There are five drivers who could replace Hamilton if he retires from F1 – Lewis Hamilton’s future in Formula One is still uncertain, even as the 2022 pre-season test approaches.
It is just over a month since Lewis Hamilton dramatically lost the Formula 1 championship and it is still unclear whether he will return to the Formula 1 championship. The British driver has not given any interviews and has not posted a single update on his social networks. The retirement scenario is therefore gaining momentum, and Mercedes may be looking for a replacement.
If Sir Lewis decides to retire at the age of 37, the Silver Arrows have several internal options to replace him. If they need someone already under contract, they will have to be more aggressive, but almost any driver would want to take the coveted seat.
According to sources close to him, the British driver wished to decide his future when the FIA made its final decision on the Abu Dhabi GP, but sadly for Hamilton the FIA has called that bluff and won’t be publishing any decisions until the Friday of the first Grand Prix of this season. So now he only has a period of time fast running out before the start of pre-season testing in Barcelona on February 23th.
If Hamilton refuses to return to competition, all indications are that Mercedes’ main option is Nyck De Vries.
The Dutchman is the team’s reserve driver and even took part in the year-end tests with the W12. He has a successful track record, was Formula 2 champion in 2019 and is the reigning Formula E champion. Despite this, he has not yet been given a chance in the Formula 1 championship.
As he is the leading contender, he was asked what he thought, but his comments were cautious, he made it clear that he was focusing on the electric category for now.
If Toto Wolff was looking for experience, the answer would also be in-house. Stoffel Vandoorne has already spent two seasons in F1 with McLaren. The Belgian completes the Mercedes team in Formula E with De Vries, in which he finished second two seasons ago.
The downside is that in his two years in F1 (2017-18) he only scored 25 points, not McLaren’s best years, but he also showed no promising signs. He also has a place as a reserve driver.
If De Vries or Vandoorne were to make the jump, they would have stability for the foreseeable future, as 2022 will be the last year Mercedes will compete in the electric category.
When it comes to being more aggressive, the options that are already in Formula 1 and could move to the German team could be Sebastian Vettel, Esteban Ocon and Mick Schumacher.
Vettel already knows what it’s like to be a champion, he has won four consecutive titles (2010-13) with Red Bull and is also one of the most respected drivers. However, his first year at Aston Martin has been different to what he is used to, he has gone from fighting for podiums and wins to the middle of the grid.
Having the option to join Mercedes would bring him back to the top and give him the chance to fight for the championship again.
Ralf Schumacher, Michael’s younger brother, endorsed it as an option: “If (Vettel) had the opportunity to join this team, of course he would take it because it is the best chance to win again. That’s what Sebastian wants, to win races.”
For his part, Ocon grew up in the German team’s academy, tried his luck unsuccessfully at Force India, then Renault, now Alpine, gave him his chance. He may have a three-year contract, but he remains in contact with the Silver Arrows.
“Of course there are still connections with Mercedes, but the job I do is to be with Alpine,” he said after signing his extension.
Finally, Mick Schumacher has a winner’s tag, he has been a winner with his Formula 2 and 3 championships, but unfortunately he has arrived in the Formula 1 championship with the worst team in 2021. Haas didn’t even score any points.
In his rookie year he sparkled and Toto Wolff sees him as a potential champion. “He has the talent and intelligence to get to the top, win some races and even fight for the title one day, but he needs time,” he said.
The mystery surrounding Lewis Hamilton seems endless, but Mercedes has options at hand to start a new era if the seven-time world champion decides to end his career.