As the shock of Nico Rosberg's sudden departure from Formula 1 subsides, attention has turned towards whom could possibly replace him next season.

This is not just any F1 drive though... there is a race winning, possibly title-contending car on offer to those who either want it or - more importantly - can get out of their current contract.

As Mercedes sits down to consider their options, we do the same and rate their chances...

Be sure to let us know what you think to in the comments section below...

Pascal Wehrlein
The bookies favourite and certainly the most practical solution for Mercedes, the fact the team has neither emphasised his potential candidacy let alone already announced him arguably offers an insight into whether the team thinks he has the ability to fulfil some lofty objectives in 2017. That isn't to say Wehrlein isn't capable of showing well in a top team but it is hard to gauge his full ability after a season driving the uncompetitive Manor, while the fact Force India overlooked him for his younger counterpart Esteban Ocon was a visible confidence blow to the German.

Indeed, while the Mercedes of 2013 might have considered taking a punt on its own junior driver, the Mercedes of 2017 has more to lose. The importance of the constructors' title to a brand like Mercedes means developing a #2 driver in real-time and relying on Lewis Hamilton may not be enough, particularly given the looming threat of Red Bull and Ferrari ahead of a change in regulations. In his favour though Wehrlein is likely to be a very compliant team-mate to Hamilton, has more experience than any other driver trialling the 2017 specification tyres and would at least do wonders to validate Mercedes' junior driver programme.

In summary: If Mercedes can be at ease with risking a constructors' title in 2017 then Wehrlein deserves a shot at proving his investment as the team's long-term future. Remember when many doubted the readiness of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen?

UPDATE: Still in the running but is seemingly being billed as the fall-back option if Mercedes cannot secure its first choices

Valtteri Bottas
Though he doesn't have the star power of Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas' odds have been improving over the course of the week. If Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren are unlikely to give up their top drivers without a fight that Mercedes may not want to get involved in, Bottas' place at Williams is probably easier to negotiate. It hasn't escaped notice that Toto Wolff has an interest in Bottas' career, while Williams' ties to Mercedes means there could be some compliance to getting around a table and discussing a few options. Though Bottas (and Williams generally) descended into anonymity in 2016 as the team struggled to get its car working consistently, the Finn has been exactly that, making few errors and generally maximising if not exceeding the car. Those in the know rate Bottas very highly, not just for his speed - which some think would be clearer in a faster car - but for his intelligence. In short, he is arguably the most Rosberg-like driver on the grid.

From Bottas' point of view, he would almost certainly trade loyalty for a Mercedes drive, but Williams - though accommodating - will be very reluctant to let a pillar of its team exit when it is counting on him to provide stability as it brings 18 year old rookie team-mate Lance Stroll up to standard. One option could be to trade Bottas with Wehrlein (as well as offer financial/power unit incentive) but it will won't be an easy sell...

His chances... Arguably striking the best compromise between availability and experience or quality, if Toto Wolff can get Claire Williams around the negotiating table then a Bottas-Mercedes relationship looks rather tasty.

UPDATE: As we suspected, Bottas' likeness to Rosberg is tempting Mercedes, so it is no surprise an approach has been made. But Williams are digging heels in and whilst they can probably be budged, it could take a big incentive to part ways with a star driver it believes it can win races with

Sebastian Vettel
Will Ferrari regret its decision to wait until 2017 to begin talks over a new contract with Sebastian Vettel? The German's stock has taken a bit of a battering this year on the back of an indifferent season with Ferrari, but there is no doubt Vettel would be a formidable contender in Mercedes machinery. Whether he wants to or not is a different story... it is clear Vettel really wants to be the man to return Ferrari to the top and he is likely to receive greater pleasure doing that than achieving the same with Mercedes. Then again, he wants to be champion more than anything and it remains unclear whether Ferrari can offer that.

On the flip side, Lewis Hamilton may not feel quite so comfortable about having Vettel on board. The four-time champion's hands-on approach even between races differs from Hamilton, while the likely wrestle over #1 status could leave Mercedes wishing for a return to the days of the Rosberg-Hamilton fracas. It's all conjecture of course, but while Mercedes no doubt wants the best line-up possible, it probably wants the most workable one too...

