Driver market is poised for Pérez’s next move
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 reection 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