février 21, 2024

Oscar Piastri floated as potential Lewis Hamilton replacement at Mercedes, Karun Chandhok comments

3 min read

Young Aussie F1 gun Oscar Piastri has been floated as a roughie to land the Mercedes seat set to be vacated in 2025 by the Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton’s shock defection is expected to trigger a domino-effect of driver moves, given a number of drivers are off-contract at the end of 2024.

Piastri, however, is not one of them. He signed a two-year extension on his existing three-year deal with McLaren last September, tying him to the Woking team until the end of 2026.

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Oscar Piastri has been floated as a roughie to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes. (Getty)

But speaking on the Sky Sports F1 show in the UK, former driver-turned-pundit Karun Chandhok said Piastri’s manager Mark Webber could get him out of the deal.

« We know Oscar has a contract with McLaren, but Mark Webber has negotiated plenty of F1 contracts in the past and I’m sure there will be an escape clause somewhere, as we’ve seen with Lewis, » Chandhok said.

In their statement confirming Hamilton’s departure, Mercedes confirmed the seven-time world champion had activated a break clause to end the deal a year early. He had only inked a fresh two-year deal mid last year.

« Oscar’s debut season was brilliant – he had weaknesses in his race pace no doubt about it, but he has another season to build on that, » Chandhok continued.

« I think Oscar and George (Russell) as a line-up at Mercedes is a good one. »

Piastri’s deal with McLaren is one of the longest on the grid – only back-to-back-to-back world champion Max Verstappen’s contract tying him to Red Bull until the end of 2028 is longer.

Hamilton has signed a « multi-year deal » with Ferrari, the exact duration of which is unknown.

It was put to Chandhok that given the trajectories of the two squads – McLaren on the up and Mercedes on the down – a move to the three-pronged star might not be in Piastri’s best interest.

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Piastri would partner George Russell should he move to Mercedes. (Getty)

« With the new engine formula coming in 2026, I’d want to go to a works team, as Lewis did in (2013), » Chandhok said.

Hamilton moved from McLaren to Mercedes for the 2013 season. At the time, Mercedes had won only one race, while McLaren was one of the powerhouses of the sport. The move was criticised by many.

Before Mercedes’ entrance in the championship in 2010, McLaren were the brand’s defacto works entry.

Oscar Piastri in action at the Mexican Grand Prix. (Rudy Carezzevoli via Getty Images)

Mercedes however nailed the massive change in engine regulations implemented for the 2014 season, and did the Drivers/Constructors Championship double in each of the next seven seasons. 

Chandhok said Carlos Sainz, the man ousted from his Ferrari seat to make way for Hamilton, would also be eyeing the seat.

Sainz would also no doubt be in talks with Sauber, which will become a works Audi team in 2026.

F1 pre-season testing begins next week, before the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 2.

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