David Kennedy, ex-F1 and Le Mans competitor, proposes Mercedes should consider enticing Max Verstappen from Red Bull or Charles Leclerc from Ferrari, as they plan for a future post-Lewis Hamilton. While Verstappen’s contract with Red Bull runs through 2028, and Hamilton is expected to extend his current deal with Mercedes, Kennedy suggests the team should keep an eye on the younger talents.
Hamilton, a seven-time world champion, has assured fans he’s not ready to retire, keen to clinch an eighth championship title. Nevertheless, as he is one of the oldest drivers currently, Kennedy recommends Mercedes consider the potential of younger drivers like Verstappen and Leclerc.
Kennedy’s analysis of Mercedes, shared in an exclusive interview with PlanetF1.com, reflects a nuanced understanding of what a driver brings to a team. He points out the role of engineers in today’s racing, stating that the importance of a driver’s ability to get the most out of a team and car is perhaps less vital than in the past.
Kennedy further suggests experienced drivers like Hamilton and Fernando Alonso may have lost some of the raw single-lap speed of their early careers. Still, they maintain a robust race pace. He uses Verstappen’s Monaco victory as an example of this raw speed advantage, asserting that drivers tend to lose some qualifying speed as they age.
The former racer believes Mercedes should consider investing heavily to draw Verstappen away from Red Bull, despite it seeming unlikely in the near future due to Red Bull’s current dominance. Kennedy defends his recommendation, noting that age inevitably leads to a dip in performance.
Kennedy also speculates on the possibility of Mercedes focusing on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who will be contract-free in 2024. Despite rumors about a potential seat exchange, both sides have refuted such claims. As he concludes, Kennedy emphasizes that for long-term success, Mercedes should look at Leclerc and Verstappen.
Nonetheless, the prospect of this shift seems doubtful as both Alonso and Hamilton continue to prove that age isn’t a barrier to performance, as seen from their respective third and fourth positions in the 2023 driver standings. Plus, Mercedes’ strong bond with Hamilton and the intense rivalry between Red Bull and Mercedes may complicate any potential team swaps.