Late Friday saw the F1 world shattered when newly crowned world champion Nico Rosberg announced his retirement, effective immediately.
The German driver’s exit means that three veterans of the motorsport have hung up their overalls, in the form of Rosberg, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa.
However, the big question is who will replace Rosberg? This is especially notable, as most of the teams have already announced their 2017 driver pairings.
That hasn’t stopped drivers from enquiring about the vacant race seat anyway, with Toto Wolff telling F1 writer Tobi Grüner that the only drivers who haven’t called are Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat. Even Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has been caught up in some offbeat Twitter exchanges with the Mercedes F1 team over the empty seat.
Who could replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes? Well, Toto Wolff says he has three potential avenues to go down…
When it comes to the established and mid-field guys, names bandied about for the seat include Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas. Of course, a German driver at a German marque would make sense, so the likes of Vettel or Hulkenberg would make for an understandable choice. However, Wolff told Italian media that they were reluctant to interfere with Ferrari and McLaren to get Vettel or Alonso.
He added that Mercedes junior drivers or a capable number two driver were other options.
Of course, there are major Mercedes junior drivers in the form of Pascal Wehrlein (currently at Manor) or Esteban Ocon (set to join Force India next year). However, they would need to be bought out of their contracts or have a promotion clause of sorts, one would assume.
The third option, of having a capable number two driver, would mean that clashes with Hamilton are kept to a minimum. And after the seasons with Rosberg, Mercedes will no doubt be closely looking at this option.