Teams consider their 2017 driver line-ups
F1 stalwart Kimi Räikkönen will stay on at Ferrari, while Jenson Button’s future is undecided. And is it all change at Renault?
Kimi Räikkönen, 36, has been re-signed by Ferrari for another season, but the F1 future of fellow veteran Jenson Button, also 36, is unlikely to be resolved for at least another few months.
Ferrari announced they would retain Räikkönen at the British GP in a move that reected their lack of alternatives. They had shown interest in both Red Bull drivers, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, but both are under contract until the end of 2019 and 2018 respectively. Ferrari also considered Sergio Pérez, Carlos Sainz and Valtteri Bottas, but all came with contractual complications requiring them to be bought out of their current teams. There is doubt as to whether any of them would be an improvement over 2007 champion Räikkönen.
Meanwhile, McLaren have indicated that they are in no rush to make a decision on their 2017 driver line-up. McLaren chief executive Ron Dennis said he would not begin to consider whether to pick Button or reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne as team-mate to Fernando Alonso next season until the Italian GP in September.
McLaren are thought likely to pick Vandoorne, 24, a logical choice given the ages of their current drivers (Alonso turns 35 on 29 July). Alonso’s contract runs out at the end of 2017 and Vandoorne is considered the hottest prospect not yet driving full-time in F1. But the decision could swing in Button’s favour, due to his marketing appeal, experience and proven quality.
His manager, Richard Goddard, said Button had not yet decided what he wanted to do in 2017, but he is known to be of interest to Williams, who are poised to drop Felipe Massa, and who have an option on Valtteri Bottas.
Force India are likely to retain Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg, both of whom they insist are under contract. But Pérez has had talks with Renault, and disputes this. Renault are at this stage leaning towards dropping both Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Magnussen had impressed the team early in the year, but there is mounting concern over a number of on-track incidents, along with his relaxed approach, which has been interpreted as a lack of commitment. Palmer, meanwhile, was only ever likely to be at the team for one season, having been signed against Renault’s will by former owners Genii Capital before the Lotus team was taken over.
Renault want Vandoorne, who will probably be available only on a lease deal from McLaren, and are believed more likely to promote Esteban Ocon, their reserve driver. Ocon, is a Mercedes young driver but is on loan to Renault, where he has appeal due to his French nationality.
Red Bull have announced that Carlos Sainz will stay on at Toro Rosso. Daniil Kvyat has been unimpressive since his demotion from Red Bull but could be retained into next season, unless Red Bull promote reserve driver Pierre Gasly.