Mercedes is on the hunt for a new driver after newly-crowned world champion Nico Rosberg made the sensational announcement that he is retiring form Formula 1.
Rosberg finally ended his world-title wait at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but the 31-year-old German will not be sticking around to defend his crown after claiming it is the right time for him to walk away.
“From the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became world champion, Rosberg said on his official Facebook page.
“Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my 'one thing' to become Formula One world champion. Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target. And now I've made it. I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right. My strongest emotion right now is deep gratitude to everybody who supported me to make that dream happen.”
Now a scramble to fill one of the two most coveted driving slots in Formula 1 has begun and the bookmakers are offering odds on who will replace Rosberg as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate for 2017.
Pascal Wehrlein, a member of the Mercedes junior programme, is the 2/1 favourite with Ladbrokes
“Rosberg's announcement has stunned everyone,” Ladbrokes’ Richard Marsh told Bettingpro.com. “But Formula One doesn't hang around and Pascal Wehrlein is already the favourite for the coveted Mercedes seat.”
Fernando Alonso is 3/1 second favourite despite still being under contract with McLaren for one more year. Alonso and Hamilton famously fell out while team-mates in 2007, but back in August the Spaniard told reporters that the two men could work together again in future.
“I think it would be different,” he told ESPN. “I'm more mature, he's more mature. The teams now are, in a way, more prepared for all the situations.
“If I was team-mate of Lewis one day I think it would be very different, because we have learned and we are very different people. We no longer have that stress of winning on the side because I think we respect each other a lot… we would drive as fast as we can but with another level of respect.”
Valtteri Bottas is next up at 4/1 ahead of 7/1 shot Esteban Ocon, while Ladbrokes is 10/1 that Rosberg performs a U-turn and returns to the Mercedes camp for next season. And speaking of retirement U-turns, the firms is 33/1 that Jenson Button scraps plans to quit and becomes Hamilton’s team-mate for 2017.
Ladbrokes latest betting
To be Lewis Hamilton’s team mate in 2017
Pascal Wehrlein – 2/1
Fernando Alonso – 3/1
Valtteri Bottas – 4/1
Esteban Ocon – 7/1
Nico Rosberg – 10/1
Sebastian Vettel - 14/1
Nico Hulkenberg – 16/1
Max Verstappen – 20/1
Carlos Sainz Jnr – 25/1
Jenson Button – 33/1
Daniel Ricciardo – 33/1
Paul Di Resta – 50/1