a seat, I meant that someone else should offer him one. Not my team“.

    Yes, I am a small and bad person. I try to blame it on my childhood.

    1. lol, I feel exactly the same. Not sure how Toto has made himself so unlikeable that he makes Horner seem cool by comparison.

  21. I think Mercedes will let the year play out and see how the team dynamics have progressed, no need to rush to any announcements at the moment.

    • If McLaren don’t become contenders, then it would be easier to poach the dissatisfied Norris or Piastri, which I think are the prime targets right now.

    • If the McLaren duo is out of reach, then the next realistic options would be:
    Albon (his stock is on the rise and seems capable and eager to race for a bigger team),
    Alonso (for 1-2 years, he’s still capable even in his 40s, he’s much less volatile lately compared to his past and he’s a good stop-gap solution until a better/young driver becomes available),
    Vettel (if Wolff wants a stop-gap and Seb wants to make a comeback at a top team, then he’s a good option, he’d certainly help with the development ahead of 2026),
    Sainz (but he seems he’s more Audi-bound than a free agent, otherwise he seems like a safe pair of hands, at least for a season or two)
    Overall, with the exception of Alonso (for obvious reasons) the other options seem good enough to occupy the seat, but definately not capable of beating Verstappen.

    • All the other options are either high risk (Antonelli) or they simply haven’t proved anything to justify Mercedes picking them (Ocon, Hulkenberg, Schumacher).

    1. I agree with basically everything you said, but I believe Norris is locked up long term as of a few days ago. So, I don’t think that’s an option. I also highly doubt McLaren doesn’t have an option on Oscar for 2025. So, yeah, 2026 to Merc for Piastri could be a very realistic outcome.

      For me, how this goes all depends if Mercedes is able to pull a contender out of the bag. The story will be much less interesting but more complicated for 2025+ if the car is a dud again this season (dud being relative for basically the 2nd best car in the field).

  22. My guess is:
    – They will choose a driver to warm the seat for Kimi that, in case Kimi doesn’t shine in F2, can stay for 2+ years. My guess it will be between 4 drivers: Albon, Sainz and Alonso.
    And the pillars for their decision are:
    1) speed: needs to be someone who can keep Russell on his toes and help him to develop further into the team leader.
    2) leadership: Mercedes needs to know that within their driver line up they have a pair that can give them inspiration and 100% confidence that if the car is there, the trophy is their’s to win.
    3) succession: in their line-up, they need one driver for the long run. That’s George. The other must be happy with parting ways 1 or 2 years in the future.

    These two pillars can be achieved by any of the 3, but in different ways:

    1) Albon would be the clear #2. He raced George all his life, can challenge and push him and will be happy to be again on a top team and play the team wishes. Also, this would open a seat at Williams for Kimi to learn his craft.
    2) Sainz is a top performer and a fierce competitor. He will put George on his toes and deliver. Also, he will bring some knowledge from Ferrari who could be of interest on the short term.
    3) Alonso has the star power to galvanize the team and still has fuel in him to push for a championship fight if it comes down to that. Will he match Russel in performance? Yes on races, less so on qualy.

    My racional bet is on Sainz. He is still improving while Alonso has long reached a plateau and Albon is not very marketable nor someone who will come to Mercedes and add value as these other two.

    My emotional bet is on Fernando. Deep there I know he can win a 3rd title if that car is within 0.2s of a Redbull.

    1. Antonelli’s F2 year will be very important. If he shines, there’s really no reason to keep him ‘on hold’ in a Williams.

      Albon or Ocon while Antonelli races a year at Williams is possible, but I doubt either is too excited about the prospect of having just a one or two year deal. If Mercedes was still at their peak, then maybe, but now… I suppose they’d rather bet on staying at another team longer-term.

  23. Heart says Alonso, head says Ocon.

    1. Ocon? Plenty of middling drivers to sign that won’t cause chaos. I don’t see it. I also don’t see why Alonso would go there if the Merc isn’t a clear step above AM in 2024:

    2. Ocon doesn’t have a chance in hell. You can expect teams like Alpine to make daft decisions of contracting a driver who’s been beaten by everyone he’s been paired up against… and been a horrible team player to add to it.
      Mercedes won’t be that brain dead in their decision making.

