Mercedes May Have Just Named Their No 1 Choice to Replace Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has disclosed that the decision to offer Lewis Hamilton a brief two-year contract was partly aimed at safeguarding the future of rising star Andrea Kimi Antonelli. Wolff suggested that the 17-year-old Italian driver is a leading candidate to step into Hamilton’s shoes and emphasized the team’s desire to avoid a repeat of the missed opportunity with Max Verstappen a decade ago.

In 2014, Red Bull successfully secured Verstappen when Mercedes had long-term contracts with Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, leaving no room for the Dutch sensation. To prevent a similar scenario, Mercedes granted Hamilton a two-year deal last summer, although he recently announced his departure midway through the contract in 2025, opting to join Ferrari starting next season.

Speculation regarding Hamilton’s replacement at Mercedes has intensified, with Wolff hinting at Antonelli as a potential long-term successor. Antonelli, who has been promoted to Formula 2 for the upcoming season, is being groomed for the challenges of Formula One.

Wolff revealed in an interview with Austrian broadcaster ORF, “There was a situation many years ago where we had the opportunity to let Max drive, and that wasn’t possible back then because we simply didn’t have a cockpit. Rosberg and Hamilton were tied to us long-term, and Red Bull naturally seized the opportunity. They gave him a contract with Toro Rosso, with the possibility of driving for Red Bull the following year. We then lost the young driver, and you can see how successful he has become. And precisely because we have a junior on the horizon who is really driving at a very high level, I simply wanted to keep this option open.”

While downplaying the likelihood of Antonelli joining in 2025, Wolff asserted, “That does not mean that we will actually put Antonelli in the car next year. He is 17 years old, and that might be a bit early. But with a view to the next five or ten years, I just wanted to have this option.”