Pérez U-turn leaves Re­nault in a quandary

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

Both Re­nault seats are now up for grabs as the team’s pre­ferred driver, Ser­gio Pérez, seems most likely to re­main at Force In­dia

Ser­gio Pérez is set to re­main at Force In­dia next sea­son de­spite hav­ing been in dis­cus­sions with both Wil­liams and Re­nault. Pérez is ofcially un­der con­tract to Force In­dia for 2017, but their fail­ure to agree his nan­cial pack­age had led to un­cer­tainty about his fu­ture.

Force In­dia in­sist that Pérez will stay with them to part­ner Nico Hülken­berg, but sources say that Pérez’s Mex­i­can back­ers have yet to agree the de­tails of their ar­range­ment with the team. Pérez is said to have been us­ing his talks with other teams as lever­age in the dis­cus­sions.

But with Pérez poised to re­main on board at Force In­dia and Cana­dian Lance Stroll look­ing most likely to take Felipe Massa’s va­cated seat at Wil­liams along­side Valt­teri Bot­tas, Re­nault are strug­gling to nd driv­ers for next sea­son. They would pre­fer to drop both Kevin Mag­nussen and Jolyon Palmer but there is a short­age of suit­able can­di­dates to re­place them.

Re­nault re­serve driver Este­ban Ocon, who is con­tracted to Mercedes and is driv­ing for Manor for the re­main­der of this sea­son, is strongly tipped to get one of the seats. But team boss Frédéric Vasseur’s de­sire to part­ner him with Stof­fel Van­doorne has been scup­pered by McLaren’s de­ci­sion to pro­mote Van­doorne to a full-time race seat along­side Fer­nando Alonso in 2017 (see ‘In­sider’, page 17).

Jen­son But­ton, mean­while, will sit out next year hav­ing ne­go­ti­ated a deal with McLaren in which he will take a year out from rac­ing and act as the team’s re­serve driver, while work­ing in the sim­u­la­tor and re­tain­ing F1 lev­els of tness. The deal in­cludes an op­tion on the team’s side to re­turn him to a race seat in 2018.

So given the paucity of other op­tions for Re­nault, there may be a re­prieve for Mag­nussen or Palmer. Mag­nussen has gen­er­ally proved to be the quicker of the two, but the team have been unim­pressed by what is per­ceived to be his lack­adaisi­cal at­ti­tude, com­pounded by a num­ber of er­rors at key mo­ments, plus two ma­jor crashes caused by what were viewed as un­nec­es­sary mis­takes at the Cana­dian and Bel­gian Grands Prix, which wrote off cars.

Re­nault had ini­tially in­tended to drop Palmer after just one sea­son, but the team have since been im­pressed by his com­mit­ment and work ethic. He has moved on from what was a shaky start to the year, and has proved that he is ca­pa­ble of chal­leng­ing Mag­nussen on pace.

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