Lando Norris more likely to replace Lewis Hamilton than Charles Leclerc

Lando Norris' McLaren contract is currently set to expire at the end of 2025, but he has suggested he has an exit clause.

Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Russian GP.v1

With Charles Leclerc having expressed his loyalty to Ferrari, could McLaren’s Lando Norris be Mercedes’ ideal candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton, when the seven-time World Champion does eventually call it a day on his Formula 1 career?

Whilst Red Bull have been busy claiming 1-2 finishes at all but one race so far this season, speculation has continued to grow over the future of Hamilton, who is yet to sign a new contract with Mercedes.

Hamilton’s current deal is due to expire at the end of this season; however, both the 38-year-old and team principal Toto Wolff have informed the media that a new deal will be signed this year.

Until the deal is signed, though, potential replacements will continue to be discussed, with Leclerc having been heavily linked by Italian media.

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It was reported by Italian media that Leclerc had been holding secret talks with Mercedes about replacing Hamilton, something which both the Monegasque and Wolff firmly denied.

The 25-year-old actually expressed his loyalty to Ferrari during the recent Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where he shared that it’s his “dream” to become an F1 World Champion whilst driving for the Maranello-based team.

“When I dream of being world champion one day, in my mind I wear a red racing suit and get out of a red car,” Leclerc told German outlet Bild.

“Not every driver can say it openly, but I think every F1 driver would love to drive for Ferrari.”

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So with a move to Mercedes off the cards for the foreseeable future for Leclerc, where could the Germans find a replacement for Hamilton?

The obvious choice does appear to be Norris, who’s currently contracted to McLaren until the end of 2025.

Whilst McLaren CEO Zak Brown has shared that Norris’ deal has “zero exit clauses”, the British driver might not need to leave the Woking-based team prior to 2024 in order to switch to Mercedes, given that Hamilton is expected to sign a multi-year extension.

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It’s understood that a new deal for Hamilton would see him continue with Mercedes in 2024 and 2025, meaning he could then retire ahead of the new engine regulations in 2026.

Should this be the case, then it could work perfectly for Mercedes and for Norris, given that the 23-year-old would be a free agent for 2026.

It would also see the Silver Arrows maintain an all-British driver line-up, something which would perhaps suit the Brackley-based team.