I'm calling about the vacancy...


Unsurprisingly, barely had Nico Rosberg uttered the words about his retirement than the calls began.

While our amended 'Who Goes Where' was tongue in cheek there can be few drivers who wouldn't crawl over burning coals for a chance of driving the Mercedes in 2017.

Though there are only currently vacancies at Manor and Sauber, there will be very few drivers that haven't given serious consideration over the last 24-hours to ripping up their contracts and contacting Toto Wolff or Niki Lauda.

While Wolff claims that the only drivers who haven't contacted him are Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat, with even the likes of Pastor Maldonado and Vitaly Petrov fancying their chances, Lauda admits that "half of the grid" have offered their services.

Asked when he first heard the shock news that Rosberg was calling it a day, the Austrian told Gazzetta dello Sport: "A few hours before the public announcement."

Indeed, it is understood Toto Wolff broke the news to him in a toilet at Stuttgart Airport.

"He told us by phone," Lauda continued. "I took it badly, I didn't expect it, nobody in Mercedes imagined that he had had enough.

"At first I didn't believe it," he admitted. 'Nico, what you told us, are you kidding by any chance? It's a joke?' But he said it was all true. Quite incredible.

"When I won my first title I immediately thought about how I would win a second," said the three-time champion. "Not the case with Nico.

"His decision has left us disorientated and unprepared, and all those who contributed to him winning the world title took it very badly.

"We have lost a champion, the best driver of 2016," he admitted. "It won't be easy to replace him because all the drivers of a certain standard have contracts with other teams. Taking a young driver is a risk, we don't know if he will be strong.

"Practically half of the grid have offered themselves," he added. "I am constantly taking calls."

Indeed, the best drivers Ricciardo, Verstappen, Vettel and Alonso are all contracted.

There is absolutely no chance of Red Bull allowing Verstappen to go, the youngster surely destined for a long Vettel-like period of domination with the Austrian team.

Ricciardo would be a good fit, and would surely love the chance, knowing that the focus is gradually switching to Verstappen. However, it is unlikely the team will allow him to go.

While Vettel wants to do a Schumacher and rebuild Ferrari, he doesn't have the tools (Brawn Byrne etc) that his countryman had access to. Like several others however he may well be looking at the small print in his contract.

Alonso would be the most obvious fit, even though the last time he partnered Hamilton it didn't go quite according to plan. Nonetheless, the Spaniard is a proven champion and still has fire in his belly.

A lot of people are wondering whether Jenson Button might be persuaded, but the fact is the Briton looked to be relieved to be getting out of it all last week. That said, another season in a proven winner, alongside a driver he has the measure of, might prove a little too tempting.

Another scenario could see Mercedes offer a huge discount to one of the teams it supplies engines to in an attempt to woo the likes of Sergio Perez or Valtteri Bottas, both of whom would only too glad of the opportunity.

Mercedes has made it clear that it will not rush into making a decision, which means some anxious waiting for those drivers eager to step into Rosberg's freshly vacated seat.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 03/12/2016
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