      1. @todfod Rossi’s decision to also lock Alpine into an extremely long term contract despite Ocon not having any options was another genius move of his. In the end, it only cost them an Alonso-Piastri driver lineup. No biggie, lol.

  24. I imagine there’ll be a number of factors that will also dictate the driver.

    Things like height of the driver compared to Russell, and whether or not the candidates have a preference for a car that is pointy (or the opposite) to match Russell’s preferences etc. Being able to develop a car to suit both drivers instead of having to compromise because of physical characteristics or preferences is even more important these days given budget limitations and the sheer complexity of the cars.

    The 2025 car will be designed for George – whoever best fits his build and style will most likely be given the nod rather than signing someone and hoping they’ll be OK.

  25. Fred Vesti, F2 “vice champion” and Mercedes academy driver I believe sounds perfect at least for a one year deal, if kimi lights f2 up, maybe Fred is out or he gets loaned to another team to hone in then fred or hey maybe George is replaced

  26. Russell was and probably still is supposed to be good enough to lead the Mercedes team. The only improvement, maybe, would be Piastri, though it’s still not clear how good a driver he can be. They should sign Sainz as the best option right now and see if they can get Piastri or even Verstappen (why not?) in a year or two or three.
    I wouldn’t go with any of Albon, Ocon or Alonso. or with a rookie.

    1. I mean Alonso would be a CLEAR improvement on Russell. He was clearly better than Hamilton last season and George seemed far off Lewis.

      As for Piastri, he’d “might be an improvement on George” if we assume he develops a lot in 2024. I really like Oscar; but Norris was pretty well wiping the floor with him.

  27. I am surprised Piastri is not in the editor’s list. I think he would be one of the obvious choices if they can get him out of his contract with McLaren. Either him or Carlos as a straight swap. They are my group 1.

    After this then maybe Vettel might want to make a comeback? Alonso would be an entertaining choice but if he gets on as well with AM as he has been, I cannot see him wanting to leave at this point in his career. Mercedes may think he is just too old as well.

    After this then Albon is probably the next best option. I cannot see it being Bottas, Ocon, Schumacher, Hulkenberg, Perez, etc. I don’t think any of them are up to the required standard.

    1. Yeah, it’s sort of a joke to include Bottas, Schumacher or Perez on immediate merit. And I don’t see any big team signing a middling driver who can’t work with teammates (Ocon). Mick only makes sense if Toto actually believes half of what he’s said about him.

  28. Wolff has three back to back to back problems to solve. The first is to quickly develop the 2024 car which will be a major departure from ’22 / ’23. For this he still has Hamilton, and of course Russell. Compared to that, the rule changes for 2025 look to be relatively minor as the spec will focus on regaining the lost aero advantages which for a time had enlivened the sport per plan. As much of that will be tested by the teams in the later part of the coming season, Wolff will again have Hamilton to help establish the initial params. But after that, Toto is in a corner. Who to choose to assist in developing the significantly different 2026 car during the later half of the ’25 season and beyond? If he depends upon George alone (assuming he doesn’t also leave) and picks a rookie, but Russel should have a winning 2025 season, he may have his hands too full or even be unwilling to give the new design the trial-and-error kind of attention it will need. Should he go with the fastest available driver, say a Sainz, again, depending upon where they end up in ’25, that could not be optimal, either. Consequently, I believe Wolff will go with someone fast but more importantly highly experienced at bringing new designs up to speed. And who does that suggest? To me it’s the realistically unlikely likes of Vettel and Alonso.

  29. Don’t forget Indycar champion Alex Palou! Give him 6 months to understand the cheese tyres and he’d be doing a damn fine job with his smooth style.

    I wonder how much Alonso would be willing to dig into his personal savings to pay his way out of his AM contract for 1 year at Merc…. A lot, if he has sense. He might thereby lose the competition of contract negotiations, but he’d win races.

    1. Don’t forget Indycar champion Alex Palou!

      Especially, don’t forget that he has a track record of signing a contract and then backing out.

      1. Compared to what Alonso did to McLaren, that’s relatively small, so I don’t think he should be banished from all of F1 for eternity for it. And he did at least fire his management team for getting him into the mess.

