The F1 driver market rumours we heard from Imola paddock...

Valtteri Bottas' future? Who will replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes? Carlos Sainz?

Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas
Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas

The 2025 F1 driver line-up is taking shape as the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. Here is what we know about the latest developments…

Who will replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes?

With Lewis Hamilton moving from Mercedes to Ferrari at the end of the season, Mercedes have been left with a difficult decision to make over selecting a replacement for the seven-time world champion.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli is understood to be Mercedes’ first-choice to take Hamilton’s seat, but the highly-rated 17-year-old Italian is only in the early stages of his first Formula 2 season.

Antonelli, who skipped Formula 3 to go straight to F2 after winning the Formula Regional European Championship last year, has also undergone an extensive private F1 testing programme for Mercedes.

He has already impressed Mercedes, with James Allison describing Antonelli as “very promising” and having “metronomic” pace.

Antonelli has also been backed by Hamilton. When the Briton was asked whether Carlos Sainz would be the perfect candidate to replace him, he responded: "Honestly, I have no idea what Toto's plans are, but for me, taking on a youngster. If it was my job, if it was my role, I would probably take on Kimi."

What will Carlos Sainz do?

Sainz appears to be the key to the rest of the driver market at the moment.

The Spaniard has visited Red Bull and Alpine as he weighs up his options, while he has also been heavily linked to Sauber/Audi.

Sainz is understood to have been offered a lucrative contract to join Nico Hulkenberg at Sauber next year ahead of the team’s transformation to Audi in 2026. It has been reported that this option is only on the table until the end of the month.

It is believed that Sainz is holding off making a decision while he evaluates his chances of landing a seat at either Red Bull or Mercedes, before committing to Sauber.

With Perez appearing to be in a strong position to retain his seat, and Mercedes seemingly favouring Antonelli, there is a risk Sainz could miss out on all three vacancies.

If so, Williams or Alpine could be alternatives for the three-time grand prix winner.

What about Williams?

With Alex Albon committing his future to Williams, attention has turned to the identity of his teammate for 2025.

Williams team principal James Vowles has already admitted Logan Sargeant is “at risk” of losing his drive, with the American under huge scrutiny after a difficult start to his sophomore campaign.

Antonelli could be an option to replace him but only if Mercedes decide against an early promotion to the works team. If Williams were to take Antonelli on an effective loan deal from Mercedes, it is believed they would want him for more than one season.

Alternatively, Sainz and the Alpine pair of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, all of whom are out of contract, could become options for Williams.

So too could Valtteri Bottas, who was tight-lipped about his visit to the Williams motorhome for a 15-minute meeting with Vowles on Saturday in the Imola paddock.

Meanwhile at Haas, Oliver Bearman is looking increasingly likely to earn a full-time seat with Haas, potentially leaving Kevin Magnussen without a drive.

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