Lewis Hamilton is comfortably the most popular British driver on the Formula 1 grid and by far the most successful in the sport, but who will lead the charge for the United Kingdom when he eventually calls it quits?
Whilst Hamilton is only just at the start of a new two-year contract, the 39-year-old is very much in the latter stages of his career.
In just two years’ time, F1 could be preparing for a championship without the seven-time World Champion, something which last happened in 2006.
The UK has always been a powerhouse in F1, with the nation typically having a driver in the title fight every season.
There are two other British drivers currently on the F1 grid, George Russell and Lando Norris, but which of the two are more likely to be Hamilton’s heir.
It’s very difficult to say, as the pair have endured drastically different F1 journeys so far.
Starting with Russell, the King’s Lynn-born star entered F1 in 2019 – as did Norris – after winning the 2018 Formula 2 title.
He was a Mercedes junior driver at the time but wasn’t promoted straight into the Silver Arrows; instead, he entered F1 with Williams who were the slowest team on the grid.
Russell learnt the ropes of F1 at the back of the grid, before he started to develop an understanding on how to not only lead a team but how to extract the most from a package.
Despite having a poor car for three seasons, Russell progressed to Q3 on several occasions, scored regular points and even featured on the podium.
Ahead of the 2022 season, he finally got promoted to Mercedes and rewarded them for their trust that year, as he became just the third teammate of Hamilton’s to defeat him in the standings.
Russell stunned everyone in 2022, before normal service resumed last year, where Hamilton scored 59 points more than the 26-year-old.
Despite the points difference, their pace was very similar and Russell has proven that he has what it takes to claim pole and victory, something he has done for Mercedes.
The general expectation is that he will become Mercedes’ leader when Hamilton retires but will he be the UK’s lead driver?
Norris could very well take that accolade from Hamilton, as the 24-year-old has built in stature every season since joining McLaren in 2019.
Norris’ career path is very similar to Hamilton’s so far, in that the start of his career has been spent with the Woking-based team.
He is very much their lead driver and is seen by many as someone who could take the fight to Max Verstappen in 2024, although he’s yet to show if he’s got the ability to win races.
On the few occasions when he’s come close to victory, an error has often been made by Norris.
Despite this, his pace is exceptional and he’s effectively led McLaren’s rebuild, so why can’t he lead the UK in F1?
Both Russell and Norris have their strengths and weaknesses but they now have two seasons to become the best driver they can to replace Hamilton.