The probables, possibles and wildcards: Who’ll replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes?


With the 2024 Formula One season not having yet officially commenced, the Silly Season for 2025 is in full swing with Lewis Hamilton’s shock decision to defect from Mercedes to Ferrari sending the F1 circus into a frenzy.

While we all still catch our collective breaths over the enormity of this move, there is the matter of addressing who’ll replace the seven-time world champion at the Silver Arrows. Here’s a breakdown of the probables, the possibles and even some wildcards.

The probables

Immediately there is the likelihood of a straight swap taking place, with outgoing Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz finding refuge at Brackley. The 29-year-old, two-time grand prix winner has again found himself at the mercy of the silly season and finds himself having to vacate his seat for another driver.

While there is no comparison between the Spaniard and seven-time world champion Hamilton, it does feel Sainz has been undervalued as he was by Renault in 2018. He’s a pillar of consistency as demonstrated during his tenure at Ferrari with those excellent wins in Singapore and Silverstone, as well as having vast technical competence.

don’t forget, he achieved his goal… Carlos Sainz Jr, the only non Red Bull winner of the 2023 F1 season

— rebi ???? (@chiliconlando) January 27, 2024

If Mercedes has designs on George Russell being the defacto team leader, then Sainz represents a solid foil and a consistent contributor. Unless of course the Spaniard, who’s long been linked to partner up with former boss Andreas Seidl for the works Audi project in 2026 will be taken off the market early and peddle in the Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber.

It would be a similar story with Alex Albon, who’ll be entering his third season with Williams in 2024. Since returning to F1 with the historic outfit, after being spat out by Red Bull Racing at the end of 2020 – Albon as well has been metronomic and talismanic in the gradual rise of the team.

The 27-year-old Thai driver already has an established friendship with Russell, as well as the Briton holding nothing but praise for his rival from their days in the junior formulae. Albon’s current deal with Williams expires at the end of this year.

And while 17-year-old Andrea Kimi Antonelli could yet represent a farfetched prospect for a Formula One berth with Mercedes in 2025, there is an air of probability around it if the Italian youngster’s meteoric rise continues.

Mercedes snapped up Antonelli into its young driver’s programme, as the teenager jumps straight from romping the Formula Renault Euro Championship in 2023 into Formula 2 with frontrunners Prema. Could Toto Wolff and co be courting a Hamilton-esqe debut for Antonelli?

The possibles

It would be remiss not to insert Fernando Alonso’s name into the roster of drivers lining up for a Mercedes drive, given the two-time world champion at 42 years of age still fancifully chases that elusive third title.

No further explanation is needed to the Spaniard’s credentials, though if it does occur would this yet be another wrong place at the wrong time situation, as his career is littered with – or will Hamilton’s show of no confidence pay Alonso dividends?

Fernando Alonso is GREEN. ????

— Aston Martin Formula 1 News (@AMF1News) February 1, 2024

There is also the possibility of a famous German name once again taking the reigns of a works Mercedes F1 car, should enough faith be shown by the team in their reserve driver Mick Schumacher. The 24-year-old found refuge at the Silver Arrows, after his unceremonious axing from Haas in 2022 – with praise aplenty from big boss Wolff.

Schumacher will be racing again this year, albeit in the World Endurance Championship with Alpine and question marks remain over his Formula One credibility. However, if there is enough faith in what Mercedes sees on the simulator and in testing from the German, then why not have him support lead driver Russell?

Another German who’d be ludicrous not to at least be throwing his hat in the ring is F1’s perennial midfielder, Nico Hulkenberg. At 36 and still without a podium, it was thought that his career was done in 2019 when Renault needed to accommodate Esteban Ocon. But Haas gave him a lifeline in 2023 replacing Schumacher and have thrived on his consistency – despite their inherent car issues.

Hulkenberg is out of contract at the end of 2024 and it remains to be seen if he chooses to commit further to the Gene Haas-owned outfit, should there be no turn in the mediocre form they’re in. The notion of the Hulk finally ending that podium drought, and with a team as mighty as Mercedes would be the perfect conclusion to his decade-plus-long career.

The wildcards

Perhaps some more outlandish choices, but what’s life without a bit of variety and spice hey? If Hamilton can go to Ferrari, which many thought would never happen – then certainly all cards are on the table.

Out of contract as well at the end of 2024 is former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas; the rear-gunner and perfect teammate for Hamilton during their incredible run between 2017 and 2021 of consecutive constructor’s titles.

While Bottas relishes the freedoms he’s found in the seasons proceeding his time at Mercedes, he is a known quantity for the team and could at least be a short-term solution – should their protegee in Antonelli need additional preparation before making the switch to the big leagues.


Posting a #ValtteriBottas pole lap every week until the 2024 season starts

Week 10: 2017 Brazil GO

— Stake (Sauber) F1 Team News (@StakeF1TeamNews) January 29, 2024

It is unknown whether the Sauber group, who are waiting for a takeover from Audi in 2026 would require the services of the nine-time race winner. And whether even the Finn himself fancies a return to Brackley over cycling through the Adelaide Hills with his mullet free-flowing through that brisk air.

Ocon, who is managed by Mercedes boss Wolff and in fact was a former Mercedes junior driver, is similarly an outside option. His current deal with Alpine expires at the conclusion of 2024 and with the French manufacturer still yet to take any meaningful steps towards the front-runners – it’d be no surprise if the race winner wants out.

Again, there is the matter of the fact that Ocon was essentially put out to pasture with the Renault group in 2019 because Mercedes had designs on Russell being its next big thing. As well as the Frenchman’s own penchant for chaos with his teammates, as the likes of Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly can attest to.

And finally, why not Oscar Piastri? Aside from the fact that he and McLaren teammate Lando Norris have their futures secured with the Woking outfit – the Aussie and his manager Mark Webber already have the reputation of leveraging a better deal.

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Though that would require Piastri and Webber to have no confidence in the positive trajectory that lies ahead of McLaren, after their impressive rise to fourth in the championship last year.

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