6 drivers that could replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2025

05th February 2024
Simon Ostler

As news broke of Lewis Hamilton’s seismic move to Ferrari for 2025 the F1 world gradually descended into chaos as realisations of what it all means for the future began to dawn. Not only will Lewis Hamilton, seven-time world champion with 103 wins and a massive fanbase be driving in red next year, but Carlos Sainz Jr. will be out of a drive, and the entire F1 grid has been put on notice that one of the biggest seats in the sport has just become available.

Even after two years of relatively poor performance, there are very few drivers in F1 who would turn down the opportunity to drive for the most successful team in recent history. So aside from the obvious answer, that most of the F1 grid would jump at the chance, here are six drivers who we think could replace Lewis Hamilton in 2025.


1. Sebastian Vettel

The very latest rumour to leave the mill was brought about by Sebastian Vettel himself, who said he has been in conversations with Toto Wolff about the possibility of returning to F1 with Mercedes in 2025. The four-time world champion retired from F1 at the end of 2022, saying he didn’t expect to return but to “never say never”.

Now, barely two years after his retirement announcement, Vettel is flirting with a return that would see him replace the man he fought with for so many years when he himself was a Ferrari driver. He’s not been able to stay far from racing cars since he walked away from F1, he most recently carried out a test of the Porsche 963 hypercar. He’s also made it clear he’s missing the competition and would relish a return to the fold, should the right opportunity present itself.

There would be an odd romance to a Vettel return, especially if it were to be with Mercedes. His childhood hero Michael Schumacher also made a return to F1 with the Silver Arrows after his initial retirement. It’s a symmetry that won’t be lost on Vettel. We’d also like to see him back in F1 after the fun we had last summer at the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard. Lewis Hamilton himself has also given the move his blessing!


2. Max Verstappen

Well, this one came a little bit out of left field, didn’t it? It wasn’t so long ago that Max Verstappen was declaring his love for his Red Bull team and making plans to end his career at Milton Keynes. How that all seems to have changed over the course of a tumultuous winter.

Now Verstappen's mood seems to have darkened further as Red Bull's dominance has faded dramatically over the course of 2024. His tirades over the radio have become increasingly scathing towards his team and his car as the gap between himself and rivals first closed, then disappeared completely.

While it remains an outside bet that Verstappen would walk away from Red Bull, particularly as his wish to keep Helmut Marko at the team has been granted, and the general consensus is that his thinking is far more measured when he's not in the car, we still can't help but wonder whether the though has crossed his mind.

Perhaps the wisest move would be to wait until we know more about the next generation of power units. We'll see.


3. Mick Schumacher

Despite a career that has seen him climb the ladder to F1 and fall onto the sidelines after two tough seasons with Haas, Mick Schumacher is still only 24 years old. After losing his drive at Haas, and cutting ties with Ferrari at the end of 2022, he was scooped up by Toto Wolff to become Mercedes’ reserve driver in 2023.

In lieu of an F1 race drive in 2024, Schumacher has signed to race with Alpine in the World Endurance Championship, where he will line up in the Hypercar class and fight for overall victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Wolff has always spoken highly of the young German, whose dad Michael famously returned to F1 in 2010 to drive for the revived Mercedes team for three seasons. Whether there is enough support for Schumacher to return to F1 alongside George Russell will remain to be seen, but he currently sits in prime position to take the seat if Mercedes are keen to give him a chance.


4. Carlos Sainz Jr.

The man who loses out in all of this is Carlos Sainz Jr., who now finds himself out of a job at the end of 2024 as he prepares to part ways with Ferrari. His time at Ferrari never quite caught fire in the way we thought it might. Two wins from three seasons to date feels like a disappointing return, although he will forever be remembered as the only non-Red Bull race winner in 2022.

That said, he was always comparable to his hotshot team-mate Charles Leclerc, often touted as one of the very fastest drivers on the grid. Anyone expecting Sainz to make a quiet return to the midfield will be horribly underestimating his talent.

Mercedes ought to consider a straight swap if it’s looking to put together the strongest driver pairing for 2025. His removal from Ferrari makes him by far and away the highest-profile free agent in F1, and Sainz alongside George Russell would arguably be the best choice currently available.


5. Federik Vesti

If it’s not an existing F1 driver, then Mercedes will be looking towards its young driver stable, and the highest profile of those currently is Frederik Vesti. The 22-year-old Dane who has impressed consistently throughout his junior career.

His debut season in F2 was underwhelming, but he returned to his feisty best in 2023 to take the fight to eventual champion Theo Pourchaire and leave the final race of the season as arguably the bigger star.

Whether he has done quite enough to warrant a move to the Mercedes F1 team is a big question, it would seem more appropriate for him to take the Russell route and entre via a Williams or the like, but he competes in the European Le Mans Series in 2024, so eyes will be on his progress there.


6. Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Here’s a name that might be about to break into households around the globe. Think Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Kimi Raikkonen, and add Andrea Kimi Antonelli to that list. His star has been rising since he first arrived on the Italian F4 grid with Prema in 2021.

After dominating F4 in both Italy and Germany in 2022 and winning both championships in style, he moved to Formula Regional in 2023 where he won again in both the Middle East and European series.

That led to an immediate graduation to Formula 2 in 2024, and after getting himself comfortable with a new car, he's begun to prove himself yet again under the watchful eye of Toto Wolff. A stunning feature race victory in Hungary confirmed his extraordinary talent, but Antonelli has been regularly out-performing his highly-regarded team-mate Oliver Bearman, who has already bagged himself a place on the F1 grid next year, all season long.

At this stage you have to wonder what, if any doubts remain to stop Mercedes putting the youngster straight into the car next season, although Antonelli himself has said he's not sure himself how ready he is. For now there remains no rush, and Antonelli will certainly end up in a Mercedes sooner or later.

  • F1

  • Formula 1

  • F1 2024

  • Mercedes

  • Lewis Hamilton

  • Mick Schumacher

  • Carlos Sainz Jr

  • Frederik Vesti

  • Andrea Kimi Antonelli

  • Esteban Ocon

  • Alex Albon

  • ocon to haas update MAIN.jpg

    Formula 1

    2025 F1 drivers and teams

  • lewis-hamilton-2021-contract-mercedes-f1-20-turkey-steve-etherington-mi-main-goodwood-08022021.jpg

    Formula 1

    Updated: F1 2021 drivers and teams

  • carlos-sainz-is-a-criminally-underrated-f1-driver-main.jpg

    Formula 1

    OPINION: Carlos Sainz is a criminally underrated F1 driver