Driver mar­ket is poised for Pérez’s next move

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

Ser­gio Pérez is still con­tracted to Force In­dia, but if his spon­sors de­cide to move him, there will be a reshuf­fle across the grid

Ser­gio Pérez is the key to the driver mar­ket over the re­main­der of the 2016 sea­son. This is both a reec­tion of who is left on the mar­ket, and of how his stock has risen since he joined the sport as a Sauber driver in 2011.

Line-ups at the top three teams, Mercedes, Red Bull and Mercedes, are al­ready agreed, while McLaren are de­cid­ing be­tween Jen­son But­ton and Stof­fel Van­doorne as a part­ner for Fer­nando Alonso. If they choose Van­doorne as ex­pected, But­ton will be back on the mar­ket, although this may be the case any­way if he de­cides to leave McLaren. His man­ager, Richard God­dard, says But­ton has not yet made up his mind about what he wants to do in 2017.

Wil­liams are in­ter­ested in But­ton, and are also pitch­ing for Pérez, who is re­puted to bring spon­sor­ship worth £19.5m per year. Re­nault are also very keen on Pérez, and are, at this stage, look­ing to re­place both their cur­rent driv­ers – a Pérez-Ocon line-up is a strong op­tion.

How­ever, Force In­dia claim to have Pérez un­der con­tract. The driver him­self says this is “cor­rect”, but adds that he “de­pends a lot on my spon­sors as well to de­cide to­gether what to do”, im­ply­ing he feels he could yet leave if his spon­sors de­cide he should move else­where.

Wil­liams are per­form­ing very sim­i­larly to Force In­dia on track this year, but their greater rep­u­ta­tion and ca­chet might make them more ap­peal­ing. The team are ex­pected to drop Felipe Massa, who is likely to re­tire from F1.

Valt­teri Bot­tas’s po­si­tion is also far from cer­tain. Wil­liams have an op­tion on him, but he may de­cide not to take it up, in which case a Pérez-But­ton line-up is far from im­pos­si­ble.

Este­ban Ocon, now gain­ing race ex­pe­ri­ence with Manor, is a strong con­tender for a Re­nault seat. Of the cur­rent Re­nault driv­ers, Kevin Mag­nussen im­pressed at the start of the sea­son, but a per­ceived lack­adaisi­cal at­ti­tude has weak­ened his po­si­tion, while Jolyon Palmer is cur­rently ex­ceed­ing ex­pec­ta­tions.

Pérez is un­der­stood to be a strong con­tender to re­place Felipe Massa at Wil­liams in 2017

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