With the Hungarian Grand Prix marking the halfway point in the 2016 Formula 1 Season, it now feels like the perfect time to begin to discuss 2017- specifically in terms of contracts and which driver will be driving at which team for next season. Due to new aerodynamic regulations for next year, Formula 1 could finally see a shakeup in the grid, and due to this reason, it is vital that a driver must pick his team with the upmost calculation. The F1 Silly Season is here again.
The F1 Silly Season: Who’s Where For 2017?
In the case of Mercedes, the 2014 and 2015 constructors champions have already confirmed their driver line up for 2017. Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have been confirmed to be driving for the team for next year and beyond, with both of the driver’s contracts now not coming to an end until the end of the 2018 season. Much speculation however, did arise in this driver line up, with rumours of Pascal Wehrlein replacing Rosberg in 2017. Mercedes announced that Rosberg would continue driving for the Silver Arrows last weekend at the Hungarian Grand Prix, allowing Formula 1’s hottest rivalry in recent times to continue into the foreseeable future.
Being confirmed until the end of the 2017 at Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel will be driving for the Maranello based team next season. Much speculation however, did surround Kimi Raikkonen who will be 37 when the 2017 Formula 1 season starts. Rumours around the paddock were that of departure prior to the British Grand Prix, with names such as Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo, and Carlos Sainz Jr being associated with a Ferrari drive for 2017. This speculation however, has since ceased, with Ferrari confirming Raikkonen for 2017, meaning that Raikkonen will partner Vettel for a third consecutive year.
Red Bull Racing:
Similarly to Mercedes and Ferrari, Red Bull Racing are also keeping their driver line up in the form of Australian Daniel Ricciardo, and the young 18 year old Dutchman, Max Verstappen. This comes as no surprise, with Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner describing Ricciardo and Verstappen as their strongest driver line up to date in Formula 1. With both of these drivers being confirmed at Red Bull in the future, the potential for another Vettel-Webber style rivalry is high, with Red Bull Racing getting more and more competitive as the 2016 season goes on. Could we see a title challenge between Ricciardo and Verstappen in 2017 or in 2018? One can only hope. Due to this, Formula 1’s top 3 teams will see no change for the forthcoming 2017 season.
For 2017, the driver line up of Williams is very much under speculation. In 2016, Williams’ current driver line up is in the form of Brazilian driver, Felipe Massa, and the very talented Valtteri Bottas. As it stands, neither of these drivers have been confirmed by Williams for 2017. In the case of Bottas, it is likely that the Finn will remain at the team for a fifth consecutive season, with spaces at Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull being already taken up, meaning that progression up the grid to a more competitive team is nigh impossible. The most speculation at Williams surrounds Felipe Massa who is out of contract at the end of the 2016 season. For this seat there are two names that have been associated. These names are that of McLaren’s Jenson Button, and GP2 DAMS driver, Alex Lynn. Like Massa, Button is also out of contract at the end of the 2016 season and is a prime candidate for a Williams drive next year, with there being talk of Button being replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren. In the case of Alex Lynn, the young British driver has been associated with Williams, being the team’s development driver since 2015. However, in order to graduate from GP2, Lynn would most likely have to win the series this season to be considered for a drive in Formula 1 in 2017 from Williams. Currently, Lynn is eleventh in he standings in GP2, having 51 points to his name and a win in the sprint race at Spain. Due to this, my money is on a Button-Bottas line up for 2017. Button has the experience, has the sponsorship, and has the ability to take charge of Williams from 2017, honing the team in, allowing them to progress up the grid in the future.
In terms of Force India, both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez will remain at the team for a fourth successive season, as confirmed by team principal, Vijay Mallya. However, despite this statement, Sergio Perez has insisted that he will talk to his sponsors before making a decision for 2017, leaving this line up under some speculation. Despite a grey area forming around Force India, it is most likely that they will again keep their strong Hulkenberg-Perez pairing.
Already being snapped up by Toro Rosso for 2017 is Carlos Sainz Jr, with the young Spaniard staying with the team for a third consecutive season. The big question that surrounds Toro Rosso is in the place of Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat hasn’t had the smoothest season in 2016, being demoted from Red Bull after four rounds back to his old team. Since returning to Toro Rosso, the young Russian has also had a poor season, only securing 2 points since the demotion and having three DNFs in the last six races. It’s plain to the eye that for Toro Rosso, Kvyat isn’t delivering. Due to the Red Bull Young Driver Program being one of the harshest driver development programs in Formula 1, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kvyat found himself without a drive for 2017. Impressing all in GP2 at the moment is the Red Bull-backed Frenchman of Pierre Gasly who is currently leading the drivers standings for Prema Racing. Winning at Silverstone and in Hungary, I’m going to say that this man will be driving for Toro Rosso in 2017, alongside Carlos Sainz Jr.
