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Could Mercedes choose this dark horse as Hamilton replacement?

Mercedes faces a dilemma when selecting its next driver to partner George Russell.

Hamilton Saudi
To news overview © XPBimages

The new F1 season has seen two races dominated by Red Bull and Max Verstappen as focus has largely been placed on off-track matters.

Red Bull's ongoing turmoil has been headline number one but Lewis Hamilton's defection from Mercedes to Ferrari from next season has generated plenty of interest for the right reasons.

Names have already been put into the open, ranging from Carlos Sainz to Alex Albon, Fernando Alonso to Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

But should the Italian not be ready for a step up from F2 following his debut campaign, then there may be an outstanding candidate flying under the radar that could be employed as a stop-gap.

Hulkenberg's fine form

Since returning to F1 following a three-year hiatus, Nico Hulkenberg has been very impressive.

The Haas driver had to cope with underperforming machinery last season and was often unable to challenge for points as rear tyre wear issues left him and teammate Kevin Magnussen powerless to fight those around them.

But Hulkenberg's qualifying performances caught the eye week after week, often extracting more than many thought was possible from the VF-23.

His run in a dry-wet qualifying in Canada was good enough for second on the grid, though this became fifth following a post-session penalty.

Similar form has been seen to start the new campaign - the German reaching Q3 in Bahrain despite fears Haas would be at the back of the grid.

Hulkenberg got off the mark for the year with a point at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, underlining the steps taken by the American-owned team.

So why would Hulkenberg be a good fit for Mercedes?

Why should Mercedes look at Hulkenberg?

Antonelli is highly regarded by Mercedes and Toto Wolff has made no secret of where he thinks the Italian's future lies in F1, yet a seat alongside George Russell next season may come too soon.

It would therefore be prudent to find a driver willing to take on a one-year contract as opposed to another who would look at long-term stability.

That may rule out drivers like Albon and Sainz, whilst Alonso can be as surprising as anyone when it comes to the driver market.

But it is hard to envisage a scenario in which Hulkenberg would turn down the opportunity to drive for the Silver Arrows and, with it, potentially break his podium duck.

Mercedes would be taking on a wealth of F1 experience and, more importantly, proven speed that would be an asset alongside Russell as the Briton gets his first taste of leading a team.

It would also give time and reduce the pressure for Antonelli to nail down his chance in F2 and readily prepare for a step up to F1.

If Hulkenberg's form continues, he may well be the dark horse for the vacant Mercedes seat.

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