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Mercedes 'bitten' by new Norris, Leclerc F1 contracts in search for Hamilton successor

Toto Wolff says new contracts for potential Lewis Hamilton replacements Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc have 'bitten' Mercedes, but the Formula 1 team may be "bold" with its new signing.

Top three Qualifiers Lando Norris, McLaren, pole man Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

The shock news emerged on Thursday that Hamilton will join Ferrari for 2025. This comes only a week after Ferrari re-signed Leclerc, and McLaren retained Norris on "multi-year" extensions.

While Hamilton's move underlines that F1 driver contracts may contain exit clauses, Mercedes team boss Wolff appears to have poured cold water on the prospect of going after Leclerc and Norris - both of whom were previously seen as leading candidates to one day succeed Hamilton.

OPINION: The risks in Hamilton's Ferrari F1 move

Addressing the media for the first time since the Hamilton revelation, Wolff conceded that the recent driver market developments had 'bitten' Mercedes.

Also praising the credentials of George Russell to lead the team now, Wolff said: "We've such a solid foundation, such a quick and talented and intelligent guy [Russell] in a car that we just need to take the right choice for the second driver, the second seat.

"It's not something I want to be rushed into. I guess that a few contracts have been signed a few weeks ago that we would have looked at.

"That would have been interesting, but the timing here bit us a bit."

He continued: "If you told me two days ago that Lewis was going to Ferrari, I didn't think it was possible. So, situations and things can change quickly.

"Contracts are only as good as [long as] the driver or the teams want to race. And who knows what's happening in the driver market that could be unexpected and opportunities for us."

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Wolff added that Mercedes could use this situation to be "bold" with its driver choice since the timing of Hamilton's exit news has given Mercedes "a long time to decide what we want to do".

"Almost, in a way, I always like change because change provides you with opportunity," said Wolff.

"In the same way we embraced the Nico [Rosberg shock retirement at the end of 2016] situation, and that was equally like from one moment to the other unexpected, I'm really looking forward to taking the right decisions for the team together with my colleagues and who's going to be in the seat next year.

"Maybe it's a chance to do something bold."

One way for Mercedes to be bold would be to fast-track the career of junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who won the Italian and German F4 titles in the same year before bagging the Formula Regional European Championship crown last season. In 2024, he will contest FIA F2 with Prema Racing.

However, Wolff stressed the importance of the Italian focusing on his F2 campaign rather than getting distracted by any rumours linking him to the vacant Mercedes seat from 2025.

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