Toto Wolff has been told there must be “no legal or monetary obstacles” as Mercedes seek Lewis Hamilton’s replacement, and Max Verstappen is the “best possible solution”.
Mercedes will lose their World Champion at the end of this season with Hamilton announcing he’s off to Ferrari having signed a multi-year contract with the Scuderia.
Speaking to the media, including PlanetF1.com, a day after the Hamilton news broke, Wolff said he would try to have the “best possible” driver line-up, and that the “ball is in our court”.
Could Max Verstappen yet jump ship to Mercedes in 2025?
Red Bull were quick to issue a hands-off when it comes to their World Champion Verstappen, with Helmut Marko saying Wolff can try, but “he will be unsuccessful”.
That’s in part because Verstappen has a long-term deal with Red Bull that runs through to the end of the 2028 season.
However, former F1 driver Danner says Mercedes should ignore all that and go for it.
“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.
“Every driver who is at Silver Arrows level has to be a topic. That’s why Mercedes also has to think about Max Verstappen!”
Verstappen, though, isn’t the only very good option according to Danner.
“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.”
But, he added, “after two years of crisis” it’s now up to Mercedes to prove to their potential 2025 drivers that they “can still do it.”
Lewis Hamilton’s departure will ‘hurt’ Mercedes but…
Although Danner believes losing Hamilton will “hurt” Mercedes, it’s an opportunity for his team-mate George Russell to step up.
The younger Briton got the better of the seven-time World Champion in their first season together but fell off the pace a bit last year.
In 2025, depending on who is alongside him in the second W16, Russell will be Mercedes’ team leader.
“Hamilton’s departure will of course hurt Mercedes – but it can also be an opportunity,” said Danner.
“The good thing for Wolff & Co. is that they can discuss a successor for months. And with George Russell they already have a driver who can carry the team on his shoulders.”
Already team boss Wolff has been talking up the former Williams driver as Mercedes’ team leader.
“George has the potential to be the next lead driver in the team. He is of the generation of Lando and Leclerc and some of the others,” said the Austrian.
“I couldn’t wish for a new team leader when Lewis leaves, no doubt about that.
“We have such a solid foundation, such a quick, talented, and intelligent guy in the car that we just need to take the right choice for the second driver, the second seat.
“That’s not something I want to be rushed in.”