The dream opportunity Formula 1 drivers have coveted for a decade has finally become reality.
Lewis Hamilton is vacating his seat at Mercedes, creating a vacancy at the team which won every constructors championship between 2014 and 2021.
Hamilton will become the latest F1 world champion to race for the Scuderia, following the likes of Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Sebastian Vettel, Niki Lauda, Fernando Alonso, Alberto Ascari, Jody Scheckter, John Surtees, Nino Farina, Phil Hill, Mike Hawthorn, Nigel Mansell and Kimi Raikkonen.
But while Ferrari have a history of drivers that include the most successful names ever in the sport, the team who Hamilton is leaving – Mercedes – have run just 12 drivers in their history of competition. And with Hamilton departing, the biggest question in Formula 1 now is, who is the lucky driver who will get to be the 13th?
Although some potential prospects to replace Hamilton in 2025 are currently under contract, that, as Hamilton has just proven, does not necessarily prevent a driver from signing a blockbuster deal with another team. So the following list is by no means an exhaustive one, but these are the most likely shortlist of candidates who could find themselves alongside George Russell next season.
Although he might not be the first name on the top of the shortlist for many, it’s natural that the first candidate for a Mercedes race seat is the team’s official reserve driver.
The Schumacher name is one that is very dear to the Mercedes brand as well as the Brackley team which represents it. Michael Schumacher raced for the Silver Arrows in sportscars with Sauber prior to his entry into Formula 1, then came out of retirement to support their return to the grid in 2010, until he retired for good in 2012 – to be replaced by none other than Hamilton himself.
Mick Schumacher entered Formula 1 on his own merit in 2021 as the reigning Formula 2 champion. But over two seasons with Haas, he stood out more for his regular wrecking of his cars than he did for any impressive performances, taking just two points finishes in two seasons before being dropped at the end of the 2022 season.
Without a driver for last year, Mercedes snapped up the now-24-year-old as the team’s reserve driver. Team principal Toto Wolff has previously said that he “deserves to be on the grid.” Will he now back up those words with actions?
Carlos Sainz Jnr