Pérez U-turn leaves Renault in a quandary
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 ofcially 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.