With the 2022 season completed and truly in the past, the winter break presents an opportunity to consider things that could happen in the near future, with almost anything these days being plausible in Formula 1.
Based on that, could Charles Leclerc or Lando Norris replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes once the seven-time World Champion finally retires? Let’s discuss.
Both Leclerc and Norris endured incredibly mixed seasons, both for vastly different reasons.
Leclerc started 2022 emphatically by claiming two wins from the opening three races, something which saw the Ferrari driver tipped as the early favourite for the World Championship.
Alas, it wasn’t to be, as his title hopes quite literally ended with a bang, following the Italians woeful reliability.
The Monegasque driver lost several victories in the recent season as a result of reliability gremlins, strategic blunders, and driver errors.
Whilst no season is ever perfect, 2022 was certainly a massively missed opportunity for the 24-year-old.
Of course, Ferrari and Leclerc will give it another go next season; however, what happens if the same issues occur?
Leclerc has always tended to defend his team when questioned over an incident, but surely that attitude and mentality can only go on for so long.
Moments like this were seen towards the end of the season, most notably at the Brazilian Grand Prix after being fitted with Intermediate tyres during Q3 on a dry circuit.
There are also rumours that Leclerc’s camp are unhappy at Alfa Romeo boss Frederic Vasseur all but certainly set to replace Mattia Binotto as team principal, another factor that could give Leclerc the urge to leave.
Why Leclerc would be unhappy at Vasseur joining the Scuderia is somewhat odd, given that the Frenchman gave him his debut in 2018.
He is contracted to Ferrari until the end of 2024 but has never expressed his intent of remaining in the team beyond that.
Norris, on the other hand, had a mixed season for a completely different reason.
After two years of battling for podiums, McLaren returned well and truly to the midfield in 2022, with the side having fallen to fifth in the field.
The side failed to continue their momentum from 2021 into 2022, following the introduction of the new aerodynamic regulations.
As it stands, Norris is contracted until the end of 2025, meaning the British driver is available to move team for the start of the new engine regulations.
There is no guarantee also that Norris would want to leave the Woking-based side; however, if they continue to be a midfield team, then surely, he’d consider a switch to Mercedes if approached.
That depends, though, on when Hamilton retires, as it looks set to be no earlier than the end of 2024.
His current deal expires at the end of next season, but he is set to sign an extension over the winter.
So should Hamilton retire, would Mercedes opt for either Leclerc or Norris?
Personally, Norris appears to be a much better fit for the Brackley-based side and would likely be cheaper to sign, given that he currently races for a Mercedes customer outfit.
Leclerc at Mercedes just sounds odd, with Ferrari likely to do whatever they can to keep hold of their star driver.