Ted Kravitz names Lewis Hamilton replacement Mercedes see as ‘next Max Verstappen’

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes garage looking at data.

Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes garage.

Sky F1 pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz says Andrea Kimi Antonelli is the “most exciting” option for Mercedes to replace Lewis Hamilton, a prospect who they view as the “next Max Verstappen or Charles Leclerc”.

Following the bombshell announcement that Hamilton is heading to Ferrari for 2025, speculation has understandably been rife over who Mercedes may turn to as the replacement for their seven-time World Champion.

Established Formula 1 racers such as Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz, Alex Albon and Esteban Ocon have all been linked with the upcoming vacancy, but Mercedes’ 17-year-old prodigy Antonelli is also garnering plenty of attention, as he prepares for his rookie Formula 2 year looking to continue his trophy-laden junior career.

Will Mercedes replace Lewis Hamilton with ‘the next Max Verstappen’?

There would be some serious full-circle vibes going on if Mercedes did call on Antonelli to replace Hamilton, a driver who McLaren took a punt on in 2007 as a rookie and were rewarded for that show of faith.

Of course, first Antonelli has to perform in F2, having joined the category straight from winning the Formula Regional European Championship, skipping Formula 3, though Kravitz names him as Mercedes’ “most exciting” candidate as the Silver Arrows see him as a prospect that could make the same waves as now three-time World Champion Verstappen and Hamilton’s future Ferrari team-mate Leclerc.

“There are so many options for Mercedes and quite a lot of them are quite good,” said Kravitz as part of a Sky Sports fan Q&A.

“Obviously the most exciting from Mercedes’ point of view is to put Andrea Kimi Antonelli in the car, because they feel he is the next Max Verstappen or Charles Leclerc, he’s that promising.

“At the same time, they’ll only know that when he completes at least half a full Formula 2 season, and I believe Toto Wolff [Mercedes team principal] when he says that we have to be careful to treat him like a 17-year-old still growing up and not try to rush him too early. It might do more harm than good. But that’s clearly their number one priority.”

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Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell is, like Antonelli hopes to ultimately become, a graduate of the Mercedes Junior Team programme.

However, Russell started his F1 career with three years at Williams before being promoted, with Kravitz saying Williams has made it “pretty clear” that they are not interested in repeating the favour with Antonelli.

“They don’t have Williams as a junior team to put Antonelli in,” Kravitz continued. “Williams have made it pretty clear that they’re not in that game for Antonelli, they’re not going to be the university for him in the way they were for George Russell.

“I think that makes it probably most likely that they’ll go with Antonelli because they don’t want to see him go to another team, but it does depend on his F2 season.”

As for a “Plan B” should Mercedes require it, then Kravitz says two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso, who is into the final year of his Aston Martin contract, is “a very good shout”.

“But Plan B, Alonso is a very, very good shout,” said Kravitz. “Just replacing like for like, a guy who’s nearing the end of his career but could have as much as two or three years left at the top of his game.

“He would just be a big name that they need. It’s like when he replaced [Sebastian] Vettel at Aston Martin. Lawrence [Stroll, Aston Martin F1 team owner] had the right idea. A World Champion leaves you, you’ve got to replace him with a bigger name or a big a name, another World Champion.

“And it’s the same for Hamilton. And it would give the team more spring in their step to know that they’ve got Alonso in rather than someone who hasn’t won a championship.”

Hamilton has assured 100 per cent commitment in his final Mercedes season and a record-breaking eighth World title would be the ideal way to conclude this iconic driver-team partnership.

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