Already being confirmed by McLaren for 2017 is Fernando Alonso, with the two time world champion not seeing an end to his contract until the end of the forthcoming season. For the final seat at McLaren next year, there are two candidates in the form of Jenson Button and Stoffel Vandoorne. Jenson has been driving for McLaren since 2010 and has secured 8 wins for the Woking based team since then. However, speculation has constantly surrounded Button at McLaren, with the British driver’s place at the team being up for debate since 2014. Also looking like a potential candidate for a McLaren drive in 2017 is of course Vandoorne, who stood in for an injured Fernando Alonso at the Bahrain Grand Prix this year, securing McLaren’s first points finish in 2016. The question is about what McLaren would prefer. Experience or youth? In 2017, my money is on an Alonso-Vandoorne pairing.
The scene at Haas next season is a very interesting one. Although neither Romain Grosjean or Esteban Gutierrez have been confirmed to be driving for the American team next year, it’s undoubtable that Grosjean will be driving for them in the future, with a drive at Haas possibly offering him a seat at Ferrari It’s the position of Mexico’s Esteban Gutierrez that remains obscure, with numerous names being associated to his seat for next season. Due to some technical difficulties, Gutierrez is yet to finish in the top 10 this season. However, he has been close, finishing in eleventh place at Spain, Monaco, and Austria. Other names associated with this seat are in the form of America’s Alexander Rossi and France’s Charles Leclerc. Alexander Rossi is an excellent candidate for Haas, being an American. Not only does his nationality act as an aid but also his racing credentials, having experience in Formula 1, making 5 starts for Marussia in 2015, and having experience in IndyCar, winning the 2016 Indy 500. On the other hand, Leclerc would also be a strong addition to the Haas F1 line up. Leclerc is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and is currently leading the GP3 drivers standings. Alongside this, the young Frenchman has also driven in Formula 1, taking part in FP1 at the British Grand Prix. This is a very hard decision as the final seat at Haas could be wide open. Gutierrez could remain at the team, Rossi could make a return to Formula 1, or Leclerc could make his debut if he manages to win the GP3 title this year.
Like at Haas, the situation at Renault is also very interesting for 2017. With 2016 being a ‘development year’ for Renault, 2017 will undoubtedly be stronger for the French team. However, a strong driver line up is needed for a team to be strong. Currently, neither Kevin Magnussen or Jolyon Palmer are contracted to drive for Renault next season which again leaves this team nearly wide open. It is probable that Kevin Magnussen will continue to drive for Renault in 2017 having put in strong performances so far this year, including a seventh place finish at the Russian Grand Prix. Questions are arising about the future of Jolyon Palmer at Renault, with his strongest performance so far this season being at the opening round at Australia. Despite Palmer very nearly finishing in the points at Hungary last weekend, the 2014 GP2 champion did effectively cost the team a points finish, spinning his car out at turn 4 whilst running inside the top 10. One candidate that could replace Palmer is Esteban Ocon. Not only does Ocon have the credentials as GP3 champion but he also has nationality on his side, being French and having the possibility to drive for a French team. Other names have also been linked to Renault including Williams’ Felipe Massa. However, if I were Renault, I would choose youth over experience when it comes to picking between Massa, Palmer, or Ocon. For 2017, I’m going to put my money on Renault keeping their current drivers. Both Magnussen and Palmer are very talented and have the credentials to race in F1- they only need the machinery behind them. In a season that has been plagued by bad luck and technical difficulties for Britain’s Jolyon Palmer, I hope Renault keep him on for 2017.
Again, neither drivers at Manor are contracted to drive for the team in 2017. However, I think that Pascal Wehrlein will continue to drive for the team next season after scoring the team’s first points finish since 2014 at the Austrian Grand Prix. With regards to Rio Haryanto, I can’t imagine the Indonesian racer to continue to drive in Formula 1 after 2016, being very disappointing in his rookie season. Perhaps taking Haryanto’s place at Manor will be Britain’s Jordan King. King is Manor’s development driver and has been since 2015. Alongise this, King also competes in the GP2 series for Racing Engineering, winning back-to-back sprint races in the 2016 season in Austria and Silverstone.
Having been under financial strain for some years now, Sauber have finally secured their future following an investment into the team by Longbow Finance. Despite this, Sauber will still need a driver pairing that carries a lot of sponsorship behind it. Due to this, I think that Sauber will keep both Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr for the 2017 season, with both drivers having the talent and the money to race in Formula 1.
So, following a look at the driver market for the 2017 Formula 1 season, large changes could be seen in Formula 1, with the driver line ups of many teams having the possibility to change in the future. However, there will be no changes in the top three teams of Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull Racing. In the future, Kimi Raikkonen will hold the keys to the main changes in Formula 1. The one thing that we can be sure of however, is an exciting season of motor racing in the second half of the 2016 Formula 1 season and into 2017.