It’s that time of year where Formula 1 teams start to announce their driver line-up for the next season. With rumours appearing over who might go where if their contract is up at the end of the current season. Not all eleven teams have confirmed their driver line-up for 2017, The Checkered Flag rounds up those drivers who have been confirmed and those who have been rumoured for a seat.
Mercedes AMG PETRONAS
Lewis Hamilton has had his seat with Mercedes confirmed since May 2015 after he signed a three year deal with the Brackley-based team. This means the three-time World Champion and current championship leader will have a seat with the team until the end of the 2018 season.
Before Free Practice 1 for the Hungarian Grand Prix in July, Mercedes also confirmed via Twitter that Nico Rosberg signed a new contract, with the deal also secure Rosberg’s career with the German team until 2018.
Red Bull Racing
When Daniel Ricciardo joined Red Bull in 2014, after three years with sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso, he signed a five year contract. Ricciardo has been linked with Scuderia Ferrari but Christian Horner later confirmed he still has two years left with the Milton Keynes outfit, with Ricciardo staying with the team until at least the end of the 2018 season.
Max Verstappen was promoted to a race seat with Red Bull from the Spanish Grand Prix this season, replacing Daniil Kvyat who had crashed twice into Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap of the Russian Grand Prix. Verstappen was later confirmed to join Ricciardo for the 2017 season in an unchanged line-up.
On Friday morning at the British Grand Prix, Ferrari confirmed Kimi Raikkonen would remain with the team for the 2017 season. His contract was set to end at the end of the season, with several drivers having been linked to the seat, including Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez.
In 2015, Sebastian Vettel joined Ferrari alongside Raikkonen after Fernando Alonso moved to McLaren. He joined the team on a three-year contract, meaning he will be with the Maranello-based squad until the end of the 2017 season.
Williams Martini Racing
Currently Williams have yet to confirm their 2017 driver line-up, after Felipe Massa confirmed his retirement from Formula 1 at the end of the season, there is a lot of speculation about who is to join the Grove-based outfit. Valtteri Bottas is believed to be confirmed as one of Williams’ 2017 drivers, although the Finn has yet to be announced.
Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Alex Lynn have all been linked to the second race seat, as was Jenson Button, who was linked to a seat after rumours suggesting he would return to his roots in the championship before retiring, although these have been dismissed after he confirmed a different role within McLaren. Current FIA European Formula 3 Championship leader Stroll is firm favourite for the role, while Felipe Nasr has also been linked to a return to the team that gave him free practice opportunities in 2014.
Sahara Force India
Nico Hulkenberg will be with Force India for the 2017 season, after signing a two-year contract extension during the 2015 season. Current team-mate Sergio Perez is under some doubts over where he will be next season even though he has a contract until 2017.
It was emerged that there is an escape clause in where Perez’s sponsors can change his team, with both the Renault Sport F1 and Williams Martini Racing teams having held talks with the Mexican’s sponsors but nothing has been confirmed yet.
During the Italian Grand Prix weekend, Jenson Button confirmed he would be stepping down from McLaren, with the Briton staying with the Woking based outfit as an ambassador and reserve. Button is making way for 2015 GP2 Series champion and current McLaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne for 2017.
Fernando Alonso will enter the last year of his initial contract with McLaren after he signed a three-year deal when he joined the team in 2015.
Scuderia Toro Rosso
Only Carlos Sainz Jr has been confirmed as a driver for Toro Rosso for next season, when he earned himself a contract extension ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, meaning the Spaniard will be entering his third consecutive year with the team.
His team-mate is yet to be confirmed but it is suggested that Daniil Kvyat will be retained. Kvyat did start the 2016 season with Red Bull but earned himself a demotion to their sister team after he crashed into Sebastian Vettel twice on the opening lap for the Russian Grand Prix.
Pierre Gasly is also linked to a race seat with Toro Rosso, with Gasly currently sitting on top of the GP2 Series championship standings, making the decision for the Red Bull bosses a difficult one. Nothing has been discussed yet but team principal Franz Tost believes anything is possible, although the ride is set to be between those two drivers.
