Who Will Replace Hamilton at Mercedes?

Lewis Hamilton is poised to embark on his final season with Mercedes, marking the beginning of his farewell tour with the team at Bahrain.

With George Russell waiting in the wings, there’s mounting pressure on the young driver to demonstrate his capabilities and prove himself as a worthy successor, as Mercedes evaluates its options for the future.

Hamilton’s departure from Mercedes signifies the end of an era for the Silver Arrows, prompting reflection on a remarkable tenure marked by unparalleled success.

Having clinched six of his seven world titles with the German outfit, Hamilton’s legacy is deeply intertwined with Mercedes, whom he joined in 2012 after departing from McLaren.

Under his helm, Mercedes has enjoyed a period of dominance in Formula 1, establishing itself as a powerhouse within the sport.

During his tenure at Mercedes, Hamilton has amassed an impressive tally of 82 race victories, a testament to his exceptional skill and determination. This figure builds upon the 21 wins he achieved during his time with McLaren, highlighting his enduring prowess on the track.

Despite his illustrious career, Hamilton has not savored the taste of victory since crossing the finish line in Saudi Arabia back in 2021, a testament to Mercedes’ recent struggles within the competitive landscape of Formula 1.

However, amidst the uncertainties surrounding his future, there remains a sense of optimism that Hamilton will bid farewell to Mercedes in a manner befitting his extraordinary legacy.

Simon Lazenby is among those who envision a fairytale ending for Hamilton’s tenure with the team, expressing confidence in the prospect of the veteran driver securing another race win before his departure.

As Hamilton prepares to embark on his swansong season with Mercedes, all eyes will be on him to deliver memorable performances and add to his illustrious list of achievements.

Meanwhile, George Russell faces the daunting task of stepping into the shoes of a legend, tasked with proving that he possesses the talent and resolve to fill the void left by Hamilton’s departure.

For Mercedes, the coming season represents a pivotal moment in their quest to chart a course for the future, as they contemplate their next move in the wake of Hamilton’s departure.

He stated; “I do actually (think he’ll win a race), I think it would be a nice little end to his time there and it would be fitting.

“There’s a lot of positivity with what Mercedes have produced compared to the last couple of years. We kind of knew they would change their rear suspension and they’ve kind of mirrored Red Bull.

“I think if they’ve got it right, and they more often than not have got it right, then he’s got every chance of stealing one from under Red Bull’s nose. I think there’s a chance for him to pinch one and it would be a great story.”

As Mercedes gears up for a season overshadowed by Lewis Hamilton’s impending departure, the team faces the challenge of maintaining their legacy of success amidst changing circumstances.

Since their return to Formula 1 in 2010, Mercedes has enjoyed remarkable continuity, fielding only five drivers during this period. However, with Hamilton’s exit on the horizon, the team finds itself once again in search of a new driver to join their ranks.

George Russell, who was promoted from Williams in 2022, has emerged as a key contender within the Mercedes lineup, clinching the team’s sole victory over the past two seasons.

Despite his promising performance, Russell found himself consistently overshadowed by Hamilton last season, securing only one podium compared to his teammate’s five.

Having demonstrated his talent by winning the Formula 3 championship, Russell is viewed as a promising prospect within the sport. However, the 26-year-old must now prove that he can step into the role of team leader once Hamilton departs for Maranello.

Despite the pressure, Russell continues to enjoy the support and confidence of both the team and its principal, Toto Wolff.

Nevertheless, a subpar season from Russell could compel Mercedes to reconsider their approach, potentially shifting their focus away from youthful talent. Andrea Antonelli, a rising star within Mercedes’ development program, stands as a potential candidate for a driving role.

Alternatively, the team may opt for an experienced driver, with Fernando Alonso emerging as a viable option as the seasoned Spaniard continues to showcase his capabilities on the track.

Lazenby stated: “It is massively important for George Russell – he was convincingly beaten by his team-mate last year, when Lewis was on form last year George struggled to keep up. He needs to step up now and have a season to show he can lead Mercedes forward as a race winner and championship contender.

“Otherwise they have some decisions to make – Andrea Antonelli is waiting in the wings. If George doesn’t show he can live with Mercedes in the first-half of the year then could that force the team to bring in Alonso or somebody more experienced as they transition into the 2026 rule change.

“They’ll do everything they can to help George this year and, unless Lewis is in a title fight, they’ll have one eye on the future.”

Hamilton is poised to make a move to Ferrari, driven by his ambition to secure an eighth world championship title, which would solidify his status as a Formula 1 legend, surpassing Michael Schumacher’s record.

Despite Ferrari’s illustrious history in the sport, marked by numerous successes, including Kimi Raikkonen’s last drivers’ title triumph in 2007, they have faced challenges in reclaiming the championship crown.

Close calls with drivers such as Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, and Sebastian Vettel have underscored their pursuit of glory in recent years.

Charles Leclerc, a product of Ferrari’s esteemed academy, has been heralded as a potential world champion since joining the team in 2019. The Monégasque driver has demonstrated his skill by securing 23 pole positions and clinching seven race victories during his tenure with Ferrari.

However, despite his impressive performances, Leclerc has yet to mount a sustained challenge for the championship, a reflection of Ferrari’s struggles in delivering a competitive package throughout the season.

Nevertheless, there are doubts about Ferrari’s long-term commitment to Leclerc’s future with the team. According to Lazenby, there is skepticism regarding whether Leclerc possesses the necessary qualities to lead Ferrari to success, and a season alongside Hamilton will serve as a litmus test.

This upcoming year will either validate Leclerc’s potential as a top-tier driver or highlight areas where he may continue to fall short of expectations.

Lazenby stated: “Maybe this is controversial, but I’m not 100 percent sure that Ferrari are convinced Charles is the future, they know Lewis can win races and championships. If they 100 percent believed in Charles, would they have made this move? Maybe, because of what it does for the brand.

“They are desperate to win again and I think Charles makes too many mistakes on a Sunday, but with Lewis you know what you’ll get. Next year will be the making or the breaking of Charles Leclerc – yes he’s been the golden child in recent years but Lewis is Lewis.”

Lazenby was also asked about his preferred circuit on the extensive 24-race calendar for 2024.

“Greatest track, there’s lots to choose from. As a Brit, love going to Silverstone. Spa and Suzuka are up there in terms of pure racing. But for me it is Interlagos, I just love going there, the passion of the Brazilian people.

“Also it is in a bowl and you can see it all unfold, there’s so many challenge conditions. Go back in 2016 and Verstappen and that drive in the wet – that was when we knew he was special.”