Since it was announced that Lewis Hamilton will leave for Ferrari in 2025, there has been plenty of speculation about who will get the free seat at Mercedes. Young talent Andrea Kimi Antonelli is often mentioned, but the name of the doyen of the grid, Fernando Alonso, is also heard. In the new episode of the podcast F1: Checkered Flag, Lando Norris is also discussed as a possible successor.
“Everyone is talking about Kimi Antonelli,” explains Jolyon Palmer when Jennie Gow asks him who will take over the coveted free Mercedes seat from Hamilton in 2025. ‘Until now he only drove in equivalents of Formula 4, but managed to win everything.’ Palmer sees that Mercedes has confidence in him by letting him skip Formula 3 and race for the best team in Formula 2. ‘He has the potential to be the next Hamilton or Leclerc. The next star.” In the long term, the young Italian will be a good choice, according to the analyst, but it will first take some years, because the steps to Formula 2 and then Formula 1 are very big.
Norris the most logical option
According to Palmer, someone has to fill this gap until Antonelli’s arrival. “Lando Norris would be the most logical option,” says Palmer, but the British driver has just signed a new contract with McLaren and is therefore bypassing Mercedes. Even if he had a clause in his contract, it would not be in time to drive for Mercedes in 2025. “McLaren should want to sell him, Mercedes should want to buy him and Norris himself should want to leave,” says F1 journalist Andrew Benson. He doesn’t see that happening.
Palmer sees Norris as the only other driver on the current grid with potential to become champion, apart from Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard’s name is mentioned more often, but neither Palmer nor Benson see this happening. “Fernando doesn’t keep a chair warm for anyone else,” says Palmer. Benson agrees. ‘I would think about him, but Mercedes doesn’t. Too much history.’
Possibly a Spaniard at Mercedes after all
According to Benson, the arrival of Alonso seems out of the question, but perhaps Mercedes can opt for a Spanish driver with Sainz. An exchange of seats with Hamilton is not inconceivable. ‘He is a very experienced F1 driver. He is not at the level of Hamilton and Leclerc, but he is very close,” says Benson. However, Palmer believes that Sainz as second man next to Hamilton would have been a good idea, but that it might be a bit disappointing next to Russell, who has not yet fully proven himself. “Then Alonso might not be such a bad idea after all,” the Briton admits.