With Lewis Hamilton’s shocking news that he’s moving to Ferrari in 2025, the next question on everyone’s minds is who will replace him at Mercedes? Replacing a seven-time World Champion is no easy feat and there is no shortage of candidates, but who is on the radar?
There is contention with Alex Albon because not only has he been labelled a likely candidate to replace Hamilton, but also as a potential replacement for Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in 2025.
Why Alex Albon? The simple answer is his stunning form since moving to Williams following his demotion from Red Bull in 2021. The move would also mirror George Russell’s move from Williams to Mercedes and considering the close relationship both teams seem to have, it certainly makes things more likely. A recommendation from former Mercedes man, James Vowles, now team principal of Williams, certainly won’t hurt his chances.
While Hamilton may be taking his spot at Ferrari, Carlos Sainz might just switch seats with him at Mercedes. It makes sense for the same reason that Sainz’s partnership with Leclerc made sense. While Sainz may not be the most obviously quick driver, he is remarkably consistent. How do you think he got the moniker “smooth operator”?
At 29, Sainz has the experience and a proven race-winning record so why not? Sure, he isn’t Lewis Hamilton, but if George Russell is the man Mercedes are banking on to be the next big thing, then Sainz has already proved to be a strong second driver and what more can Mercedes ask for?
Esteban Ocon isn’t a driver that you would immediately think of as a Hamilton replacement. However, he has a longstanding relationship with Mercedes having been part of their junior driver programme before his F1 debut, as well as being picked as Mercedes’ reserve driver in 2019.
While Alpine have invested heavily in Ocon, his contract does come to an end in 2024 and when given the choice between a middling Alpine and a potential seat at Mercedes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ocon choosing the latter.
It would make sense that Mercedes’ own reserve driver would be a candidate for the race seat, right? His father raced for the team from 2010 to 2012 and team principal, Toto Wolff, has said that “he deserves to be on the grid” but were those just words?
Mick Schumacher didn’t impress during his two years at Haas, rather he developed a reputation for crashing cars. So without a solid racing record, is Wolff willing to roll the dice on one of the most in demand seats in F1 on Schumacher?
What it will likely come down to is whether Schumacher impresses with Alpine in the World Endurance Championship. Otherwise, why take the risk?
Andrea Kimi Antonelli
What if Mercedes are already thinking longer term? What if there’s a driver who is making huge waves in the junior categories? Andrea Kimi Antonelli is perhaps Mercedes’ most exciting junior driver prospect since George Russell and he hasn’t even raced in Formula 2 yet.
In 2022, Antonelli became an F4 champion alongside becoming a double Formula Regional champion in Europe and the Middle East in 2023. The 17-year-old has impressed Mercedes so much that they are fast-tracking him into Formula 2 in 2024.
It’s likely he’ll have a strong debut, but it might still be too early for him to take Hamilton’s seat next year. That is, unless he wins, right? Regardless, Antonelli is a wild card that we’ll have to keep our eyes on.
Fernando Alonso moving to Mercedes doesn’t seem very likely, but it still remains a potential option. Alonso has made it clear that he wants a third title, but whether keeps faith in Aston Martin to help him do so remains to be seen.
Aston Martin dropped off partway through the 2023 season despite their amazing debut. If this is repeated in 2024, Alonso might start considering his options. However, if Mercedes don’t show marked improvement in 2024, then Mercedes won’t seem any likelier to hand him a third title than Aston Martin.
The Spaniard could even retire by the end of 2024, who can say for sure, but if he doesn’t it’s unlikely he’ll go to Mercedes as there is some bad blood between them.