The seven-time world champion, who turns 38 subsequent month, is about to enter the ultimate 12 months of his present Mercedes contract, although he has lately revealed his intention to agree a brand new “multi-year” deal that can probably see him race into his early forties.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff plans to start out talks with Hamilton over the winter, and regardless of a disappointing and irritating 2022 season, negotiations are anticipated to be each easy and swift.
Hamilton has made it clear that after shedding a record-breaking eighth world title in controversial circumstances on the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a slim defeat to Pink Bull’s Max Verstappen, he’s decided to win again a historic crown earlier than he lastly calls it a day.
No matter the size of what’s prone to be his final F1 contract, Mercedes want to start out readying themselves for the inevitable post-Hamilton period.
We’ve provide you with some candidates prone to be on the high of Mercedes’ wish-list…
Lando Norris is the right goal for Mercedes. He’s probably the most proficient and fascinating driver but to land a front-running F1 seat and his inventory solely continues to sky-rocket with every passing season.
The Briton’s excellent shows over his 4 F1 campaigns – together with taking a powerful seventh place within the 2022 world championship – have made him one of many hottest properties on the grid.
It’s no coincidence that McLaren acted with pace to tie him right down to a long-term contract earlier this 12 months to thrust back curiosity from potential suitors (Pink Bull included) in a deal that runs till 2025.
Norris purchased into McLaren’s long-term undertaking to return to profitable methods and is seen as the driving force to guide the Woking outfit again to the entrance of the grid. However a setback in 2022, and the blow of shedding influential crew principal Andreas Seidl can have come as a disappointment.
The 23-year-old didn’t cover his frustrations at McLaren’s failure to make a big step ahead at first of F1’s new period, and his head could begin to flip if tangible progress will not be seen in 2023, particularly now that Seidl has jumped ship. These are components that can play into Mercedes’ palms in the event that they do choose to pursue Norris.
A line-up consisting of George Russell and Norris – two of probably the most thrilling younger drivers on the grid – would make Mercedes the envy of the pitlane and provides them a potentially-championship-winning pairing for the subsequent decade.
At this second in time, Norris is the candidate who stands out above the remainder. Mercedes ought to transfer heaven and earth to make it occur.
If Ferrari proceed to flounder of their quest to win a primary world title in 15 years, Charles Leclerc is likely to be tempted to have a look at choices elsewhere to realize his ambition of turning into an F1 world champion.
Leclerc is out of contract on the finish of 2024 and has already discovered himself linked to Mercedes as a possible alternative for Hamilton, a state of affairs he has not completely dominated out, regardless of insisting that racing for Ferrari stays his “dream”.
Together with the likes of Verstappen, Russell, and Norris, Leclerc is considered as the perfect of the crop of rising stars in F1. Leclerc demonstrated his skills by taking extra poles than some other driver in 2022, and briefly gave the impression to be in title competition after profitable two of the opening three races, earlier than Ferrari’s marketing campaign spectacularly collapsed.
Ferrari’s choice to interchange Mattia Binotto with Frederic Vasseur – who has a robust relationship with Leclerc – is likely to be considered as a manner of appeasing the Monegasque following a irritating season, nevertheless it stays to be seen if Ferrari can present him with what he actually wishes.
One would think about that Mercedes are protecting shut tabs on the scenario.
Mercedes, together with the remainder of the F1 paddock, have at all times had their eye on Verstappen. That was why Pink Bull wasted no time snapping up the Dutchman in 2014 when he was simply 16 years outdated, and even promised him an F1 race seat at Toro Rosso for the next 12 months.
Verstappen’s meteoric rise from boy surprise to two-time world champion has been nothing in need of sensational, underlying the potential Pink Bull noticed in him from such an early age.
Again in 2014, Wolff revealed Mercedes got here near signing Verstappen and admitted he really suggested Max and his father Jos to just accept the supply from Pink Bull. Extra lately, Wolff dominated out a swoop for Verstappen – at the very least whereas Hamilton continues to be round. Maybe Mercedes would change their stance after Hamilton has retired.
For Pink Bull, Verstappen is untouchable. That’s highlighted by them providing the 25-year-old their longest-ever F1 deal, reportedly price a staggering £200m over 5 years till 2028.
Given Verstappen has simply cruised to his second world title in 12 months, taking a record-breaking 15 wins from 22 races within the course of, one thing must go badly improper for him to contemplate leaving a crew that’s in the end constructed round him.
Verstappen could also be an unrealistic goal, however that received’t cease Mercedes from making an attempt their luck in the event that they consider he’s the blockbuster signing they should fill the opening left by Hamilton.
Ought to the above choices show out of attain, a much more attainable different may come within the form of Esteban Ocon.
Ocon was in spite of everything a Mercedes junior and spent the 2019 season because the crew’s reserve driver earlier than rescinding his official ties when he joined Renault – now Alpine – at first of 2020.
The 26-year-old Frenchman’s profession has been guided by Wolff, who regards Ocon extremely extremely. Regardless of turning into a fully-fledged Alpine driver, connections to Mercedes stay.
In June 2021, Ocon signed a bumper three-year contract to maintain him at Alpine till at the very least the top of 2024, however the lure of driving for Mercedes would imply prizing him away from the French producer shouldn’t be too difficult for the Silver Arrows.
Ocon has finished a powerful, underrated job on the enhancing Alpine and greater than held his personal in opposition to Fernando Alonso throughout their two seasons collectively as teammates. He’s additionally a grand prix winner, having brilliantly resisted immense strain from four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel for a shock maiden victory on the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix.
He is probably not a headline-grabbing alternative for Hamilton, however Ocon could be a quick and very constant candidate to accomplice alongside Russell.