Ranked: Rating every F1 2024 driver’s chance of claiming Lewis Hamilton’s seat

Henry Valantine
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in the paddock. Azerbaijan April 2023.

Lewis Hamilton caused the shock of the 2024 driver market by confirming a move to Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton will leave behind a highly-coveted seat in Formula 1 when he departs Mercedes at the end of 2024, with Toto Wolff’s phone likely to have been ringing already with prospective candidates.

While the Mercedes boss has external options for George Russell’s new partner, with the likes of junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli set to step up to Formula 2 this year, there are a host of drivers in the current field who may look to stake their claim for a Mercedes seat.

With Russell and Hamilton removed for obvious reasons, here’s a look at each of the remaining 18 drivers on the F1 2024 grid and their chances of taking Hamilton’s seat at Mercedes.

Max Verstappen

Well, unless Mercedes make an astronomical offer to Red Bull that Verstappen – whose contract expires in 2028 and is among the longest and most expensive on the grid – cannot refuse, expect him to stay put.

Rating: No chance

Sergio Perez

Perez is looking to fight to keep his place alongside Verstappen for 2025 and is going to give all he can to earn a renewal at Red Bull.

Should that not come to pass, he’ll become a free agent again and would represent an experienced pair of hands to bring in alongside Russell, with recent top-level experience to boot.

Rating: Small chance

Charles Leclerc

Having just signed a new contract at Ferrari for “several more seasons to come” and now confirmed as Hamilton’s team-mate for 2025, if Leclerc was poached for Mercedes, the internet would be broken all over again.

Rating: No chance

Carlos Sainz

Sainz now finds himself back on the driver market after Hamilton’s move, and having barely put a foot wrong at Ferrari, would represent a strong option for Mercedes.

He’s believed to have options on the table for potentially up to four teams at the moment, and his signature may be one of the key cogs of the driver market this year.

Rating: Good chance

Lando Norris

Having just committed his long-term future to McLaren with another fresh deal, much like Leclerc and Verstappen, if Norris was to make the move to Mercedes, then that really would cause a shock.

Rating: No chance

Oscar Piastri

Much like Norris, Piastri is contracted to McLaren for the next few years – 2026, to be precise, but if Mercedes wanted to cause another big shock on the driver market, Piastri would certainly represent that. He did it with his arrival at McLaren, after all, but expect likelier candidates for now.

Rating: No chance

Fernando Alonso

If Fernando Alonso wanted one more big roll of the dice and Mercedes wanted to replace one multiple World Champion with another, it would seem like the perfect fit.

What is certain is that Aston Martin are on an upward trend, but only time will tell if they are able to produce a car that can match and beat Mercedes over the course of a season.

If not, he might want to make the move.

Rating: Good chance

Lance Stroll

Given that his illustrious team-mate is theoretically available at the end of the year and his contract status is unknown, with the greatest of respect to Stroll, other options are likely to be looked at before him – and he may end up in a strong position for success of his own with Aston Martin regardless.

Rating: No chance

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Pierre Gasly

Gasly is coming into the final year of his current deal with Alpine, but it’s believed that there is an option within there to take him up for the 2025 season as well.

He’d represent an ‘outside’ option from the Mercedes stable, but if he’s able to establish himself over his Mercedes-linked team-mate, you never know.

Rating: Small chance

Esteban Ocon

Probably the more likely Alpine driver to move to Mercedes, considering Ocon is still managed by Mercedes despite his move away from the team through which he rose up the junior ranks.

He would need to prove himself as the dominant driver over a strong performer in Gasly this year if he’s to put himself in with a chance, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

Rating: Small chance

Alex Albon

The name that was on everyone’s lips the most when the news of Hamilton’s move was confirmed, but now that team principal James Vowles has confirmed he is on a contract until 2025 with Williams, any move for Albon would now seemingly involve the hurdle of some kind of buyout.

He remains an attractive candidate for a top seat after a superb season last year, and if he does the same again in the first half of 2024, expect his name to continue to be mentioned.

Rating: Good chance

Logan Sargeant

Having held onto his seat for 2024 after doing enough to impress in the final races of his rookie season, another year of experience is Logan Sargeant’s most likely outcome.

He said he’s put on 5kg in weight as he looked to improve his fitness over winter, with Albon the dominant driver within Williams last year, so we’ll see how his season pans out.

Rating: No chance

Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo was another name mentioned among potential early candidates to replace Hamilton, if his ultimate vision of returning to Red Bull does not take shape for 2025.

Helmut Marko looked to shut that down however, saying he is not available for a move, but stranger things have happened. One for the ‘maybe’ column further down the line.

Rating: Small chance

Yuki Tsunoda

Given Tsunoda’s strong sponsorship links to Honda, one of Mercedes’ key rivals on the power unit front from the 2026 season, that makes him an unlikely candidate for the drive.

Should he do well enough alongside Ricciardo, he wants to put himself in the frame for a Red Bull drive before then as well, first and foremost.

Rating: No chance

Valtteri Bottas

A return to Mercedes for Valtteri Bottas shouldn’t be fully ruled out, given he won five Constructors’ titles with the team in his seasons there and he is coming into the final year of his current deal.

Hopefully he wouldn’t take offence in being referred to as a ‘safe pair of hands’ for the Silver Arrows, but when asked about a Mercedes return by media including PlanetF1.com at the launch of the Stake F1 car, he said: “We haven’t spoken on the phone yet with Toto, and if I would go back? Well, obviously, my priority and biggest commitment is the Audi project, which is my target, but if that wouldn’t happen, then actually there’s no team that I wouldn’t go to, let’s say, perhaps, but I know my priorities and I’ve got my list.”

Rating: Small chance

Zhou Guanyu

Of a straight choice between the two Stake F1 drivers, Bottas would likely be the preferred option for Mercedes, given his existing links with the team.

That’s not a slight on Zhou, but entering his third season in F1, if he were to put himself in the shop window for a top seat alongside an experienced race-winning team-mate, now’s the time.

Rating: No chance

Nico Hulkenberg

So often on the periphery of these conversations for top seats throughout his Formula 1 career, but Nico Hulkenberg showed his speed at Haas last season – especially over one lap.

If Mercedes put their weight behind Russell when Hamilton does leave, they could do worse than having an experienced head in Hulkenberg alongside him, but with Toto Wolff perhaps teasing a bolder choice, he may not be among them – though don’t rule it out completely.

Rating: Small chance

Kevin Magnussen

The same applies for K-Mag as it does for Hulkenberg here, but he admits himself he’ll need to step up this season to put himself front and centre in conversations on the driver market again.

If he consistently performs as well as we know he can though, he could represent an outside option if other seats begin to get filled quickly.

Rating: Small chance

Read next: Revealed: The remarkable 36-hour timeline behind Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari move