On Friday came the seismic news that newly crowned World Champion, Nico Rosberg is retiring from the sport less than a week after winning the championship in Abu Dhabi.
Now the big question is who will replace Rosberg at Mercedes and partner Lewis hamilton in 2017. Here is the F1 Top 10’s list of possible replacements.
This would be a dream partnership for all F1 fans seeing arguably the best two drivers on the grid battling out in what should be one of the most competitive cars on the grid in 2017. Alonso’s return to Mclaren has been disastrous with the Spaniard scoring just 65 points in the last two seasons. However, there are many obstacles for Alonso to join Mercedes the first being that he is under contract at McLaren for next season but perhaps the biggest obstacle is what happened in 2007 when he and Lewis were teammates at McLaren. Surely, Mercedes wouldn’t want to take that risk or would they?
2. Pascal Wehrlein
The German has been heavily linked to the Mercedes seat already despite only one season in F1 with Manor. The Mercedes bosses rate Wehrlein very highly and he has tested for the team on several occasions. He also won the DTM championship last year so he clearly has a lot of potential but surely this is too early in his career to make the move to a championship winning team. He was overlooked by Force India for next season as they chose his Manor teammate Esteban Ocon over Wehrlein which may prove a factor when Mercedes make a decision. On the other hand he is German and that may appeal to Mercedes to continue having a German driver and he is just one of three drivers on the 2016 grid not to be contracted for a drive.
3. Sebastian Vettel
Vettel’s move to Ferrari in 2015 from Red Bull looked to have paid off winning three races in 2015 while his former team Red Bull were considering leaving the sport. However a year later things look very different. Vettel has endured a tough season failing to win a single race and Ferrari have fallen behind Red Bull in the pecking order causing a reported rift between Vettel and team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. Vettel v Hamilton would be just as appetising as Alonso v Hamilton and with Vettel being German that may play part in the decision making as I mentioned with Wehrlein. Similar to Alonso though is the fact he is under contract for next season.
4. Carlos Sainz
This is the perfect opportunity for Carlos Sainz to join a full works team. He has the talent and matched Max Verstappen in many areas when they were teammates. In 2016, Sainz outscored teammate Danil Kvyat by 21 points despite the Russian having 4 races with Red Bull before being dropped. I think this will be Sainz’s best opportunity to join a championship winning team as Red Bull is going to be locked out for the foreseeable future and therefore he has to look elsewhere but would Red Bull really want to lose him?
5. Sergio Perez
After his McLaren exit in 2013 it looked like Perez might’ve been finished in F1. However, in the past few seasons he has regularly outperformed highly rated teammate Nico Hulkenberg and has had a hugely successful 2016 scoring two podiums and the only driver to pass the 100 points mark apart from the Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari drivers. There is no question that Perez has the speed but does his difficult year at McLaren in 2013 still loom over him and may put Mercedes off the Mexican.
6. Valtteri Bottas
7. Daniel Ricciardo
8. Max Verstappen
9. Nico Hulkenburg
10. Esteban Ocon
Bottas is another big contender. After four seasons at Williams it would the right time for him to make the jump up. Both Red Bull drivers are in with a shout but Red Bull would be unlikely to release them and would they really want to leave considering the fact that Red Bull are expected to challenge for the title next season. Had Nico Hulkenberg not signed with Renault then I do believe he would be one of the favourites to replace Rosberg but now it’s extremely unlikely. Ocon is another outsider and has potential but it would be too early for him to make the jump up with just half a season of F1 under his belt.