        1. I’m assuming Flavio didn’t have any part in managing that contract because I know Fernando still works with him and/or is on very good terms with him.

          1. Sorry, my post was unclear. I was talking about Palou firing his management.

  30. Of the list offered, Albon seems to be the obvious choice. Albon has amazing consistency and the ability to push a car higher than it is performing for his teammate.

    1. Albon has acquitted himself at Williams. But it has to be kept in mind that he was partnered with Latifi and Sargeant, hardly the comparisons that prove a driver is ready to move to the 2nd best car on the grid.

      After all, did Albon really get the most out of those cars? He didn’t at Red Bull. He arguably also didn’t at Toro Rosso, when Kvyat was probably on average a tad faster in early 2019. Now it’s fair to say that Albon was a rookie then, and that he probably learned a lot since then. But still, sometimes a driver only gets one shot at the big teams and if they don’t capitalize on that they’re never invited back.

      Nevertheless, Mercedes will have quite a bit of behind-the-scenes information about Albon, so they can probably ‘translate’ that to some useful metrics to make their decision.

      1. Agreed. I love Alex as much as everyone else, but it’d be crazy to assume Albon is both ready and fast enough for primetime based on essentially one good season without any real benchmark.

  31. The team that held Russel in Williams more time than enough will not put Kimi in one of their cars next year. I think they will try to buy a driver for a short term ~1-2 years, while securing a F1 backmarker seat to Kimi in case he wins F2.

    I would love to see Alonso in a Mercedes, even if it is his last year. Same for Hulk. But I think we will see Albon. He is fast and reliable. Let’s wait a until summer to know what is going on. We also need to know how drivers are performing this year anyway.

  32. I don’t see Red Bull giving Ricciardo the seat next to Verstappen. I think they’re more likely to bring in someone new. So I would bet that Mercedes goes with Ricciardo for a one-year contract to see what the market looks like in 2026.

    1. To me, this scenario makes no sense. If Daniel is anything close to his old self, they’re putting him in that seat. That’s why they’re using up an AT seat on him. And if he isn’t performing well enough for RBR to promote him, he won’t be driving well enough for Merc to sign him up even if it’s for a year.

      I think the market is going to revolve around Daniel, George, Oscar and Sainz resolving where they truly are in terms of performance in 2024. It’s also premature to discuss who Merc will sign for just these reasons.

  33. To me. The smart decision is Albon.

  34. Whoever Mercedes pick to replace Hamilton will be very telling as to how they view Russell.

    If they pick Sainz, Albon or Ocon they are picking a solid driver but not a like for like replacement for Lewis. None of them are perhaps as exciting as George. They’d expect George to lead the charge for a championship, a bit like Leclerc to Sainz, or Kimi/Alonso to Massa.

    If they pick Alonso or Antonelli they maybe don’t have full faith in George’s potential. I can’t help but think that’s where they’re at. Alonso would absolutely wring everything out of the car hugely motivated for the 3rd WDC. It would also be a stopgap for Antonelli, who the team have huge faith in. That’s why I feel Alonso is the most likely option.

    1. Yeah, I think Alonso would absolutely crush George because, unlike Hamilton, he doesn’t struggle with an uncooperative car or fade / lose motivation when a win isn’t on the table. So, if Mercedes actually looks like they have anything like a contender for 2025 and AM isn’t close, it’ll be really interesting to see what happens.

      I also agree with the first part. Their driver choice is likely to make it clear if they still see George as a WDC in waiting..

  35. Sainz is a good replacement.
    Mick would make George look so much better. Not a good choice.
    Albon should be good.
    Ocon hmmmmm… Don’t think so.
    Antonelli – let’s see what he can do in F2. Could be quite interesting.
    Piastri – McLaren wants to keep him.
    Alonso – we never know what he will do next…

  36. I don’t see any scenario where they’d put Antonelli directly into a Mercedes. There have been way too many recent rookies who did well in F2 and were average or worse in F1. Piastri is the only recent rookie who looks like he might be able to be a top driver.

  37. I’d consider taking Hulkenberg as a solid points getter, 2nd drier to Russell for the gap 2years before Kimi is ready.

    1. *driver (I’m hopeless without an edit function…)

Comments are closed.