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Wolff names first choice to replace Hamilton at Mercedes as he sets timeline for decision

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has put one driver above all others when it comes to signing a replacement for Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton, while highlighting a preferred timeframe for the decision to be made.

Following on from the bombshell winter announcement, Wolff namechecked reigning three-time world champion Max Verstappen as his “number one pick”, though stressed that the Silver Arrows are not short of options.

READ MORE: Wolff ‘would love’ to have Verstappen as there’s no team who ‘wouldn’t do handstands’ to sign him

Quizzed about the choice ahead of him in an interview with Fox Sports Australia, Wolff began: “You know, as much as we were taken aback by Lewis’ decision so quickly, now I really want to take my time.

“We have a slot free, the only one in the top teams, unless Max decides he goes, then the slot is not going to be free with us anymore. There are a few options that are really interesting for us, from the very young super-talent to some of the older ones who are very experienced.”

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Wolff is looking for a new driver after Hamilton decided to switch to Ferrari for 2025

Wolff added that a decision is likely “towards the summer”, making clear “it’s not going to happen in the next few weeks or months or so; I want to continue to monitor the market”.

Asked if Mercedes could go for a more youthful prospect, such as junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli, or an experienced pair of hands, Wolff opened up further.

READ MORE: Horner ‘certain’ Verstappen will see out Red Bull contract until 2028 amid Mercedes rumours

“I don’t know yet,” he said, having also been pushed if that call could come down to how George Russell performs over the course of the season. “I think it depends also what Max does.

“We have a young kid that is very promising. I don’t want to put more extra pressure on him but it looks like he can be one of the great ones. But we also don’t want to drown him jumping so quickly in an F1 car, he’s 17.

“There are a few options that we could play with him. Obviously there is Fernando [Alonso], who’s very exciting, Carlos [Sainz], very good, so there are a few ones.”

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Lewis Hamilton signs for Ferrari in 2025

But as for whether it would be “poetic” and a “full circle” moment to sign Verstappen, having missed out on the chance to sign the Dutchman during his junior days, Wolff said: “Exactly. It’s a kind of relationship that needs to happen at a certain stage, but we don’t know when!”

Asked directly if Verstappen is his number one pick, Wolff replied: “Yes. I mean, you see what his performance levels are. But I wouldn’t want to discount the other ones too.

READ MORE: Sainz keen to ‘maximise’ final year with Ferrari as he jokes he’s ‘still jobless’ for 2025

“We’ve got to look at ourselves and say, ‘What is it we can do with this car?’, then it becomes much easier whoever drives the second car, it becomes much easier for George, because he has the potential of being a world champion.

“It’s much more the team’s problem to solve [the current lack of performance] than really looking for a silver bullet with an amazing driver.”

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