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Alonso the perfect 'short-term fix' for post-Hamilton Mercedes

Monday, 12 February 2024

Lewis Hamilton will join Ferrari after the 2024 season, leaving Mercedes scrambling to replace the seven-time world champion.

Fernando Alonso could be the ideal 'short-term fix' for Mercedes as they look to replace Lewis Hamilton, particularly after Lando Norris signed a new long-term contract with McLaren.

That is according to former Force India and Williams driver Paul di Resta, who even believes an ambitious swoop for three-time world champion Max Verstappen is not out of the question.


Seven-time drivers' champion Hamilton has activated a break clause in the two-year contract extension he signed with Mercedes last year, and the 2024 season will be his last with the team before he makes a blockbuster move to Ferrari.

For Mercedes, attention has turned to the candidates to replace Hamilton. Carlos Sainz – who will leave Ferrari to make room for Hamilton at the end of this year – has been touted as a possible target, though other names are also in the frame.

Norris was long thought to be a natural fit if either Mercedes or Red Bull found themselves with an empty seat, but the 24-year-old penned a "multi-year" extension with McLaren last month.

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Di Resta thinks Norris would have been the go-to name for Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, but with his future seemingly secure, long-term options appear thin on the ground.

"Where do they go? They found themselves a bit stuck because I think it was unexpected," Di Resta told Stats Perform of Mercedes' driver hunt.

"When you look at the driver market, I was surprised to see Lando sign with McLaren for as long as he did, given there were Red Bull seats and potentially a Mercedes seat coming up.

"The obvious choice for me, if I was Toto, would have been to go for Lando. Last year, I actually think he was next-best to Max in terms of the performance and where he was.

"I think he was a step up even from Lewis over the course of the year, in what he was able to achieve. He had it under control, so that would have been where my attention went.

"You can see Lando doesn't turn up to odd events and excel, he is very consistent over the course of the year and I think he's ready to fight for championships, but obviously that's gone."

Some believe Mercedes could promote 17-year-old Andrea Kimi Antonelli from their junior team, but Di Resta thinks it is too soon for the teenage prodigy, suggesting two-time world champion Alonso – who is contracted to Aston Martin until the end of this year – as an alternative.

"They need a short-term fix, they probably need a good name," he continued. "I wouldn't be surprised if Fernando fit that bill for the next year or two, until they reassess where they are if they're bringing through some young guys.

"I've heard people talk about Antonelli, I can't see how he's ready, I can't see if somebody like that is ready to go up against Max and Lewis.

"With the weight of a manufacturer like that on top of you, you don't want to hit that too hard too soon, you want to build the foundations of how you go about your Formula One racing first."

Di Resta does not expect Mercedes to rush their search for a successor, and he even suggested they could enquire about Verstappen's availability, pondering whether the Dutchman has a similar break clause to that recently activated by Hamilton.

"They've got some time. I don't think it's a decision they can rush into," Di Resta said.

"At the start of the season, we're already talking about next year, but you never know, you could go and chase Max!

"I'm sure somebody like Max could equally have an option like Lewis had got, because when they are like Lewis, Max and Fernando, they mean as much as the team does."