Perfect Mercedes ‘stop-gap’ driver identified to replace Lewis Hamilton for one season

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton looks surprised with a prominent Mercedes logo alongside him

Where will Mercedes turn to replace Lewis Hamilton for 2025?

Valtteri Bottas has been tipped to be the ideal “stop-gap” option for Mercedes to replace Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton for the F1 2025 season.

Mercedes remain on the hunt for Hamilton’s successor after the seven-time World Champion announced in February that he will join Ferrari on a multi-year contract from next season, ending his long and successful alliance with the German manufacturer.

Valtteri Bottas to return to Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton replacement?

Carlos Sainz, the driver Hamilton will replace at Ferrari, as well as reigning World Champion Max Verstappen and Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Mercedes’ 17-year-old Italian sensation, are all believed to be candidates to partner George Russell in F1 2025.

Antonelli has long-been regarded as Mercedes’ preferred option to succeed Hamilton, but concerns over the teenager’s inexperience could force the team to assess alternative options.

Appearing on the F1 Nation podcast, FIA press conference host Tom Clarkson reiterated his claim that Antonelli – who turns 18, the age at which drivers are eligible for an F1 superlicence, on the day of the Dutch Grand Prix at the end of August – is highly likely to replace Logan Sargeant at Williams for the second half of the season.

And if 2025 is deemed too early for Antonelli to be promoted to Mercedes, he sees Bottas – who claimed 10 victories for the Silver Arrows between 2017 and 2021 – as the perfect candidate for a short-term contract.

Bottas, who has close links to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, faces an uncertain future in F1 after Sauber announced the signing of Nico Hulkenberg last week, with the team – poised to become Audi for F1’s new era in 2026 – also thought to have made a considerable offer to Sainz.

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Clarkson said: “Toto Wolff wants Antonelli at Mercedes long term.

“It’s just a question of: is he going to be ready in 2025 or does he get given to another team to learn the ropes and then comes back to Mercedes in a few years’ time?

“The talk in China last weekend is that Antonelli is going to be in the second Williams alongside Alex Albon from the summer break onwards.

“He turns 18 at the end of August. I think Williams are actually asking the FIA for special dispensation to [allow him to join earlier].

“Max raced in Formula 1 aged 17, why can’t Kimi Antonelli? But I think the rules are now set and I don’t think there will be a dispensation.

“So I see Antonelli in the Williams in the second half of the season, replacing Logan Sargeant, and then I think James Vowles won’t settle for anything less than 18 months.

“Mercedes are going to be looking for a one-year stop gap in my book. That doesn’t appeal for Carlos Sainz, he’s going to want a longer-term contract than that.

“I wonder whether Bottas could be that stop gap for Mercedes in 2025.

“He knows the team very well. He’s won 10 races and it’d be a much better option for him than anything else that’s on the table.

“So if Bottas ends up at Mercedes, then I think Sainz’s options become Red Bull or Audi.

“And I think he’ll look longer term and think Audi is a better long-term bet than Red Bull, because of all the changes and the commitment of Audi and Red Bull Powertrains and all the question marks around that.”

A return to Mercedes would see Bottas cross swords once again with Russell, who excelled in a stand-in appearance for Mercedes at Sakhir 2020 in a race Hamilton missed through illness.

Russell’s performance in Bahrain established a rivalry for the second Mercedes seat with Bottas, with the pair crashing heavily in mixed conditions at Imola early the following season.

Bottas, who made his F1 debut with Williams in 2013, is due to turn 35 in August.

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