Karun Chandhok names his ‘number one pick’ to replace Lewis Hamilton: PlanetF1

Karun Chandhok believes Lando Norris ‘must be number one pick’ for Mercedes when Lewis Hamilton finally decides to hang up his helmet.

But the problem facing Toto Wolff is what if Hamilton decides this year’s championship will be his last as it will be costly to break Norris’ McLaren contract.

Although Hamilton has made it clear he is likely to extend his stay at Mercedes beyond this season, one of the big questions is who will replace him when the seven-time world champion calls time.

While some pundits like Peter Windsor believe Charles Leclerc is leading the race with Norris to replace him at Ferrari, Chandhok says the McLaren driver is actually the one Mercedes will be targeting.

Speaking about Norris’ options should McLaren go bankrupt this season, the former F1 driver turned pundit told Autosport: “Where it will go is the question.

“The reality is I can’t see him going to Red Bull to be Max’s number two, Ferrari have their two drivers locked down.

“So his options are to go to Mercedes when Lewis Hamilton stops because of George [Russell] it goes nowhere.

“I think he can stay at McLaren until that basically happens. I think McLaren can safely hold him back until that happens.

“But let’s say we get to the end of this year and Lewis suddenly decides ‘I’ve had enough, I’m leaving.’

“So I feel it’s going to be quite a complicated process because without a doubt Lando has the number one pick, he owes Mercedes the number one pick to replace Lewis.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 2023 driver salaries revealed: who are the highest paid drivers on the grid?
Dull and obscure – the sad consequence when F1 teams struggle with weight issues
Michael Schumacher: The six most controversial moments of his F1 career

But that will be a costly endeavor for Mercedes as Norris is signed with McLaren until the end of 2025.

It will be, underlines Chandhok, “complicated” to negotiate the exit of the British.

“Brilliant negotiation by Zak and the team to lock him up,” he said. “We all know people can be redeemed by contracts and are being redeemed all the time.

“Look at Gasly. It always happens but it will cost more. It will be complicated.

Oscar Piastri is in a “win-win like Russell was last year”

This season Norris has a new teammate in rookie Oscar Piastri, the Australian replacing his compatriot Daniel Ricciardo.

Piastri arrived on the grid following the contract saga between McLaren and Alpine, the latter stating that Piastri would race for them this season only for the reserve driver to deny it.

Alpine took the matter to F1’s Contract Recognition Board, which ruled Piastri’s only valid contract for 2023 was with McLaren.

The Alpini were left in a bad way and too often made their feelings on the situation known.

But regardless of their thoughts on the matter, Piastri will be a McLaren Formula 1 driver this season and much is expected of the 21-year-old.

“All the money is on Piastri,” Chandhok replied when asked for his pick for the best rookie of 2023.

“I can’t think of a rookie that has come in with as much hype and anticipation since Lewis Hamilton. I really can’t.

“The way it arrived. You have two big teams arguing about his services, you have team bosses from the two biggest teams weighing in on the matter. And he hasn’t done a single ride yet!”

He also applauded the 2021 Formula 2 champion for embracing the challenge Norris is facing at his McLaren team.

“I think it’s a really bold move,” he said. “I really like the fact that he made an ambitious and brave move going into the lions’ den going up against a fit Lando Norris in a car that is clearly a bit tricky to drive

“So it’s a bold move and cheers for that audacity.”

But however that battle plays out within the team, Piastri can only be a winner because if he loses, he’s lost to Norris, and if he wins, he’s beaten Norris.

Chandhok compared it to Russell against Hamilton last season.

“Piastri is on a win like George was last year,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *