It’s coming up to the mid season break and teams and drivers are considering their options for 2017.
Williams, Torro Rosso, Manor, Renault, Sauber and Haas all have their driver options open for 2017.
Ferrari and McLaren were key to the driver market until early July when Ferrari re-signed Kimi Raikkonen to partner Sebastian Vettel.
In Ferrari’s case, they had a number of drivers waiting for a drive. Valterri Bottas, Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean were among the candidates.
Throughout the year, Nico Rosberg has been waiting for his new Mercedes contract and that was confirmed today. The new contract will see him to the end of this year, 2017 and 2018 and will see his partnership continue with team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg has been with Mercedes since 2010 and has claimed 19 wins and 45 podiums but has also witnessed Hamilton take the crown fro the past two seasons.
McLaren will have to get rid of one of their champions either Fernando Alonso or Jenson Button. Alonso is signed till the end of 2017 with Button out of contract. McLaren have Stoffel Vandoorne signed and locked down. Vandoorne stepped in and replaced Alonso in Bahrain and scored McLaren’s first points of the season with 10th place. For 2016, Vandoorne was their test and reserve driver and in 2015, he won the GP2 title. McLaren cannot let Vandoorne sit on the side line for another year, they have to promote him for 2017. So it looks like Vandoorne will partner Alonso for 2017 leaving Button without a drive.
Revealed earlier this month, Button and Vandoorne have been told to wait until the Italian GP at the earliest in September before hearing any news on the second seat.
For now, Button’s last option of staying in the sport is going to Williams. For 2016, Williams had Valterri Bottas and Felipe Massa but that might change for 2017. But Williams management think highly of Button and a partnership with Bottas might just do the deal.
His decision will be made when McLaren likely sign Vandoorne to partner Alonso. Then if a seat is available at Williams, I would take it. But if Williams do keep Bottas and Massa, I think Button would announce his retirement near the end of the season. Button has been linked to replace Chris Evans at Top Gear and that would be a nice ending for Button.
Torro Rosso have re-signed Carlos Sainz for a 3rd season. Sainz would have been a good replacement for Raikkonen at Ferrari. Daniil Kvyat was demoted from Red Bull to Torro Rosso before the Spanish GP and Max Verstappen was promoted to Red Bull. Kvyat has lost confidence and has made many mistakes and it is unlikely that Kvyat will stay for 2017. Pierre Gasly is part of Red Bull’s young driver program and is currently racing in GP2. Gasly would be a good replacement for Kvyat for 2017.
Renault on the other hand are trying to build a stable team for the future. Renault took over Lotus in 2015 and signed Kevin Magnussen and test and reserve driver, Jolyon Palmer. Both drivers are trying to drag the car out of the first stage of Qualifying and into the points. Esteban Ocon has been in practice sessions and has been quick. Palmer so far this year has struggled to beat Magnussen and perform at his best. Sergey Sirotkin is also an option and he racing in GP2 and has made a couple of appearances for the team. Despite this I would keep Magnussen and Palmer for 2017.
Manor this year have made huge gains on the midfield and have already scored a point in Austria. Manor will re-sign Pascal Wehrlein as he is Mercedes young driver and the most likely candidate if Mercedes want to replace Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg. Wehrlein finished 10th in Austria and scored a single point. The second seat is up for debate. Rio Haryanto has kept Wehrlein on his toes but might not have the financial funds to keep him at Manor for 2017.
American based Haas has shown to other teams how to enter F1 properly. Romain Grosjean has stolen the headline for Haas and has so far scored 28 points. Meanwhile teammate Esteban Gutierrez had failed to score any points and has struggled with the car set-up. Despite this I would keep Grosjean and Gutierrez for 2017 but I would keep Haas’s development driver, Santino Ferrucci in mind for a drive.
Sauber meanwhile have secured their future in the sport by being sold to Swiss investment company Longbow Finance in a deal which secures their F1 stay. On Wednesday, Monisha Kaltenborn also keeps her job, while the investment firm state that it is their “clear intention to stabilise the group and create the basis for a competitive and successful future”. Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson will at least see out the 2016 campaign but have no news on 2017 as of yet.
Force India are keeping both drivers of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg for 2017. This was confirmed earlier this month and both drivers are hoping to overtake Williams in the Constructors standings. Perez has been on the podium twice this season so far in 3rd place in Monaco and Europe.
Red Bull are keeping both drivers of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen for 2017. Ricciardo was an option for Ferrari but he is locked into a deal with Red Bull to see him through to 2018. Verstappen has impressed and has already taken a win in Spain. Both will probably stay with Red Bull for the foreseeable future.
My Predictions for 2017
Mercedes: Hamilton & Rosberg (confirmed)
Ferrari: Vettel & Raikkonen (confirmed)
Red Bull: Ricciardo & Verstappen (confirmed)
Williams: Bottas & Button
Force India: Perez & Hulkenberg (confirmed)
Torro Rosso: Sainz & Gasly
McLaren: Alonso & Vandoorne
Haas: Grosjean & Gutierrez
Renault: Magnussen & Palmer
Manor: Wehrlein & Haryanto
Sauber: Nasr & Ericsson
Out from F1 at the end of 2016
In F1 for 2017