Haas F1 Team
In their first season in F1, Haas have been quite successful after Romain Grosjean has scored 28 points so far, although team-mate Esteban Gutierrez has yet to score any points for the team. The American led team are yet to confirm their drivers for 2017 but it has emerged that there is an agreement in place that allows Grosjean to stay at the team for at least one more season, while Gutierrez is confident of a second season with the team.
Charles Leclerc has been test driver for the team in 2016, and has already competed in a couple of free practice sessions, and should he win the GP3 Series crown, will qualify for a Superlicence, putting him firmly in contention for a promotion. He will also be helped by being a part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.
Earlier in the season Guenther Steiner said the team won’t be talking about drivers until the European season is over. With the Italian Grand Prix marking the end of the European stages when will Haas confirm their drivers and who will they confirm?
Renault Sport F1
Renault Sport are another team who have yet to confirm their 2017 driver line-up, it’s not only their current drivers who are in the running. Kevin Magnussen is expected to know a decision before the Singapore Grand Prix about his future in Formula 1. With Jolyon Palmer also unsure about his future.
Sergio Perez has been linked to a seat with Renault after his backers held talks with the Enstone-based outfit, while Esteban Ocon, who started 2016 as Renault reserve driver before taking the race seat at Manor, has also been linked to the race seat in 2017.
Of course, Renault also have their young drivers and a dedicated Driver Academy, with Sergey Sirotkin possibly part of the plans for the team going forward, while Louis Deletraz and Oliver Rowland are both having good seasons in Formula V8 3.5 and GP2 respectively.
Pascal Wehrlein is currently on a one-year contract with Manor and is currently waiting to know his fate with 2017, although the Mercedes-Benz protégé should have no qualms about whether his Formula 1 career continues or not, as impressive as he’s been. He is the only driver to currently score a point for Manor this season after finishing in tenth at the Austrian Grand Prix, and has three times made it through to Q2 in 2016.
With Esteban Ocon having been promoted to a race seat with the team after Rio Haryanto was dropped, it is still yet to be seen whether the second Mercedes protégé will return for a full campaign with Manor next season.
Haryanto has not drifted away, and with new backers now set to come onboard, a race return in 2017 for the Indonesian cannot be ruled out, while current test driver Jordan King also has ambitions to race for the team next year, but is likely to need to secure enough points towards his Superlicence to do so.
Sauber F1 Team
Sauber are also yet to confirm their drivers, with the team being pulled from their near death, will the keep their current drivers for 2017? The contract of Felipe Nasr expires at the end of this season with the Brazilian being linked to a seat with Williams, after his fellow Brazilian Felipe Massa announced his retirement.
Marcus Ericsson is also unconfirmed for next season with Sauber. Ericsson is understood to have ties to Longbow Finance, Sauber’s new backers, so he is expected to stay on with Sauber next season. The Swede is looking at other alternatives as well should his plan A not come to fruition. Monisha Kaltenborn has expressed in the media of late that talent, rather than money, will determine Sauber’s drivers next year, so watch out for a surprise or two!
It will be interesting to see over the coming months who teams will confirm for their driver line-up, you have those teams who are solid in their line-up. So Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, you then have the teams who might surprise you. It’s sounding like Haryanto has a pretty good chance at returning to the championship, with new backers supporting him. Will he come back fighting and show Manor he is worthy of a seat?
Then we have the likes of Ocon who replaced Haryanto at Manor, has he proved himself. Mostly it is about money when it comes to drivers rather than their talent. This is exactly why Haryanto was dropped, he was unable to provide the funding. Will Ocon be promoted slowly up the grid, taking the position at Renault from either Magnussen or Palmer.
It is always interesting trying to work out who teams will pick, those driver’s who you feel should have a seat, don’t receive it. We saw this last year when Vandoorne didn’t receive a seat at McLaren and Alexander Rossi for Manor. Currently I don’t think there’s very many young drivers who are ready to step up to a F1 race seat. Of course there’s a few young drivers being linked to Williams, with Massa confirming his retirement.
It’s going to be tense over the coming months with drivers pushing themselves to either stay at their current team or young drivers shinning in their championship to get themselves notice. Especially with so many seats still up for grabs next season.
Let us know in the comments who you would like to see where next season, would you like Williams to give Stroll the chance? Would you want Haas to keep with their current line-up? Especially with Grosjean performing better than they thought in their maiden season.