Wil­liams eye new driver line-up for next year

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

Felipe Massa is in dan­ger of los­ing his For­mula 1 race seat at the end of the sea­son as Wil­liams con­tem­plate a change of driver line-up for the 2017 sea­son.

At this stage, the most likely sce­nario is that Wil­liams will drop Massa at the end of this cam­paign, leav­ing him the choice of try­ing to find an­other drive – with no top team likely to have such a va­cancy – or re­tir­ing. Valt­teri Bot­tas is un­der op­tion for next sea­son and is likely to stay.

Massa’s fate could hang on the op­tions Wil­liams have avail­able. Both Jen­son But­ton and Mclaren re­serve driver Stof­fel Van­doorne are of in­ter­est to the team.

Mclaren will choose be­tween But­ton and Van­doorne as a part­ner for Fer­nando Alonso for 2017, which is the last year of Alonso’s cur­rent con­tract. How­ever, ru­mours that the team have al­ready de­cided to pro­mote Van­doorne fol­low­ing his im­pres­sive de­but in Bahrain are wide of the mark, ac­cord­ing to sources at Mclaren.

Van­doorne is the log­i­cal choice in many ways – he is more than ten years younger than But­ton

Mclaren must choose be­tween the ex­pe­ri­enced and pop­u­lar Jen­son But­ton (left) and highly rated re­serve driver Stof­fel Van­doorne (right) and is re­garded as the most promis­ing driver out­side F1. And his per­for­mance in Bahrain, where he out­qual­i­fied But­ton on his de­but, sug­gests he is more than ready.

Equally, if Mclaren re­tain But­ton, they risk los­ing Van­doorne for good – which would mean they have lost two ris­ing stars in the space of two sea­sons fol­low­ing their de­ci­sion to let Kevin Magnussen go. But against that is But­ton’s ex­pe­ri­ence, his con­tin­ued good form, and the fact that he is very pop­u­lar with spon­sors.

Mclaren have an op­tion on Van­doorne which runs out in the au­tumn, mean­ing he is not free to sign for an­other team un­til that lapses. If the team do not pro­mote him, he has a strong chance of a seat at Renault next sea­son. Renault rac­ing di­rec­tor Fred­eric Vasseur is a big fan of Van­doorne, whom he ran in GP2, and be­lieves is the best driver who has ever raced for him. Vasseur is said to be keen to part­ner Van­doorne with cur­rent Renault race driver Kevin Magnussen for 2017.

Un­usu­ally, Van­doorne has no man­age­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tion, so has no one push­ing his case at other top teams. This could be a weak­ness in the con­text of the num­ber of ma­jor va­can­cies this year, in­clud­ing at Fer­rari, where Kimi Räikkö­nen’s con­tract is up for re­newal.

Felipe Massa may be on his way out as Wil­liams con­sider al­ter­na­tive driv­ers – in­clud­ing Mclaren’s Jen­son But­ton

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