OPINION: Would Mercedes Crumble if Lewis Hamilton Retired in 2020?

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Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his 7th championship title in Turkey in a season that has seen the Mercedes superstar break a number of records.

However, the record for the number of titles isn’t ‘broken’ just yet. That magical number is 8, and you’d certainly not bet against him notching his 8th title next year. But the question is, does he want to win his 8th title?

Well, Lewis hasn’t signed a contract for next year and has hinted at walking away. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, he does call it a day once this season ends. What happens then? Well, obviously the internet would go crazy, but that’s not the only effect Hamilton’s resignation would have.

Alarm bells would go off at Mercedes to find a driver for 2021

The immediate and the most major impact would be felt by the Brackley-based outfit. How on Earth do they replace a 7 times world champion?

Lewis Hamilton stands atop his Mercedes in Parc Ferme to celebrate his victory in Turkey
Formula One F1 – Turkish Grand Prix – Istanbul Park. Istanbul, Turkey – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the race and the world championship Pool via REUTERS/Clive Mason

Well, for starters, it’s important to remember that they have already been in this situation before. When Michael Schumacher hung up his boots, they identified Lewis as his replacement, and that went swimmingly well.

Who are they going to go for this time? Their ideal ‘first-choice’ in that scenario would be George Russell. Mercedes (and the world) regard the young Briton highly, and he has definitely got the talent to be a future world champion.

But that would be like throwing Russell into the deep end. After all, he still hasn’t got an F1 point to his name, and would be under immense pressure to recreate what Hamilton has achieved.

They could choose to wait on him a for little while longer and instead persist with a stop gap option. The best one at the moment would seem to be Sergio Perez. The Mexican has been consistent throughout his career and is absolutely flying at the moment. He desires his shot with a team capable of competing for the title.

Sergio Perez celebrates with the trophy he recieved for his P2 finish in Turkey
Formula One F1 – Turkish Grand Prix – Istanbul Park. Istanbul, Turkey – Racing Point’s Sergio Perez celebrates on the podium with a trophy after finishing the race in second place Pool via REUTERS/Ozan Kose

Another slightly far-fetched option would be trying to lure Max Verstappen. Surely Verstappen wouldn’t mind being in championship winning machinery, but the incredibly short turn over period from one season to the next, makes this scenario improbable (even hypothetically).

So, Checo seems likely to be the man they’d go for, at least for the 2021 season. That could work for Perez too, he’d get a major seat for 2021, and if he could make a splash with Mercedes, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t get a seat elsewhere for the 2022 season. Heck, he could even stay with Mercedes for longer if he did well.

Could Lewis Hamilton retiring make Wolff follow suit?

Toto Wolff is another person at Mercedes who hasn’t yet committed himself to his role as team principal beyond this season. He has hinted in the past that Hamilton’s status would hold no bearing on his decision.

But it would certainly seem likely that Wolff decides to give up his role as team boss and instead focuses on handling more important things, considering he is also currently the CEO of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff in the paddock ahead of the Turkish GP qualifying
Formula One F1 – Turkish Grand Prix – Istanbul Park, Istanbul, Turkey -Mercedes’ Team Principal Toto Wolff FIA/Handout via REUTERS

Will Mercedes be able to sustain their dominance?

This will be the most important question on everyone’s mind in this hypothetical situation. For those with high hopes, the answer might disappoint you.

The Silver Arrows are far too superior to any team on the grid. Hamilton’s exit would certainly leave a void, and we might get a few different race winners, but expect the German team to triumph over the others by the end of the season.

Valtteri Bottas or Perez (if they go with that option) may not run away with the lead in races quite like Lewis does. But they’d still be able to keep a decent gap with the rest of the pack.

That is not to say a Mercedes driver would be a shoe in for the title because there is one Max Verstappen. But as far as the Constructors’ championship is concerned, the Brackley-based outfit should make it 8 next year.

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