Lewis Hamilton’s stunning announcement has sent shockwaves through Formula 1, and the race to fill his seat at Mercedes in 2025 is heating up. With numerous candidates in the mix, the speculation is reaching a fever pitch.
Spanish commentator Antonio Lobato believes that Fernando Alonso is an obvious contender, stating, “In any case, Fernando will be obliged to speak with Mercedes.” However, much will depend on Aston Martin’s performance this year, and Lawrence Stroll’s willingness to invest in retaining him. “It depends a lot, of course, on how Aston Martin goes this year. But what is clear is that it will now cost Lawrence Stroll more money to renew him.”
Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher suggests that there may not be as many candidates as it seems. He believes Mercedes’ key decision is whether to pair George Russell with an experienced driver or one of the young talents. His nephew, Mick Schumacher, is “absolutely” a strong option, but so is Carlos Sainz, even though Ralf speculates that Sainz may join Audi. He told Sky Deutschland: “I don’t think there will be too many candidates. The only question for Toto is whether to put someone experienced next to Russell or to turn to one of the young drivers. There is also Carlos Sainz on the market now, even if I think he will join Audi.”
1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve sees Sainz as the “main loser” in the Hamilton saga, as his negotiations may have been weakened. Sainz’s focus may now shift to proving himself in his final year with Ferrari, without team politics in mind. “He won’t be interested in Ferrari team games now,” Villeneuve told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “The importance of the team result for him is now zero. Now he only has to prove himself to get another contract for 2025. Maybe by beating (Charles) Leclerc. He has nothing to lose at Ferrari anymore.”
Another potential candidate to replace Hamilton is Daniel Ricciardo, but Red Bull’s Dr Helmut insists to Auto Bild: “He still has a long-term contract. He is not available.”
Toto Wolff’s dream scenario might involve luring Max Verstappen from Red Bull, but Marko dismisses that possibility, citing Verstappen’s loyalty and the intense rivalry between the two teams. “He can try,” Marko smiled to sport.de, “but he won’t succeed. I think also Max has a good memory,” he added, referring to the intense tension between the Red Bull and Mercedes camps in 2021.
Rumors of an exit clause in Charles Leclerc’s multi-year contract with Ferrari now seem plausible, as the team dynamics change with Hamilton’s arrival. Former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi suggests that Michael Schumacher wouldn’t have wanted a teammate like Hamilton, and the possibility of Hamilton’s engineer, Peter Bonnington, following him to Ferrari is already circulating.
Gerhard Berger sees Hamilton’s arrival as a potential game-changer for Ferrari, bringing new skills, technicians, and decision-making processes. He believes that Leclerc may feel the pressure but also has the opportunity to further elevate his performance by competing against Hamilton.
“I am convinced that, with Lewis, new skills, new technicians, a new way of making decisions will arrive in Maranello, driven by a motivation that everyone in the team will feel,” the former Ferrari driver said. “If we combine all of this with the Ferrari brand, it means generating real power in financial terms too,” he told Corriere della Sera.
“Charles may feel a bit nervous because Lewis is strong politically, technically, has super experience, and is a consistent driver on every level,” said Berger.
“But when you want to be the best, you are forced to compare yourself with anyone and if Charles manages to beat Lewis, he will receive a further push – a new awareness.”