Helmut Marko rules out one big-name candidate for Lewis Hamilton’s seat

Michelle Foster
Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko speaking with Christian Horner in the garage.

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko speaking with Christian Horner.

Chasing the “best possible” driver to replace Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull have made it clear Daniel Ricciardo “is not available” for Mercedes.

Sensationally losing Hamilton to Ferrari despite his recent extension with Mercedes, Toto Wolff has not yet had much time to contemplate his team’s 2025 line-up.

Questioned about it by the media, including PlanetF1.com, the day after Hamilton’s shock announcement, the Austrian admitted he was open to any situation from a rookie driver to an experienced one.

Mercedes are in the hunt for a new driver for 2025

“I haven’t really properly reflected with the team on where we want to go, from rookie to very experienced, because I don’t know yet what is the best for any potential driver that’s coming in, or for the team going forward,” he said.

“If you told me two days ago that Lewis would be going to Ferrari, I didn’t think it was possible, so situations and things can change quickly.”

Interestingly, he added: “Contracts are only as good as the driver or the teams want to race. And who knows what’s happening in the driver markets that could be unexpected and opportunities for us.”

Mercedes are already been heavily linked to Carlos Sainz while it’s even been suggested Max Verstappen could be a target.

One, though, cannot see how Red Bull would let go of their three-time World Champion. Or why Verstappen would want to move.

But perhaps the man touted as his 2025 team-mate could be the one to fill Hamilton’s seat, Ricciardo.

The Aussie returned to the grid last season with Red Bull’s junior team and will remain at VCARB for the 2024 championship with a step up to Red Bull expected to be his next move.

However, he’s now found his name mentioned alongside a host of other drivers said to be potential candidates to replace Hamilton.

Red Bull say no.

According to F1-Insider.com, Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has told them the Honey Badger has ‘a long-term contract and is not available’.

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As Wolff and Mercedes consider their options for next season, the team does have one driver from their junior ranks not only waiting in the wings but already showing star quality in Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Although he’s only stepping up to Formula 2 this season, Wolff spoke glowingly of the 17-year-old’s talent.

“Kimi’s been with Mercedes since he was 11 and he’s been in the junior programme and his junior career was very successful,” said Wolff.

“I think [what is] most important on that stage is that he concentrates on F2. I think if we start to spin his mind or unleash rumours in the media onto him, that’s not going to help his F2 campaign.

“He’s just stepped out of karts a few years ago and he’s not even 18. So I would rather not start any speculation about Kimi going into Formula 1 at that stage.”

With Fernando Alonso also said to be in the mix, Wolff added: “Maybe this is the chance to do something brave…”

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