Potential Lewis Hamilton replacements: No. 5 - Daniel Ricciardo/Sergio Perez
Both Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez are proven race winners with contracts that are set to expire at the end of the 2024 season. Additionally, both of them are part of the Red Bull family, with Perez still racing for the big team and Ricciardo racing for sister team Visa Cash App RB. Both are also competing for the second Red Bull seat in 2025.
The issue is that both of them have had poor showings over the last few years. In the case of Perez, despite having arguably the most dominant car in Formula 1 history beneath him, he averaged a qualifying position of 9.09 throughout 2024 and only narrowly held onto second place in the standings after several mistakes and lackluster results.
Red Bull chose to keep Perez around for 2024, mostly because he still had a contract. But should Ricciardo, who had a few solid performances in 2023 with AlphaTauri after being bought out by McLaren, have a good season with Visa Cash App RB in 2024, and/or Perez continue to struggle, the seat may well be the Aussie's.
That's where Mercedes could come into play. The German team will be looking for experience and dependability for the driver they choose to replace Lewis Hamilton.
While Perez hasn't shown well recently, he has proven that he is a very dependable, consistent driver in the past, scoring podium finishes with Sauber and Force India and wins with Racing Point and Red Bull. Joining Mercedes, a much more forgiving environment, with a car that will likely be more suited to his driving style would provide him with a fresh start and likely benefit all parties.
But let's say Perez shows well and keeps his seat at Red Bull for 2025. What does that mean for Ricciardo? He has openly stated numerous times that he believes he can still win races, and he wants to do so at Red Bull. But if Perez keeps his seat, Ricciardo will not be interested in sticking around at the sister team.
A few months ago, him failing to score a Red Bull seat likely would have meant retirement, but with the news of a Mercedes seat suddenly being open, does that all change?
Mercedes could offer Ricciardo the front-running car that he is looking for and an environment in which he can thrive. Much like Perez, Ricciardo would bring experience and a proven track record to the table. Additionally, he would be of great value to the team from the marketing side, due to his outgoing and funny personality. If he can find his form again in 2024, anything is on the table.
What about one potential dark horse?