Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement announcement has left a vacant spot at Mercedes for the F1 2017 season, but who would we like to see snap it up?

Rosberg's waving goodbye to F1
Rosberg’s waving goodbye to F1

Having won the world title in 2016, Rosberg’s opted to leave F1 behind and focus on other things. We certainly weren’t expecting it, but we respect the decision all the same.

He’s been one half of one of the best rivals in recent F1 history. We’ll miss Rosberg on the grid in 2017, but who will it be replacing him at Mercedes next year? Here’s who we’d love to see alongside Lewis Hamilton, and a rating of just how likely that could be:

Pascal Wehrlein

Wehrlein seems to be in prime position to take the seat
Wehrlein seems to be in prime position to take the seat

This appears to be the most likely option for Mercedes, especially after he was drafted in to complete the Pirelli tyre test for the team in Abu Dhabi earlier in the week (Rosberg said he’d told Mercedes his news on Tuesday).

Wehrlein is a highly-rated junior driver at Mercedes and has completed extensive testing with the team, as well as competing in his rookie F1 season this year with Manor. It’s been an impressive start to his F1 career and the Mercedes link is strong. But it could be seen as a risk, with such little racing experience.

How likely? 9/10

Esteban Ocon

Ocon is highly rated, but has a Force India contract
Ocon is highly rated, but has a Force India contract

Another Mercedes junior driver, Esteban Ocon did a very good job after swooping in to replace Rio Haryanto at Manor for the final leg of the 2016 F1 season. But, there’s one problem with Ocon moving across to Mercedes – he’s already been announced as a Force India driver for 2017.

However, if any team can get the driver it wants, it’ll be Mercedes and Ocon is hot property at the moment. He’s had a decent amount of F1 experience recently in his roles as reserve driver at Renault, testing for Mercedes and racing with Manor. He’s also won F3 and GP3 titles. But, like Wehrlein, he hasn’t been in F1 for long so it could be a risky move.

How likely? 8/10

Valtteri Bottas

Bottas has close ties to Toto Wolff, could that sway Mercedes' decision?
Bottas has close ties to Toto Wolff, could that sway Mercedes’ decision?

Valtteri Bottas has already been signed for Williams, but he’s managed by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and is clearly a very talented driver. Ferrari wouldn’t have been interested in him a few years ago if he wasn’t.

Williams has struggled recently, meaning we haven’t properly been able to see Bottas at his best. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Mercedes got Bottas out of his Williams contract and put him alongside Hamilton.

How likely? 8/10

Fernando Alonso

Fernando's been looking for a top F1 drive, now's his chance
Fernando’s been looking for a top F1 drive, now’s his chance

Things didn’t go so well last time Fernando Alonso was team-mates with Hamilton, at McLaren in 2007, but a lot of time has passed and the drivers have changed. It’d still be an intense rivalry and a very close battle, though. How awesome would it be to see these two in the same team?

Alonso’s probably feeling a bit fed up about McLaren’s slow progress with Honda. He’s contracted to the end of 2017, but we’ve seen drivers get out of contracts before (through escape clauses, buy-outs) and Alonso should be a top priority for Mercedes. With a seat at the current best team in F1 now open, you’d think Alonso would snap it up if he was offered it.

How likely? 7/10

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel's definitely up there as one of the drivers we'd love to see at Mercedes
Vettel’s definitely up there as one of the drivers we’d love to see at Mercedes

This is another pairing that would be very entertaining. Sebastian Vettel failed to win a race in 2016 with Ferrari and the whole team probably knows it just wasn’t good enough. Mercedes is any driver’s best option for challenging for the title in 2017, even with the regulation changes.

So it wouldn’t be surprising if Vettel’s been keeping a close eye on the situation and maybe even got in touch with Mercedes. As with Alonso, he’s contracted to 2017 but as we all know, these aren’t concrete. Things can change. Even if it doesn’t, it’s nice to imagine a team with both Hamilton and Vettel in it.

How likely? 4/10

Max Verstappen

How cool would it be with Max and Lewis at the same time?
How cool would it be with Max and Lewis at the same time?

Hamilton and Max Verstappen in the same F1 team? That would be one hell of a driver line-up. You’d have arguably one of the best F1 drivers of all time, alongside a young star who could well be a future great. We’re drooling just thinking about the prospect of Hamilton vs Verstappen in the same cars.

But, as with most of the options on this list, Verstappen is under contract for 2017. Red Bull secured his services earlier in the year, after no doubt feeling Ferrari were interested. Mercedes didn’t seem like an option if he could get out of his contract but now, that’s now a possibility.

How likely? 5/10

Carlos Sainz Jr.

Sainz could be an option for the Silver Arrows
Sainz could be an option for the Silver Arrows

This one’s a little left-field, but might work out pretty well for all involved. With Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen probably locked in at Red Bull for a little while, Carlos Sainz Jr. will likely be sticking around at Toro Rosso in the short-term.

He’s showed immense speed and talent in his two seasons in F1 so far, but a step up to Mercedes could prove to be his big break. He certainly deserves it, has more experience compared to Wehrlein and Ocon and needs to move somewhere else if he wants to race for a top team in the next few years.

How likely? 4/10

Pastor Maldonado

We miss you, Pastor
We miss you, Pastor

We miss you, Pastor. We really do. F1 just isn’t the same without you. Pastor Maldonado has plenty of F1 experience, he’s an F1 race winner, has shown (on occasion) he’s actually quite quick and is a free agent. Plus, Mercedes has a big budget, so spare parts shouldn’t be an issue.

How likely? WTF1/10