Karun Chandhok ‘sure’ long-term signing has ‘escape clause’ to join Mercedes

Michelle Foster
Karun Chandhok walking through the paddock.

Karun Chandhok weighs in on Lewis Hamilton's potential replacement.

Oscar Piastri may have a long-term McLaren deal but Karun Chandhok says he cannot be ruled out of the running to replace Lewis Hamilton as he’ll likely have an “escape clause” in his contract.

Last week Mercedes found themselves in the unexpected position of scrambling to find a new driver for the 2025 season after Hamilton sensationally announced he would be leaving the team at the end of the season.

Exercising his option to leave after just one season of his latest two-year extension, the Briton instead signed a multi-year deal with the Scuderia.

Could Oscar Piastri head to Mercedes to replace Lewis Hamilton?

Hamilton’s shock deal was announced a week after Ferrari re-signed Charles Leclerc for “beyond 2024” while McLaren committed Lando Norris to a new contract.

But with Hamilton’s Mercedes exit highlighting the escape clauses that are in many of the drivers’ contracts, Chandhok reckons Mercedes should make a play for one of the McLaren drivers who has already re-signed with his team.

But not Norris, instead Piastri.

The Aussie made his Formula 1 debut last season where he twice finished on the podium while also clinching the victory at the Qatar Sprint ahead of Max Verstappen.

He signed an extension with McLaren that runs through to the end of the 2026 season, although Chandhok believes his manager Mark Webber would have ensured there’s an escape clause in there.

“We know Oscar has got a contract with McLaren, but Mark Webber has negotiated plenty of F1 contracts in his past and I’m sure there’s got to be an escape clause somewhere, as we’ve seen with Lewis there’s an escape somewhere,” the former F1 driver told Sky Sports’ F1 Show.

“Oscar’s debut season was brilliant. He had weaknesses in his race pace, no doubt about it, but he has another year of experience to build on that.”

“I think Oscar and George as a line-up at Mercedes is a good one,” he added.

Asked why Piastri would want to leave McLaren, who are on the up, for Mercedes, Chandhok replied: “It’s whether you think it’s a better bet.

“And for me with the new engine formula coming in ’26, I would want to go to a works team as Lewis Hamilton did in 2014.”

Hamilton swapped from McLaren to Mercedes in 2013, the year before Formula 1 introduced the current formula of 1.6 litre turbocharged V6 hybrid engines.

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Chandhok’s comments come at a time when Toto Wolff has been told by former F1 driver Christian Danner to ignore all obstacles to sign the best driver possible.

“Every name has to be discussed!” Danner told Bild. “There must be no legal or monetary obstacles. Age doesn’t matter at all either. The same applies to contracts.”

He reckons if Mercedes cannot persuade Max Verstappen to leave Red Bull then Piastri or Norris should be the next targets.

“Max would of course be the best possible solution, but the McLaren drivers Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris would also both be top successors for Lewis,” he continued. “Both have everything they need to win multiple World Championship titles – if they have the right car.”

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