Daniel Ricciardo among candidates to replacement Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes after F1 bombshell

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Formula One’s silly season usually happens in the middle of the year, but the most high stakes game of musical chairs might be over by the time the season starts.

Lewis Hamilton will move from Mercedes to Ferrari in 2025 in a shock move that will see him join Charles Leclerc at the Scuderia, leaving Carlos Sainz without a seat beyond this season.

The seven-time world champion will join Ferrari on a multi-year deal, meaning he will be racing into his forties as he eyes a recordbreaking eighth title.

The 2024 silly season was expected to be one of the most chaotic ever, and while it still could be, many drivers have locked their futures away in the pre-season.

Leclerc signed a multi-year deal with Ferrari beyond the 2024 season.

Lando Norris signed a multi-year contract extension with McLaren taking him beyond the 2025 season, shutting the door on a move to Red Bull.

His teammate Oscar Piastri is contracted with McLaren until the end of 2026, giving the team stability.

George Russell is signed with Mercedes until the end of 2025, but Hamilton’s departure creates an opening for one of the most sought after seats on the grid.

So who are the candidates to replace Hamilton at Mercedes?

The obvious candidate is Sainz, who could switch places with Hamilton in a simple swap.

“Following today’s news, Scuderia Ferrari and myself will part ways at the end of 2024,” Sainz said in a statement following the announcement Hamilton would be taking his seat.

“We still have a long season ahead of us and, like always, I will give my absolute best for the team and for the Tifosi all around the world.

“News about my future will be announced in due course.”

The 29-year-old Spaniard has two wins under his belt and was the only non Red Bull driver to win a race last year.

A move to any other team like Williams, Aston Martin or Alpine would be disrespectful for a driver of his quality.

Mercedes could opt for an experienced hand like Fernando Alonso or Daniel Ricciardo, but that would be a short term solution.

Alonso, 42, was on fire for Aston Martin at the start of last season and still has what it takes to challenge for podiums and race wins.

Ricciardo has experience on his side and would likely prefer to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull if the Mexican struggles again in the last year of his contract.

The Athletic wrote: “Daniel Ricciardo is a bit of a wild card for Mercedes.”

Ricciardo will drive for AlphaTauri, recently renamed Visa Cash App RB F1 team, this season and has said returning to Red Bull would be a fairytale way to finish his career.

Other options include former Red Bull discard Alex Albon, who has restored his reputation with Williams and would be on even footing with Russell given their similar age.

Esteban Ocon is one of the more underrated drivers on the grid and the Frenchman drove for Mercedes as a junior.

Then there’s the possibility of Michael Schumacher’s son Mick Schumacher getting elevated to a Mercedes seat following two disappointing seasons with Haas. Mick is currently the reserve driver for Mercedes.

The F1 season begins at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday March 2 Australian time.

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