Feb.8 - Mercedes should make the boldest possible step after losing Lewis Hamilton for 2025 and try to woo Max Verstappen away from Red Bull.

That is the view of former F1 driver and respected pundit Christian Danner, after Toto Wolff refused to outright dismiss the possibility of looking into whether the Dutch triple world champion might be an option to fill the void.

"We will always strive to have the best possible driver combination," Wolff said when explicitly asked about Verstappen, who is under contract to Red Bull through 2028.

"At the same time, of course we respect contracts that exist."

The contracts of top drivers like Hamilton or Verstappen, however, almost always contain exit or buyout clauses - and it is true that driver salaries sit outside the strict Formula 1 team budget caps.

Danner told Germany's Bild newspaper that Mercedes must therefore fully explore the Verstappen option.

"Every name has to be discussed. There must be no legal or monetary obstacles, and the same applies to contracts," he said.

"Every driver who is at the Mercedes level has to be an issue. That's why they also have to think about Max."

He said Wolff should also be sniffing around the finer details of the contracts held by McLaren's young star duo Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris.

"Max would of course be the best possible solution," said Danner, "but Piastri and Norris would also both be top successors for Lewis. Both have everything they need to win multiple world championship titles – if they have the right car.

"After two years of crisis, Mercedes now has to prove that they can still do it."

The good news for Mercedes, according to Danner, is that Hamilton's teammate George Russell - who is already locked up for 2025 - is able to step into the Ferrari-bound seven time world champion's shoes.

"Hamilton's departure will of course hurt Mercedes," he said, "but it could also be an opportunity.

"The lucky part for Wolff and his team is that they can now discuss who should be the successor for months."

Wolff confirmed to Bild newspaper: "Lewis had the wellbeing of the team in mind when he announced his decision so early. This gives us planning security and allows us to explore the market."

One name that keeps cropping up as an exciting possibility for Mercedes is the Wolff-managed Kimi Antonelli, who leaps straight into Formula 2 this year despite still only being 17.

"It may be too early for him," said former F1 driver Giedo van der Garde, "but if he becomes Formula 2 champion this year and he has already shown that he really is a cannon of a driver, then you'd have Russell and Antonelli. How cool is that?"

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