It has been a busy couple of weeks in Formula One and Lewis Hamilton certainly made things interesting last week. His announcement that he would be departing Mercedes for Ferrari in 2025 really shook the sport's core. Now comes the time to speculate which driver will take his spot.
Mercedes has some tough work to do to find the right fit.
Luckily, it will have plenty of time to figure it out. According to Tom Cary from The Telegraph, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff isn't in a hurry to fill the spot he said in a media call.
"If you'd told me two days ago that Lewis would go to Ferrari I wouldn't have thought it was possible," Wolff said. "So things can change quickly. Contracts are only as good as the driver or the teams want to make them. Who knows what's happening in the driver markets that could be unexpected and (open up) opportunities for us?"
Despite that, speculation has already started to catch steam.
Mercedes finds itself in a similar situation to 2016 when Nico Rosberg suddenly retired from the team after winning that year's World Driver's Championship, and the seat became the most sought-after spot.
According to Racer.com, Max Verstappen at Red Bull, Charles Leclerc and Hamilton at Ferrari, and Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri at McLaren are all signed for 2025. That means there are 15 current F1 drivers who have their rides set for this season but will be available for Mercedes to sign in 2025 and join George Russell on the team.
The team has plenty of options to consider. If it wants an experienced driver, then look no further than the driver whose seat Hamilton is taking, Carlos Sainz. Two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso could also be a candidate. Though neither Sainz nor Alonso may want the seat, as Russell has made it clear he's the No. 1 driver for the team moving forward.
In that case, perhaps Mercedes looks to someone from Williams like it did when it added Russell. Alex Albon, currently racing for Williams, might be a name to watch.
He and Russell are good friends, which would go a long way to bring harmony in the team. Russell and Hamilton haven't always seen eye-to-eye, so Albon wouldn't be a bad move on that front.
The biggest shock move that Mercedes could pull is by putting someone young and inexperienced and is entering his first year in Formula 2 this season. He is a part of the Mercedes Junior Team program. That driver is 17-year-old Andrea Kimi Antonelli.
Ayrton Ostly from USA Today certainly posts a good case for the young Antonelli as he has already won multiple championships at lower racing levels, and is likely an F2 championship contender in 2024.
Of course, this list is far from exhaustive. Other media sources have speculated that the seat could be filled by just about every driver currently in F1 — including former Mercedes driver, Valterri Bottas — or even drivers from other series, such as IndyCar's Pato O'Ward. It's all going to get sorted out, but Mercedes certainly has some work to do but it has the time to make the best decision possible. F1 is going to look very different come 2025.
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