A list of five drivers who are most likely to potentially replace the seven-time champion.
Since the 2021 season finale at Abu Dhabi, where Max Verstappen claimed his first Drivers’ World Title in controversial circumstances, title rival Lewis Hamilton has been quiet on all accounts since losing the championship he was destined to win before a late safety car swayed the momentum in Verstappen’s favour.
There have been plenty of rumours surrounding Hamilton’s future since, with some suggesting he may even walk away from the sport.
But IF Hamilton were to walk away from the sport, who would replace him? Here are five options that are in the frame.
The first option Mercedes may look at is Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. After bursting onto the scene back in 2016 Ocon has steadily risen the ranks driving for the likes of Force India before moving to Renault for 2020. His first season was one of constant improvement after a year away however 2021 against Fernando Alonso impressed many.
It was a breakthrough year for the Frenchman. After claiming his first podium at the end of 2020, he bettered this by taking his first win in Hungary, masterfully defending from Sebastian Vettel for the vast majority of the race.
Ocon is still a Mercedes junior driver, however with two years left on his Alpine contract, this could prove a stumbling block.
The next driver on this list is Ocon’s compatriot Pierre Gasly, who had a superb 2021. Gasly’s one lap pace in qualifying was incredible, starting as high as second in Qatar and finishing on the podium once at Azerbaijan in a year he consistently battled powerhouses McLaren and Ferrari.
Gasly eventually finished the season ninth and probably should have finished higher had the team worked more harmoniously on strategy, however this took nothing away from how fast Gasly was throughout the year.
With only a one year contract signed at Alpha Tauri, and Gasly stating his intentions that he deserves a top drive, could we see him in that Mercedes at some stage?
Mercedes’ next option is Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who needs no introduction on who he is and what he can do behind the wheel of an F1 car. Although 2021 was a challenging year for Ricciardo, one which saw him struggle to get to grips with McLaren’s design philosophy, it did still yield him a victory at Monza, and McLaren’s first since 2012.
It is no secret that Mexican Pato O’Ward is knocking on the door of F1 following his performances out in America who McLaren’s IndyCar team, so would we see Ricciardo jump to Mercedes and attempt to his first crown?
The fourth option Mercedes have is to simply resign their former driver Valtteri Bottas, who left Mercedes on good terms following five seasons with the Silver Arrows. Bottas has proved over the past five years that he has the ability to dominate Grand Prix’s however it was something Mercedes did not see enough of, and with Mercedes junior George Russell ever improving, it was only a matter of time before we saw Bottas and Mercedes part ways.
However, in Bottas, Mercedes would have a known quantity, either as a driver stepping up to challenge for Number 1 driver, or to remain as a superb support to Russell.
The final option that Mercedes would surely look at is Spaniard Fernando Alonso. Alonso is arguably the most versatile driver of his generation and has nothing to prove behind the wheel. After two years away, it was clear to see he had lost none of his pace, eventually finishing the season tenth in the standings.
Throughout his career, Alonso has been known to make big moves in the pursuit of that elusive third crown, often finding himself in the right place at the wrong time in the process. Although Alpine have focused a lot of time on their 2022 machine, if Hamilton were to step aside, there is no doubt Alonso would attempt to enter the frame.
Combine that with the fact he only has one more year left on his contract and the incredibly quick Oscar Piastri knocking on the door for a drive in the near future, could Alonso see it as the perfect time to move on, before he is moved on himself.
So, there we have it, five options Mercedes could have if Hamilton were to take a step away from Formula 1. Feel I have missed anyone? Please feel free to comment or message me!
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