Mercedes already have the 'next Max Verstappen' to replace Lewis Hamilton as 'No 1' option emerges

Mercedes already have the 'next Max Verstappen' to replace Lewis Hamilton as 'No 1' option emerges

WATCH NOW: Sports round-up as Mercedes have next Max Verstappen to replace Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Winter

By Lewis Winter

Published: 28/02/2024

- 09:53

The Silver Arrows are assessing their options to replace the seven-time world champion

Mercedes already believe they have the 'next Max Verstappen' who can replace Lewis Hamilton, according to F1 pundit Ted Kravitz.

The Silver Arrows have the unenviable task of needing to fill Hamilton's shoes and 17-year-old Andrea Kimi Antonelli could be the driver to do it.

Hamilton announced in early February that 2024 would be his 12th and final season at Mercedes before he joins Ferrari next year.

He has cut short his contract to sign a multi-year deal with the Italian team, replacing Carlos Sainz and becoming Charles Leclerc's team-mate.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes believe they have the next Max Verstappen to replace Lewis Hamilton


A host of drivers have been linked with taking Hamilton's spot, including Sainz, Fernando Alonso and the retired Sebastian Vettel.

But Mercedes already have a driver in their junior team who is tipped for a big career in Formula 1.

Antonelli is set to embark on his first season in Formula 2 this year and Toto Wolff has attempted to reduce the pressure on the youngster's shoulders.

But Kravitz insists that Mercedes reckon Antonelli is the next Verstappen or Leclerc and claims he is their 'No 1 priority' if he has a good F2 season.

Kravitz told Sky Sports: "There are so many options for Mercedes and quite a lot of them are quite good.

"Obviously the most exciting from Mercedes’ point of view is to put Andrea Kimi Antonelli in the car, because they feel he is the next Max Verstappen or Charles Leclerc, he's that promising.

"At the same time, they'll only know that when he completes at least half a full Formula 2 season, and I believe Toto Wolff when he says that we have to be careful to treat him like a 17-year-old still growing up and not try to rush him too early.

"It might do more harm than good. But that's clearly their No 1 priority.

"They don't have Williams as a junior team to put Antonelli in. Williams have made it pretty clear that they're not in that game for Antonelli, they’re not going to be the university for him in the way they were for George Russell.

"I think that makes it probably most likely that they'll go with Antonelli because they don't want to see him go to another team, but it does depend on his F2 season."

Last week, Mercedes team principal Wolff didn't rule out the possibility of Antonelli replacing Hamilton.

But he insisted a lot will rest on how the teenager performs in F2 this year.


Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Andrea Kimi Antonelli has been tipped to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes


Wolff told reporters: "It's clear Kimi has been in our junior academy since he was 11 and we have had great pleasure in watching him grow as a young man and growing through the ranks.

"But I also want to take a little bit of pressure off him. He's just turned 17.

"He's won everything he needed to win in his rookie season, but I think he is going to be in Formula 1.

"He's going to be a very, very successful driver in Formula 1. But he hasn't started his Formula 2 campaign yet.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Andrea Kimi Antonelli is part of the Mercedes Junior Team


"They had a difficult test in the first days in Bahrain and we shall see how he develops.

"That's why I want to want to wait out the first few [F2] races that are actually going to go with Formula 1."

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