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Out With the Old, In With Who?: 2017 Ferrari Driver Options

Coming into the 2016 Formula 1 season, Ferrari was held as a team to watch. With the recent dominance of Mercedes, Ferrari came in as their assumed successor by many. So far, this has not been so. Teams such as Red Bull and even Force India have had more noteworthy seasons. Red Bull with their victory and Force India with two unlikely podiums. Ferrari may outdo these teams with their eight podiums across eight races, but they have been unable to reach that elusive victory. Sebastian Vettel has proven himself their most consistent competitor, which puts all eyes on Kimi Raikkonen. The 36-year old former World Drivers’ Champion from Finland signed a contract last year to remain with Ferrari for 2016. With this contract length and the Raikkonen’s age and performance as factors, what could the 2017 Ferrari team look like?

Out With the Old, In With Who?: 2017 Ferrari Driver Options

There are drivers with confirmed interest in a 2017 Ferrari seat. Red Bull’s Dr. Helmut Marko even said of contract buyouts: “If Ferrari pays, we could talk about it“. A team as iconic and powerful as Ferrari certainly would have no trouble attracting and acquiring drivers from other teams. Much has been said of the interest of Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz Jr. and their links to a 2017 Ferrari contract, as they are the assumed primary candidates. Considering all factors involved with the reality of luring drivers away from other teams, here are the pros and cons of the 2017 Ferrari prospects as we know them so far:

Sergio Perez: Force India

Pros: The young Mexican driver has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his six-year Formula 1 career. Starting out with Sauber, Perez scored his first podium with the team in the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix and another in the 2012 Canadian Grand Prix. He has continued this string of impressive podium finishes with smaller teams, with two podiums in 2016 as a driver for Force India. These recent performances have put Perez back in the spotlight for top-tier teams, including Ferrari. The team is already familiar with Perez due to his past experience in the Ferrari Driver Academy, promising a smoother transition into the team. Force India is aware of both Perez’s experience with Ferrari and possible desire to return as a driver, with team manager Andy Stevenson admitting “Everyone on the grid would. It is legitimate to dream of Ferrari“. This experience with and passion for the team, coupled with his growth as a driver and impressive results, make Perez a top prospect for a 2017 Ferrari seat.

Cons: A move to Ferrari would not be Perez’s first crack at driving with a top Formula 1 team. In 2013, after his incredible 2012 year with Sauber, Perez signed with McLaren as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton. Perez did not perform as expected with McLaren, partially due to this being the year that the team really began to struggle. Aside from team issues, Perez faced criticism for driving in a way that was often deemed to be too aggressive. Teammate and longtime McLaren driver Jenson Button commented after a rough 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix I’m not used to driving down a straight and your team-mate wiggling his wheels at you and banging wheels at 300kph. That’s things you do in karting but grow out of. Not the case with [Perez]“. These comments highlighted what some felt signalled inexperience and arrogance with Perez. Although Perez feels this is behind him, there’s no doubt the 2013 season will be on Ferrari’s mind.

Carlos Sainz Jr.: Toro Rosso

Pros: Sainz is in the midst of a career year with Toro Rosso in 2016. Although Red Bull chose his younger teammate Max Verstappen to move upward, the young Spanish driver continues to impress. He is finishing in points position quite consistently throughout 2016. Considering he is only in his sophomore year in Formula 1, Sainz is a very promising young driver. At only 21 years old, Sainz has great potential in the sport. Rather than impressing with single strong performances, his consistency is the key to his success. Especially at his young age, such a volume of strong performances bodes well for his future. Sainz has climbed the ranks of Formula racing very quickly. The next logical step for him is a top-tier ride such as a 2017 Ferrari seat. With no upcoming vacancy at Red Bull, Ferrari has potential steal the driver away from the program he’s spent his entire career with.

Cons: Although Sainz has shown great restraint and consistency, he is still very young. His younger former teammate in Verstappen may have moved to Red Bull very quickly, but Sainz remained in Toro Rosso. Obviously, Red Bull sees something in Verstappen they did not see in Sainz. With Daniel Ricciardo recently confirming his contract length into 2018, there is no open seat at Red Bull. This stunts Sainz’s upward movement in a team he was developed through. This deep connection with Red Bull could make a move into Ferrari somewhat jarring. Such a shocking transition coupled with his relative inexperience could spell disaster. After the previously-mentioned struggles of Perez in McLaren, Ferrari may wish to avoid such a situation.

Kimi Raikkonen: Scuderia Ferrari

Pros: He is Kimi Raikkonen. 2007 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion and fan favourite. He will go down in the sport’s history as one of it’s more popular and iconic figures of the 21st century. The experience and name power that he brings to Ferrari, the team with whom he won is world title, is irreplaceable. Especially irreplaceable if compared to the considerably younger Perez and Sainz. Despite some recent questions regarding his performance, he is a perfect compliment to Sebastian Vettel. He and Vettel are close friends, and provide great harmony and stability to the team’s lineup. Three-time World Drivers’ Champion and former Ferrari driver Alain Prost said of the duo’s future “The positive sign for him [Raikkonen] to stay is that he has a very good relation with Vettel and you have a number one and number two, not on paper, but in fact. For the ambience it is not bad“. With both drivers scoring multiple podiums in 2016, there is still a strong possibility that Raikkonen will maintain a 2017 Ferrari ride.

Cons: Although he is a big name World Champion, Raikkonen is certainly past his prime. His championship came nearly a decade ago. In that time period, he also branched out to World Rally and NASCAR racing. This could be seen as peak time lost, as the Finnish driver is now 36. Although this is not old by any normal means, the new landscape of Formula 1 has left Raikkonen looking ancient. As his performance wanes with age, Ferrari is making is clear that his future is entirely dependent on this season. If Raikkonen does not perform on a level expected of him, it is likely he won’t be re-signed by Ferrari. If this is the case, 2016 could mark the end of Raikkonen’s storied Formula 1 career.


Realistically, Ferrari can have whoever they want. Currently, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz Jr., and Kimi Raikkonen stand as their most likely options. As Ferrari hopes to compete with the dominant Mercedes, it is best they solidify their 2017 lineup sooner rather than later. The certainty of having the lineup solidified for the upcoming season will make the transition into a new rule package much smoother. In the end, their choice comes down to whether they would prefer familiarity or a fresh start. Between Sainz, Perez, and Raikkonen, the options they have are youth, growth, and experience. Any of which would suit Ferrari in its current form, but a decision has to be made to secure the push for a 2017 Ferrari World Championship.


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