The dust has just about settled on Nico Rosberg’s bombshell announcement that he is to retire from F1, just five days after winning his first world title. As Nico heads off into the sunset – and joins an exclusive club of world champs who didn’t return to defend a title, like Mansell, Prost and Hawthorn - we’re having a look at the crop of potential successors. These are TG’s top picks…
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Who should replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes-AMG F1?
The 2016 champ’s vacant seat leaves a very fast racing car empty. Who’s your money on?
By rights, Mercedes’ reserve driver should get first dibs on the available AMG racer. 22-year old Pascal Wehrlein is an ex-DTM champion and has made 21 F1 race starts with backmarkers Manor. Slotting in such a young, relatively inexperienced driver would cement Lewis Hamilton’s status as number one driver at the team, so the Brit is likely keeping his fingers crossed for Wehrlein to graduate. After all, an upstart couldn’t take on a three-time world champ… could he?
At the opposite end of the age and experience scale, there’s two-time world champ and 2016’s meme-favourite Fernando Alonso, who hasn’t tasted championship glory since 2006 despite dragging a below-par Ferrari to a very close second in 2012. Alonso’s had a wretched run of luck moving to teams just as they become a bit rubbish, moving back from McLaren to Renault, then to Ferrari, and most recently to the woefully off-the-pace McLaren-Honda. Still, most of the drivers agree the Spaniard is one of the most gifted guys out there, even if he’s currently more famous for deck-chair antics when his McLaren goes wrong. Anyone up for Lewis vs Fernando, Part Two?
Like Alonso, four-time world champ Vettel has gone several years without a title as Ferrari struggle to keep pace with the dominant Mercedes. The German’s been none too quiet voicing his frustrations about poor Ferrari performance and strategy, as he’s watched Lewis Hamilton edge oh-so-close to equalling his quadruple title record. How’s that for an incentive for keeping your teammate staring at your rear wing…
Yeah, we know, he’s retired from F1. But that was before he knew about Nico heading for the sunset, right? Jenson’s still got pace, he’s world-class in the wet, great at looking after tyres and fuel (which, sadly, is a big part of the game these days) and of course, has already raced against Lewis from their McLaren days. Come on Jenson, how about one more year?
Away from F1, there’s another world champion currently down the job centre: WRC-winning ace Sebastien Ogier (pictured right, above). After the Frenchman was left without a drive for next year’s rally series when VW pulled out, there’s been speculation he’s about to jump ship for the new Toyota WRC team, or perhaps Ford. But as Ogier’s cultivated a neat, non-drifting style for WRC success, perhaps he could bring those skills to the world’s premiere motorsport. Plus, he could talk about snow and gravel with Kimi. Or at least try to.
Wildcard: Pastor Maldonado
He’s unemployed. He’s won a race, and he’s something of a fan favourite. Plus, F1 is fighting a battle to hold onto its viewers. Come on, are you really saying you wouldn’t watch Pastor in the fastest circuit car in the world?