The shock retirement of newly crowned World Driver’s Champion Nico Rosberg has opened up a vacancy in the all-dominant Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team for 2017 and beyond, but who is in contention for the drive?
Not since 1994, when Alain Prost retired from the sport having claimed the championship will the reigning champion not be on the grid the following season, but Rosberg’s decision to walk away from Mercedes opens up a tasty seat alongside Lewis Hamilton next season.
Fernando Alonso has long been linked with a Mercedes drive, but the Spaniard is contracted to the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team for 2017, although everyone knows contract’s are easily bought and easily broken. There are thoughts up and down the paddock that Alonso is the best driver on the grid, and the thought of him linking up with Hamilton again could be thrilling, especially if their 2007 season together at McLaren is anything to go by, although both have grown considerably since then.
Sebastian Vettel is another driver who could jump ship from his current team, especially after appearing disgruntled at times during 2016 with his Scuderia Ferrari team, and again the thought of pairing Vettel with Hamilton is potentially mouth-watering. The German endured a winless year with very few opportunities to shine, and when he did Ferrari usually found a way to mess things up, and would probably welcome a move away from the Scuderia if Mercedes come calling.
The Mercedes junior drivers could also be in contention, with Pascal Wehrlein the initial favourite to join the team as the youngster current sits without a drive although he scored the Manor Racing MRT team’s only point of 2016. The German was set to either remain with Manor or switch to the Sauber F1 Team for 2017, but could a more dramatic move be on the cards for him?
His fellow Mercedes protégé Esteban Ocon could also be in line for the seat, although the Frenchman has just joined the Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team, and is the least experienced Formula 1 racer in contention.
Valtteri Bottas could be in line for a move, especially as it could enable Mercedes put Wehrlein in his Williams Martini Racing seat, and it would be a great move for the Finn, who’s Formula 1 career momentum has seemingly slowed down in 2016. It would be a boost and a change Bottas could benefit from, especially as he would then pit himself against Hamilton.
Nico Hülkenberg has just switched from Force India to the Renault Sport F1 Team for 2017, but could the German be tempted by Mercedes? Likewise Romain Grosjean at the Haas F1 Team? Both are highly rated within the sport but with seemingly mediocre at best rides, could Mercedes take a punt with one of them?
Toto Wolff insists the team will take their time to choose Hamilton’s new partner, but there are a number of drivers who would love to be there… but who would you choose? Let us know your thoughts in the comments?