Lewis Hamilton names surprise choice as Mercedes replacement

Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen and Kimi Antonelli are among the F1 drivers linked with replacing Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

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Lewis Hamilton praised Carlos Sainz as a ‘great driver’ but snubbed the Spaniard for his preferred choice to replace him at Mercedes in 2025, instead highlighting Andrea Kimi Antonelli as his favourite from the contenders ahead of the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.

Hamilton will leave the Mercedes family for the first time in his Formula 1 career at the end of 2024 to join Ferrari, replacing Sainz despite the three-time grand prix winner arguably outperforming Charles Leclerc in their last two seasons as teammates.

With Fernando Alonso, Alex Albon and Nico Hulkenberg all recently signing contract extensions, Sainz is the biggest-name driver left on the market and one of few options with extensive F1 experience, but Hamilton stated he’d rather opt for youth at Mercedes.

“I think Carlos is a great driver,” Hamilton told select members of the press, including Total-Motorsport.com.

“So I think wherever he goes, he would be a positive for any team. I honestly have no idea what Toto‘s plans are. But I think for me, taking on a youngster, if it was my job, my role, I’d probably take on Kimi.”

The last driver to make their debut for such a high-profile team was Lewis Hamilton himself at McLaren in 2007, when he partnered and outperformed the then reigning double-champion Fernando Alonso but lost the world championship by a single point to Kimi Raikkonen.

Ironically, Antonelli is named after the Finn that denied Hamilton that unprecedented achievement in heartbreaking fashion, but the seven-time champion isn’t holding it against the precocious Mercedes junior.

At the tender age of 17, Antonelli has already produced quite the racing resume with a string of karting championships marking him out as a rare talent, and he’s gone on to do even better after stepping up to cars.

Despite rapidly rising through the ranks, Antonelli has won every single championship he’s completed, including Formula Regional Europe in 2023 – the de facto stepping stone before joining the F1 support series – an has skipped F3 to make his F2 debut in 2024.

Having held his own against his supremely talented teammate Oliver Bearman so far in 2024, Bologna-born Antonelli was reportedly set to replace Logan Sargeant at Imola, but the American continues at Williams at least for now.

Russell reveals his own Imola surprise

George Russell drives a 100-year-old Mercedes ahead of the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP
George Russell drives a 100-year-old Mercedes ahead of the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP | Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes F1

With Hamilton looking to the future of the team, George Russell was asked about the distant past after driving a 100-year-old Mercedes ahead of the Emilia Romagna GP.

The car competed in the 1924 Targa Florio, and a century later Russell – who’s under contract with the Silver Arrows until the end of 2025 – drove it in a demo run through the medieval streets of the Italian village of Brisighella.

“It was incredible driving the Mercedes from 100 years ago,” Russell said. “The car hasn’t been driven for over 80 years and it’s a car that you expect just to see in a museum and never be touched to see how well it was driving.

“It was so loud, it made the hair stand up on my skin. The steering wheel was so big I couldn’t actually reach the brake pedal, so I was having to use the hand brake on the side of the car, which I wasn’t quite expecting to do, but a real privilege and seeing the Mercedes style in the front as well and knowing the history of that was, was pretty special.”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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