During the week, we were all stunned by the news that newly-crowned World Champion, Nico Rosberg had retired from Formula 1. When I first heard of the news I thought it was a hoax and so did everyone else. It’s a very bizarre decision but we must respect it. His only goal was to win the World Championship and he’s done exactly that. A question that immediately popped into our heads was; who would partner Hamilton next season?
To me, there are three drivers that could end up, realistically, getting the second seat.
The first is Pascal Wehrlein who drives for Manor, the second is Fernando Alonso who drives for McLaren and the third is Valtteri Bottas who drives for Williams.
Wehrlein has a contact for 2017 at Manor but he is a Mercedes reserve driver. Mercedes could pay Manor what’s left on his contract in one lump sum to release him, allowing him to drive for Mercedes in 2017. This would have to be sorted fairly quickly though as Manor themselves would then need another driver for next year. Could Wehrlein cope with driving alongside Hamilton next season though? That’s the big question. He’s a great driver but to stick him against one of the best drivers of our generation would be a massive task.
The next is Alonso, can you imagine the two best drivers on the grid in the best car? It’d be amazing to watch. Alonso has a contract at McLaren but at the back of his mind, after hearing this news, would literally jump at the chance of driving for Mercedes. There’s no denying he’s fed up, I agree McLaren did make progress this year but there were still miles off where they wanted to be. I know the 2017 rule changes effectively put everyone on a level playing field and McLaren think they’ll make big steps forward but can he really take another chance and end up wasting another year of his career towards the back of the grid?
Finally, Bottas. I only found out recently that Toto Wolff manages Bottas and considering Mercedes also provide Williams with their engines, could work out some kind of a deal. In my opinion, Bottas isn’t one of the best drivers on the grid but I think he’d be a great team-mate. He’s very mature and is always calm in the car. With the car he had this year, he did very well finishing in 8th place, 32 points ahead of his team-mate, Massa.
Mercedes have said they won’t be rushed into a decision but they’ll need to work fairly quickly and get it all over and done with as testing gets underway in February and the new recruit will need to learn the simulator and be introduced to the team. 2017 is looking to be one of the most exciting seasons we’ll see in a long while. Will Mercedes lose their crown in 2017 after this major reshuffle?