His chances... He says he has a Ferrari contract next year but Vettel might feel irked enough by Ferrari's notably fair-weather assessment of him in 2016 to do get somebody looking for clauses in his 2017 deal. Much could come down to how much faith he retains in Ferrari, seemingly his preferred option on equal-footing.

UPDATE: There has been little indication that Mercedes is considering Vettel as an option

Fernando Alonso
The driver most F1 fans would like to see head to Mercedes, if only for the curiosity that would come with reviving his fractious inter-team rivalry with Hamilton, Fernando Alonso represents a fascinating proposition. Much water has passed under the bridge over the last 10 years but since both drivers will no doubt take immense pleasure from beating one another in the same car, Mercedes might want to second guess the potential ramifications of their rivalry. Or at least have a chat with Ron Dennis.

Alonso seems relatively comfortable at McLaren and though results have been hard to come by in the last two years there appears to be a harmony in the working relationship and - like Vettel with Ferrari -, there is evident motivation to be the man credited with completing the turnaround. Then again, Alonso is as astute behind the scenes as he is on the track and it would be na?ve to think he has not already made enquiries at least... is McLaren's new management structure about to be dealt its first major test?

His chances... It is reasonable to assume Alonso will use this turn up as leverage to drive a hard bargain with McLaren's new management structure, but if he can be convinced that the Woking team is on the cusp of something great then tussling over #1 status at Mercedes not seem the wisest long-term shot

UPDATE: Toto Wolff signalled interest but Flavio Briatore says Alonso will respect his contract... probably after a little reminder from McLaren

Carlos Sainz
If Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are to be considered 'out of bounds', could Carlos Sainz emerge as a viable option? The Spaniard has seen his reputation ascend on the back of some impressive performances in the compromising Toro Rosso, while his relative parity with Verstappen during their time in the Italian team has certainly done no harm.

That said, Verstappen is also limiting his options with no obvious way into the Red Bull 'A team' for the foreseeable future. Indeed, while Toro Rosso remains a credible mid-field team, Sainz appears capable of more... but it is hard to see how 'more' can come from Red Bull anytime soon. It's worth pointing out that Toto Wolff has mentioned Sainz in the same breath as Verstappen before and while Helmut Marko may baulk on the idea of releasing a driver to its main rivals, it at least has a strong alternative in Pierre Gasly to take his place immediately.

His chances... A stronger prospect than he is perhaps being given credit for, if Sainz has a way out of his Toro Rosso/Red Bull deal then he - and his father - have probably made more than one phone call to Mercedes already

UPDATE: Sainz's odds have shortened massively since last week and - other than Wehrlein - is probably the driver most 'available' to Mercedes. If Mercedes can't get Bottas and Wehrlein is still questionable, Sainz is surely the next target.

Esteban Ocon
If Mercedes is uncertain about Pascal Wehrlein for his relative experience, then surely Esteban Ocon falls into the same category... then again, he has already beaten his Manor team-mate to one drive this year. Strictly speaking, Ocon is perhaps a stronger contender for 2018 once Mercedes can assess his true form at the wheel of a more competitive car and should the new signing - whoever that may be - land himself a one-year deal it could speak volumes for Mercedes' thought-processes for the future.

His chances... Certainly a darling within Mercedes, Ocon may seem more suited to a 2018 move but he is rated as highly as Wehrlein by those in the know

Anyone else?

Jenson Button received an honorary mention following Rosberg's announcement and there is some romance to the idea of him returning to the team that effectively took him to the 2009 F1 world title under the Brawn moniker. However, one look at his demeanour in Abu Dhabi suggested he has put a full stop on his F1 chapter and is preparing to move, making it tricky to get back to the 'zone' that would have him squaring up to Lewis Hamilton again.

Following months of 'will he, won't he' at Force India, the idea of Sergio Perez renegotiating his contract again will probably cause a shudder amongst his people. Then again, the Mexican has continued his upward trend in 2016 and the Mercedes-powered Force India team has shown it is willing to deal with their rivals in the past for the right incentive...

Romain Grosjean might is another experienced driver held in high regard and perhaps negotiable on his current deal with Haas, but an indifferent season appears to have ruled him out.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Who deserves the chance to defend Mercedes' world title?