Wolff’s Choices for Hamilton’s Replacement

max verstappen and toto wolff

Mercedes’ team principal, Toto Wolff, has openly expressed his inclination towards Max Verstappen as the prime candidate to succeed Lewis Hamilton in 2025, yet he also considers other contenders for the coveted position.

As the departure of Lewis Hamilton creates a significant vacancy for the 2025 season, Toto Wolff has articulated his desire to establish a connection with Max Verstappen.

Amidst the current turbulence surrounding Max Verstappen’s association with Red Bull, Mercedes and other competitors are exploring opportunities to capitalize on the apparent instability within Verstappen’s camp.

During the Bahrain Grand Prix, amidst escalating tensions between Jos Verstappen and Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, Toto Wolff engaged in discussions with the father of the three-time World Champion.

Subsequently, Wolff disclosed that the animosity of the 2021 season has been resolved between them. Although the likelihood remains slim, Mercedes aims to entice Verstappen away from Red Bull for the 2025 season, with Wolff emphasizing the Dutch driver’s position atop his priority list.

Speaking to Australia’s Fox Sports in Melbourne, Wolff remarked, “It’s the kind of relationship that needs to happen at a certain stage. But we don’t know when.”

When directly questioned about whether Max Verstappen tops his list for the available Mercedes cockpit, Wolff affirmed, “Yes, I mean, you see what his performance levels are. But I wouldn’t want to discount the other ones too.

“I think we’ve got to look at ourselves and [ask] what is it we can do with this car. Then it becomes much easier, whoever drives the second car, it’s become much easier for George [Russell] because he has the potential of being a World Champion and so much more.

“It’s the team’s problem to solve really, rather than looking for a silver bullet with an amazing driver.”

Regarding the potential of the W15, which appears promising yet challenging to fully utilize, Wolff expressed his belief that having Verstappen behind the wheel at this moment wouldn’t alter the team’s fortunes.

“No, I think he’s extraordinary, but we would give him a car that’s a handful, and difficult to set up and drive,” he stated.

“I’d rather make that step and be out there and say, ‘This is a car you could drive because it’s also going fast’.”

Wolff has emphasized his intention to take ample time to consider who will replace Lewis Hamilton. He confirmed that it’s probable the decision won’t be made until the summer, as he wants to carefully determine the best course of action moving forward.

This delay is attributed to the abundance of available options.

“As much as we were taken aback by Lewis’ decision so quickly, now I want to really take my time,” he stated.

“We have a slot free, the only one in the top teams unless Max decides he goes, then the slot is not going to be free with us anymore.

“There are a few options that are really interesting for us, from the very young super talent to some of the elder ones who are very experienced. That’s not going to happen in the next few weeks or months or so… I want to continue to monitor the market.”

However, Russell’s performance will not sway the decision. Mercedes must assess whether they require a driver who can immediately perform at a high level or if they can take a chance on a younger, unproven talent like Formula 2 junior Kimi Antonelli.

“No, [Russell’s] a bank. He’s having that seat, he’s been part of our junior program for a long time. The reason why is because he’s great, so it’s about the second seat.

“I think it depends also on what Max does. Then we have a young kid that is very promising and I don’t want to put more extra pressure on him, but it looks like he can be one of the great ones.

“But we also don’t want to drown him by jumping so quickly in an F1 car at 17. So there are a few options that we play with him. Obviously, there’s Fernando [Alonso] who is very exciting, and Carlos [Sainz] is very good. So there are a few ones.  I’m gonna make the play like a bride – difficult to get!”