After a manic summer break the drivers market as taken a very different turn compared to what everyone believed 2 months ago. In this article we will take a look at some of the key drivers and teams in the driver market and try to somehow predict where its all going to go.
Without a doubt the team that’s been busiest over the summer break after being rescued by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll it perhaps is one of the teams that is closest to deciding its driver lineup with Lance Stroll almost certain to move to the team that is currently sixth in the constructors championship right now. It is a team that has consistantly punched above its weight and considering the financial turmoil the team has suffered this season it still has a chance of finishing 4th in the constructors which is very impressive indeed, so it is no wonder that Lawrence would want to put his son in the team. With one seat looking to go to Lance Stroll a lot of talk has been around who will be retained by the team; Esteban Ocon or Sergio Perez? Its looking like its going to go the way of the Mexican, Perez confirming to Fox Sports that “Its just a matter of days or weeks” before he signs his 2019 deal with the team which leaves a question as to where Ocon’s future lies?
My Predictions: Lance Stroll/Sergio Perez
It’s a seat a seat with many drivers names attached to it but it seems we are a long way away from a decision by the team with plenty of time to ponder its options after signing Carlos Sainz as Fernando Alonso’s replacement. Its not clear which direction the team will go down; do they retain Vandoorne in the aid of continuity and wait for Stoffel to show his undoubted talent and late 2017 season form, which hasn’t really shown itself this season? Do they take a gamble on Lando Norris who still has plenty of time ahead of him? Do they take the Mercedes backed Esteban Ocon who has more than proved himself in his short time in the sport.
With the decision to run Norris in FP1 at Spa it seems that he is an option they are willing to pursue, helped by the fact they have a fast and experienced driver in Sainz signed up. Of course we have to see how he performs in Spa but this could be an early indication of what their position currently is and could see Vandoorne with limited options.
My Predictions: Carlos Sainz/Lando Norris
Another team with plenty of drivers linked to the team including Daniil Kvyat it would be no surprise to see the Red Bull junior team to be one of the last to make a decision on its driver lineup.
With Pierre Gasly confirmed at Red Bull next season it leaves at least 1 seat open.
Its no secret that Red Bull would like to see Lando Norris in one of its cars but McLaren are not prepared to release him, however Stoffel Vandoorne looks like he will be a free agent next season and would be a perfect fit for the team. He is still relatively young and has got much potential and a fresh start may be what he needs not to mention he already has some experience with Honda and may be used in the negotiations with Toro Rosso and James Key.
The other seat is harder to call, Brendon Hartley hasn’t really showed his promise this season and has been eclipsed by his teammate which is rather an understatement. Dan Ticktum looks unlikely unless the FIA allow him to compete without the necessary super licence points. Although his name has been mentioned I cannot see Daniil Kvyat returning to the team as that would reflect badly on the team as they only dropped the guy last year. Another option could be Esteban Ocon if his options dry up but that would depend on Mercedes letting him go which I don’t think they will do in a rush. Its hard to call but I think the team will retain Brendon Hartley as other options dwindle.
My Predictions: Brendon Hartley/Stoffel Vandoorne
A team that has struggled massively this season and looks to have further struggles as it loses Martini sponsorship and Stroll’s financial backing.
Its future looks more and more like a team with close ties with Mercedes.
Sergey Sirtokin is a much underrated driver and has more than earned a second season with the team, he brings a high level of technical knowledge and feedback for a driver which is very valuable for a team with a car needing a lot of development, he also has plenty speed demonstrated in qualifying in Monaco and Germany not to mention his SMP financial backing, Sirotkin looks like he stays but what about the other seat?
This would appear to be a 3-way fight between Kubica, Russell & Ocon. Everyone would love to see Kubica back racing in F1 and has helped his cause by putting in solid FP1 performances but as the team looks for more support from Merecedes I believe they will target one of their drivers for the seat. George Russell has done a stunning job in F2 this season and looks good to win it in his first attempt but he has time on his side and Mercedes will be desperate to find Ocon a drive. Williams will be more competitive next season and may benefit from the 2019 regulation changes so Williams wouldn’t be a bad seat for Ocon to land.
My Predictions: Sergey Sirotkin/Esteban Ocon
The Ferrari Powered Cars
These 3 teams all seem dependant on what Ferrari decides to do with its drivers. Leclerc looked set to join Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari but with the change in management after the tragic passing of Sergio Marchionne its looking less likely.
Kimi Raikkonen looks set to be retained by the Scuderia on a one or two year deal depending on which reports you choose to believe. With that in mind it would also look very likely that Leclerc will remain at Sauber as it aims to be at the front of the midfield next season. Ericsson’s backers mean that he has a good chance in partnering the Monegasque driver unless Ferrari can force Giovanazzi into that seat. Failing that they can try and place him at Haas next season to partner Magnussen but it all depends and whether Grosjean can continue his recent form.
Ferrari Predictions: Sebastian Vettel/Kimi Raikkonen
Sauber Predictions: Charles Leclerc/Marcus Ericsson
Haas Predictions: Kevin Magnussen/Romain Grosjean