Growing List of F1 Candidates Line Up to Replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

Jackson Wheeler
4 Min Read

Several top drivers—and at least one young wildcard—are clearly at the top of the shortlist to succeed Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next year.

Team principal Toto Wolff’s obvious top pick is Formula 1’s ultra-dominant Max Verstappen, especially amid the internal conflict and power struggle playing out at Red Bull at present. European outlet La Gazzetta dello Sport says the turmoil might not only cost Red Bull its three-time world champion, but also its top engineers Adrian Newey and Pierre Wache.

On the driver front, however, Wolff says he would do “handstands” if Mercedes could convince Verstappen to make the switch. Red Bull’s Horner doubts that Verstappen could be wooed by Mercedes.

“I’m sure all the teams want Max, but Toto also says that the best drivers want the best cars,” Horner said.

However, the unrest at Red Bull is far from over.

“I don’t think Horner will survive it,” former F1 driver and current pundit Ralf Schumacher to outlet “He hasn’t been able to clarify things. He only talks about it at the legal level, but it can’t be in Horner’s spirit that such a successful team will fall apart because of one person.”

As for the prospect of losing Verstappen, Schumacher added: “I think he could go through with it, but not this season. Next year.”

After Verstappen, Mercedes’ top pick might be the 17-year-old Wolff protege Kimi Antonelli—if he proves he is ready for the leap to F1 next year.

Fernando Alonso might then be next in line, as he holds off on talks about a contract extension with Aston Martin about 2025 for now while his manager Flavio Briatore chats with Wolff. Just as the Hamilton-to-Ferrari news broke in February, Briatore posted a photo of himself sitting down in a Monaco cafe with Wolff.

Wolff was drinking from a very distinctive mug—and now, post-Jeddah, Alonso has posted a photo of himself sitting and grinning in the very same cafe with exactly the same design of cup.

f1 grand prix of saudi arabia

Eric Alonso//Getty Images

Carlos Sainz could be a fit at Mercedes in what could end up being a 1-for-1 trade of sorts for Lewis Hamilton.

Finally, just as the unwell Carlos Sainz walked slowly back into the Jeddah paddock last Saturday, his managers Carlos Onoro Sainz and Carlos Sainz Sr. were spotted walking out of the Mercedes hospitality area with Wolff.

A bigger question, of course, is just how attractive the 2025 Mercedes seat really is, with even Wolff admitting that the new car is “very weak” in high speed corners.

Even Ferrari chairman John Elkann hinted in Saudi Arabia that the Italian team may need to wait until 2026 to really challenge Red Bull, because one “cycle” of regulations will close “and another will open.”

The implication, given Verstappen’s utter dominance, is that the 2022-2025 rules cycle—designed specifically for closer racing—has proved a failure. Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack says one “fact” of that era is that the sport now has a Red Bull “dominance that none of us want”.

“I don’t think the regulations have failed,” Williams boss James Vowles insists. “I think even on the data that we can see now, it’s still better than the ’21, ’20 generations of cars.

“Whether it will improve in ’25? No, I don’t think so. And in ’26, the rules are still being ratified as we speak, so it’s hard to evaluate that.”

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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