F1 SILLY SEASON, HOW IT STANDS
This is essentially signed and sorted after Nico Rosberg recently put pen to paper on a fresh deal. Meaning both he and Lewis Hamilton can continue to fall out until at least the end of 2018.
Max Verstappen reportedly signed a deal until 2019, and Red Bull is unlikely to let the rising star go anytime soon. Daniel Ricciardo has a deal in place until 2018.
Sebastian Vettel will stay until at least the end of 2017, especially with the few seats ahead of the Scuderia already having been filled. Kimi Raikkonen’s new deal means he’ll play underwhelming understudy for (yet) another year.
Should Button leave, Belgian star Stoffel Vandoorne is a shoo-in for his seat. Vandoorne needs a chance in F1, and running alongside Fernando Alonso (in until the end of next season) would be the perfect opportunity.
Felipe Massa is staring at the door reportedly, with a few options tipped to replace him – Button among them, as is Sergio Perez. Williams also has Briton Alex Lynn as development driver. Valtteri Bottas will likely stay with no frontrunning seat available.
Nico Hulkenberg has a contract, as does Perez, but the Mexican’s weighty sponsors effectively control his destiny and could buy him out for a move further up the grid. That could clear the way for somebody like Pascal Wehrlein, who could bring Mercedes backing, to get a seat more deserving of his talents.
It all depends on whether Daniil Kvyat can drag himself out of his current slump. If not Frenchman Pierre Gasly would be next off the Red Bull conveyor belt. Carlos Sainz Jr looks to be going nowhere.
Now here’s some intrigue. Team head Cyril Abiteboul has made his desire to sign a “charismatic leader” clear, and hasn’t ruled out ditching Kevin Magnussen and/or Jolyon Palmer. Interest in Perez is reported, but Bottas or even Mercedes young driver Esteban Ocon could also be candidates.
There’s been little word of Haas’s plans for next year, but star driver Romain Grosjean will likely be retained. Esteban Gutierrez could go, especially if you read into American Alexander Rossi’s recent comments that he has held talks with an F1 team over 2017.
Seeing as the team has been bought out by Swiss investors with links to his major Swedish sponsor Tetra Pak, it’s unlikely Marcus Ericsson will be going anywhere fast… like usual. Felipe Nasr is a solid second option.
Esteban Ocon is in ( see page 4), and Rio Haryanto is out, but still in, in a way, as he’s been offered a reserve driver role – presumably at a discount. For next year – who knows? Wehrlein ( right) ) needs to move up the grid but could settle for a second year gaining experience, Rossi is currently the reserve driver. Aside from that anybody with a weighty chequebook is a candidate.