Lewis Hamilton says Verstappen is on Mercedes' list to replace him amid Red Bull Horner drama

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Credit: PA

Lewis Hamilton believes that Max Verstappen is a serious contender to replace him at Mercedes next season.

A vacancy has opened up at the Silver Arrows following Hamilton’s shock decision to join Ferrari.

The apparent division at Red Bull – following the very public spat between team principal Christian Horner and Verstappen’s father, Jos – has led to speculation that the Dutch driver, despite being under contract until 2028, could quit the team which has carried him to the past three world championships.

Horner’s job has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks following allegations against him made by a female colleague.

Horner has denied the claims.

“My move has shown that anything is possible,” said Hamilton ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. “I know and I am sure Max is on the list.”

Hamilton and Verstappen’s relationship soured in 2021 as they fought for the world title – with Verstappen taking the championship following a deeply contentious end to the season decider in Abu Dhabi. Tensions were also high between Mercedes and Red Bull.

Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes for Ferrari at the end of the 2024 season. Credit: PA

But Hamilton continued: “I wouldn’t say I am surprised that he is being considered. He is a great driver.

“And Max in that moment did what he had to do. It was nothing on him. It was the sport that let us down and that wasn’t his fault. If I was in his position, I would have done the same thing, so there are no issues there.

“If you run a team you want the best driver and a driver that brings in the eyeballs and brings in the sponsorship and he is one of those. I understand it but it wouldn’t make sense for him, but it will be interesting to see.

“George (Russell) is an integral part of this team and he will be here for the long haul. He is doing a great job and he will grow to be a leader of this team so it will be interesting to see what their relationship looks like but I am sure they will work it out.

“It will definitely be a strong line-up.”

Christian Horner has been at the centre of Red Bull team drama after accusations of 'inappropriate behaviour' were levelled at him. Credit: PA

Earlier, Russell said he would welcome the challenge of going up against Verstappen, who has won 18 of the last 19 races and is the overwhelming favourite to claim another victory in Jeddah on Saturday night.

“This is my third season alongside Lewis, the greatest of all time and I feel like I have done a pretty good job alongside him,” said Russell.

“So, whoever were to line up alongside me, I welcome the challenge.

“You want to go against the best. I believe I can beat anybody on the grid. Having Lewis as my benchmark has been a good benchmark for sure.

“Any team wants to have the best driver line-up possible and right now Max is the best driver on the grid.

“If any team had a chance to sign Max they would 100 per cent be taking it but the question is on his side and Red Bull’s side and we don’t know what is truly going on behind closed doors and it is none of our business. But it would be exciting.”

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