Mercedes tipped to sign ‘the next Max Verstappen’ as Lewis Hamilton replacement

Lewis Hamilton will drive for Ferrari in 2025 with a number of candidates to replace him at Mercedes  (PA Wire)
Lewis Hamilton will drive for Ferrari in 2025 with a number of candidates to replace him at Mercedes (PA Wire)

Mercedes have been tipped to sign teenager Andrea Kimi Antonelli as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement with the team believing the Italian to be “the next Max Verstappen”.

Speculation has swirled over who Mercedes will identify to replace Hamilton in 2025 after the announcement that the seven-time world champions would be joining Ferrari at the end of the season.

Rising star Antonelli, 17, is part of the outfit’s junior team and is set to compete in Formula 2 this year as he continues to build his reputation as one of the world’s top young drivers.

Sky Sports’ Ted Kravitz believes that Mercedes will ultimately opt for the Italian youngster as George Russell’s partner for fear of another team stealing him away.

“There are so many options for Mercedes and quite a lot of them are quite good,” Kravitz said in a Sky Sports question and answer session ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. “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 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. They don’t have Williams as a junior team to put Antonelli in. 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.”

A number of possible candidates have emerged that could fill the Hamilton void at Mercedes since a shock announcement that the Brit would be departing.

Among them is fellow veteran Fernando Alonso, with the Aston Martin driver suggesting recently that he felt he could still compete at the top level for a few more years.

Could Fernando Alonso replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes? (Getty Images)
Could Fernando Alonso replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes? (Getty Images)

Kravitz believes that the Spaniard has the necessary big name gravitas and winning experience to offer a useful alternative option if Antonelli struggles at Formula 2 level.

“But Plan B, Alonso is a very, very good shout,” the pit-lane reporter said. “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) 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.

“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.”