Following the bombshell news that Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes for Ferrari next year, an illustrious seat has opened up in the driver market.
Although Mercedes has been unable to consistently challenge for race victories over the last two seasons, a race drive within the organisation remains one of the most valuable places to land on the grid.
Hamilton’s departure is a major blow for Mercedes who has lost the most successful driver of all time to a rival, leaving a hole that will be extremely challenging to fill.
However, Mercedes will now effectively take control of the transfer market as every onut-of-contract driver will hold out to see if they are chosen to replace the seven-time World Champion.
But who are the suitors that could jump into the Mercedes team alongside George Russell next year? RacingNews365 lists the candidates.
By default, Sainz becomes an automatic candidate for the drive. Having been ousted at Ferrari in favour of Hamilton, the Spaniard is now a key player in the market.
Throughout his career, Sainz has attracted the attention of major manufacturers such as Renault, McLaren and Ferrari - could Mercedes be next on his list of teams?
Interest in Sainz will no doubt be high and if Mercedes is not his destination, the 29-year-old could be chased by Stake to link up on a multi-year deal ahead of Audi’s arrival to the grid in 2026.
However should Mercedes want to secure Sainz’s signature, it would be difficult for the two-time race winner to turn down an offer.
Having revitalised his F1 career with a move to Williams in 2022, Albon was reluctant to commit his future to the Grove-based squad when questioned last year about his place in the driver market.
The Thai-British driver knows that his next F1 contract will likely be the most important yet as the term will take him through what could be argued as the prime of his career.
Albon has starred for Williams across the last two seasons and has rebuilt a strong reputation for himself following a difficult period racing at Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen.
With further experience under his belt and a strong relationship existing between Russell and Albon, the soon-to-be 28-year-old could check all the boxes for Mercedes.
Ocon’s pre-existing relationship with Mercedes could serve the Frenchman well if he looks to move out of the Alpine squad and re-form a partnership with the Brackley-based squad.
Mercedes still manages Ocon’s career despite his long links to Alpine, but like Sainz and Albon, Ocon’s current contract is also expiring at the end of the year.
Alpine’s position in the pecking order took a hit last year as it slipped to sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship and was overtaken by rivals McLaren and Aston Martin.
It would be full circle for Ocon to join the team that forged his path to the sport and would be a positive move for Mercedes’ wider investment with two protégés forming its line-up.
Alonso has been enjoying life at Aston Martin since linking up with the Silverstone-based squad last year, scoring eight podiums during the campaign.
There’s no doubt that Alonso is the most decorated of potential Hamilton replacements on this list with two World Championships to his name.
Age hasn’t yet slowed down the Spaniard who proved last year that despite being the eldest driver on the grid, he is performing as one of the best.
Alonso has been chomping at the bit for competitive machinery for several years and while he enjoyed some success with Aston Martin, he may see that there are more assurances in a multi-time World Championship-winning squad in Mercedes.
However, Alonso is no doubt nearing a retirement decision in the near future - so could he provide Mercedes with the strength it needs while also acting as a placeholder for another protégé?
Andrea Kimi Antonelli
Antonelli is a real wildcard on this list but Mercedes has already shown its faith in him by slotting him in Formula 2 this year after his title success in the Formula Regional European Championship last season.
An immediate strong impression in F2 would raise his stock considerably at a time when he is already being considered an F1 star of the future.
Antonelli has been part of Mercedes’ F1 academy since 2019 and although the Italian would only be 18 years of age in 2025, he could be an option if Mercedes feels that the young talent is capable of making the jump.
Such a rapid rise to the forefront of F1 is more unlikely than other options but if Antontelli is part of Mercedes’ long-term plans, then perhaps locking him down early is its best course of action.
It would seem rude not to mention Mick Schumacher given that the ex-Haas driver is officially listed as Mercedes' F1 reserve.
However, questions must be asked about the strength of pairing Russell and Schumacher together, especially with Schumacher off the grid for two seasons before the seat opens up - but the German, who is fully focused on returning to the F1 grid as soon as possible, will be hounding Toto Wolff over his value.
Daniel Ricciardo is also an interesting prospect that Mercedes could consider and the AlphaTauri driver will likely flirt with the idea.
Ricciardo’s return to the grid last year also saw him declare his desire for a return to Red Bull in the future amid Sergio Perez’s difficult run of form - but it would be unwise to not pick up the phone to Mercedes and voice his interest in the case that Perez performances satisfy Red Bull this year.
Valtteri Bottas could well find himself needing a seat if Sainz heads to Stake F1 in anticipation of Audi's entry to the sport and with the Finn's history with Mercedes, this could be a solid stop-gap option. A downside, however, would be his relationship with Russell, which fractured as the pair battled for the seat currently occupied by the Briton.
And what about Nico Hulkenberg? Mercedes has been without a German national since Nico Rosberg’s retirement and the F1 veteran impressed with his performances at Haas last year when he returned in a full-time role following a two-year absence.
Whatever route Mercedes decides to take, there will be no shortage of candidates to replace Hamilton.
Who would you choose to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes? Let us know in the comments or by voting in the poll!