Lewis Hamilton warns Mercedes over big-name Nico Rosberg replacement
Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes must consult him on who should replace Nico Rosberg next season but warned them against signing a big name like Fernando Alonso.
Mercedes have identified Valtteri Bottas, currently under contract at Williams, as their preferred choice to replace the recently retired world champion, Rosberg, but the team’s head of motorsport, Toto Wolff, admitted Hamilton’s former McLaren team-mate Alonso – with whom he endured a frosty relationship in 2007 – should be considered.
Williams have, for the first time, opened the door to the potential of Bottas’s exit and the British driver is keen for the team to keep him informed.
“Basically, once they’ve dwindled it down to five drivers, or whatever it is, the shortlist, contractually they have to discuss with me,” the three-times world champion told Channel 4 television.
“They can put any driver they want – bring Sebastian [Vettel], Fernando [Alonso], bring whoever you really want. I drove against Fernando in my first year [at McLaren in 2007] and beat him, so that’s not a worry for me. I am happy to drive against any of them. But in terms of what is best for the team, probably not the best ideas.”
Mercedes have been seeking a replacement for Rosberg since the German stunned the sport by announcing his retirement five days after winning the title in Abu Dhabi at the end of November. His departure leaves Hamilton as the clear favourite to regain the title next year.
Mercedes have made it plain that Bottas is their man to replace Rosberg and Williams confirmed they would be open to his move if a replacement could be found.
Williams’ deputy team principal, Claire Williams, told BBC Sport the team would let Bottas leave “if an experienced, credible alternative was available”. They also hinted that Felipe Massa could return, despite retiring at the end of this season.
“I’m delighted to see that a team like Mercedes lists Valtteri as a potential replacement for Nico,” Williams said. “If we did allow Valtteri to leave, we would only do this if an experienced, credible alternative was available, such as someone like Felipe Massa, for example. We have always known Valtteri is one of the sport’s key talents and are proud that the championship leaders recognise this.”
Whoever comes into Mercedes, Hamilton will be an interested observer.
“I don’t have a say who it is. I recently [saw] comments online saying, ‘Lewis doesn’t care who his team mate is,’ which is a little bit out of context,” added the 31-year-old. “It is important who we have in the second car, important for team morale. We’ve seen in other teams and times where it can be a poisonous effect on a team, the arch rivalry between drivers.
“And so for sure that’s really important, because I’m really happy here, I love being where I am. There have been some interesting scenarios. We generally always pull through – so we have to make sure that whatever we bring is at least as good as what we had, if not better, in terms of creating that energy.
“I’ve had experiences with certain individuals in the past which I would strongly advise not in a team, to have that scenario. But what I meant is I will drive against any single driver you want.”