Vet­eran rac­ers make way for a younger gen­er­a­tion

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

At least one new face will ap­pear on the 2017 grid as Felipe Massa and Jen­son But­ton step away from the cock­pit

For­mula 1 is un­der­go­ing huge changes as events both on and off the track sug­gest the sport is en­ter­ing a new era. In ad­di­tion to the ar­rival of new own­ers (see In­sider, p12), a long-stand­ing gen­er­a­tion of driv­ers is mov­ing on and will be re­placed by promis­ing young stars.

The re­tire­ment of Felipe Massa, to­gether with Jen­son But­ton’s de­ci­sion not to race in 2017, mean there will be at least one, and very likely two, new faces on the grid, in ad­di­tion to re­cent new­com­ers such as Max Ver­stap­pen, Este­ban Ocon and Pas­cal Wehrlein.

But­ton will be re­placed by McLaren’s highly rated re­serve driver Stof­fel Van­doorne, while Cana­dian Lance Stroll is favourite to re­place Massa at Wil­liams. Bel­gian Van­doorne, 24, is ex­pected to be a fu­ture star after a stel­lar ca­reer in ju­nior cat­e­gories and a highly ac­com­plished one-off grand prix de­but in Bahrain ear­lier this sea­son, in which he out­qualied But­ton.

Stroll, who turns 18 on 29 Oc­to­ber, does not have such a strong rep­u­ta­tion and his early pro­mo­tion is strongly re­lated to the wealth of his fa­ther, Lawrence, one of Canada’s rich­est men and a ma­jor in­vestor in fash­ion brands such as Tommy Hilger and Ralph Lau­ren.

Wil­liams’ deal with Stroll has not yet been nalised, but it is widely ex­pected to hap­pen. Stroll, who is a Wil­liams de­vel­op­ment driver this sea­son, is cur­rently lead­ing the Euro­pean For­mula 3 se­ries, where he is com­pet­ing with the class-lead­ing Prema team.

Stroll is be­lieved to be bring­ing a bud­get of at least $40m to Wil­liams and is cur­rently be­ing qui­etly pre­pared for his F1 grad­u­a­tion with tests in two-year-old cars. One in­sider said: “He will have done so many miles by the time he starts, there will be no ex­cuses for him. He will be at the level he will be.”

Else­where, Re­nault are ex­pected to place Este­ban Ocon, 19, in one of their cars next year. Ocon has been driv­ing for Manor since the Bel­gian GP and is a Mercedes pro­tégé like his cur­rent team-mate Pas­cal Wehrlein. Ei­ther could end up with a Mercedes drive after 2018 if they prove them­selves. Ocon, like Van­doorne, is thought of as a ma­jor tal­ent, hav­ing won both the Euro­pean F3 se­ries in 2014 – when he beat Max Ver­stap­pen – and the GP3 se­ries in 2015. • Turn to page 66 for our in­ter­view with Ocon

Vet­eran rac­ers Jen­son But­ton, 36, and Felipe Massa, 35, will not be com­pet­ing in For­mula 1 in 2017

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