Drivers, Monza, 2016

Which F1 drivers will change teams in 2017?

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James wrote in last week with this question about the 2017 F1 season:

What changes, if any, do you see in the driver line-up for each team in 2017?
James Melinson

Four teams have already announced their line-ups for next year. There will be no change at Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. McLaren will welcome Stoffel Vandoorne in place of Jenson Button for next season at least.

Force India appear set to retain Sergio Perez alongside Nico Hulkenberg, as team co-owner Vijay Mallya stated they would in June. Perez was supposed to confirm his plans prior to the Singapore race and now intends to in the run-up to next week’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

But what about the other six teams whose plans are not yet clear?

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Williams

Lance Stroll, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016
Stroll, 17, is expected to join Williams

With Felipe Massa retiring it makes sense for Williams to retain Valtteri Bottas and bring in a new face. European F3 championship leader Lance Stroll is considered the favourite.

Stroll is in his third season of racing and brings huge backing from his father, Canadian fashion magnate Lawrence Stroll. He therefore makes a lot of sense to Williams, an independent outfit which does not enjoy the financial bounces offered to top teams. Particularly as they are set to lose the lucrative fourth place in the constructors’ championship to Force India.

However Stroll doesn’t turn 18 until next month and the team may be wary of promoting a youngster to pilot next year’s much more physically demanding cars. That could open the door for a more experienced if less well-off driver who the team already knows: former tester Felipe Nasr.

But Stroll has begun testing a 2014-specification Williams which suggests he isn’t expecting to spend 2017 in a GP2 car. Speaking of which, Williams test driver Alex Lynn’s disappointing second season in that category will have done his chances no good, and he doesn’t bring Stroll’s level of backing either.

Renault

Esteban Ocon, Renault, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016
Ocon has already tested for Renault

For all Renault’s troubles at the moment – Singapore was just their second points-scoring result this year – their manufacturer backing makes them an attractive proposition to any driver. Especially those with championship aspirations who can stand to wait a few years until it becomes a genuinely competitive proposition.

The team began the year with an all-new driver pairing as Kevin Magnussen arrived in place of Pastor Maldonado. The team has taken a while to firm up its plans for 2017 and had been tipped to hire Sergio Perez at one point.

The future of Jolyon Palmer, who brought funding for his seat this year, is also believed to be under threat. But while Renault has a substantial squad of junior drivers in GP2 including, Oliver Rowland, Sergey Sirotkin and Nicholas Latifi, none appear set to make the move up.

Magnussen’s timely Singapore point will strengthen his claim to a seat for next year, when there is a good chance he will be joined by Esteban Ocon, who fits Renault’s preference for somebody fast and French. But keep an eye out for Romain Grosjean seeking a return, perhaps sooner than expected: he’s already said he would like to return and things have not been going well for him at Haas lately.

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, Monza, 2016
Sauber look likely to stick with their current line-up

What a joy it would be to see Sauber return to being the team which gave precocious, unfunded F1 talents their first chances: Kimi Raikkonen, Massa and many others since. Their financial situation, notwithstanding the arrival of support from Longbow, still appears to rule that out for the time being.

Marcus Ericsson is connected to the new investors which strengthens his chance of holding onto his seat. And if Nasr can keep his contributions coming there’s every reason to believe there’ll be no change in Sauber’s line-up next year.

Toro Rosso

Pierre Gasly, Monza, 2016
Expect Red Bull to promote Gasly from GP2

This pairing looks pretty straightforward, too. Carlos Sainz Jnr has already locked down a new Red Bull contract for 2017, setting him up to become Toro Rosso’s longest-serving driver.

However the Red Bull Junior Team conveyor belt continues its inexorable progress and the next arrival will be Pierre Gasly. Having shrugged off his win-less streak he is now leading the GP2 championship convincingly, notwithstanding some ill luck at Monza. Expect him to oust the out-of-favour and struggling Daniil Kvyat at the end of the year.

Manor

Rio Haryanto, Manor, Shanghai International Circuit, 2016
Haryanto may get a second shot at F1

The line-up at F1’s two back-of-the-grid teams is likely to be heavily influenced by moves elsewhere. Another year for Pascal Wehrlein at Manor seems a safe bet in light of his solid performances and Mercedes connection.

If Ocon does head to Renault his seat could return to Rio Haryanto, who has been drumming up fresh investment since his mid-season ejection.

Haas

Charles Leclerc, Haas, Silverstone, 2016
A 2017 debut may be too soon for Leclerc

For Haas, the 2017 season will be the difficult second year which plagues new F1 teams: the first time they have to develop a car while also competing. And it’s further complicated by the significant change in regulations for next year and the fact they won’t be able to lean on Ferrari as heavily as they could to develop the VF-16.

These are all powerful reasons to avoid a headache on the driver line-up side and stick with the known quantities in Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez. Ferrari-backed youngster Charles Leclerc may have to wait it out another year even if he does win the GP3 title.

Over to you

Who do you think will switch teams for 2017? Have your say in the comments.

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Keith Collantine
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38 comments on “Which F1 drivers will change teams in 2017?”

  1. Renault is also interested in Sainz for next year, but it’s unlikely that Red Bull will release him.

    1. I think that won’t happen. Sainz already has a contract for 2017.

      I would like to see Perez in the Renault, they surely will move forward and seem to be a better future prospect compared to force-india. Ptobably won’t happen for another year.

      Sauber has become a disappointment really. I could easily live without them on the grid to be honest, their driver line up is uninspiring to say the least.

      1. Why would Perez go to Renault? They’re at the start of a building phase, their engine isn’t as good as Mercedes and doesn’t show any promise of being (whose does?), and their chassis development took a huge hit when staff left after Genii Capital pulled out. The Renault management also can’t get out of its own way with Vasseur, Abiteboul and A. N. Other arguing over the direction of the team amongst themselves. The only potential blight at Force India is what happens to V. J. Mallya and his money. I like Perez and want to see him doing better. I don’t see a move to Renault as being better than staying at F. I. I think he would be in a similar situation to Grosjean at Haas: it’s a gamble that may come good but in the meantime you’re getting older and falling further down the league tables. Lance Stroll is 10 years Perez’s junior! Maybe Perez moves back to McLaren-Honda in 2018 if Alonso makes space. Getting a seat in a – hopefully – resurgent Mc-H would be a fitting remuneration for being so badly treated first time around. Perez has shown that he’s much better than Magnussen.

        1. It’s a risky bet, but less than Grosjean’s with Haas, because at least Renault has a long tradition in F-1 and its engine is getting better.

          I might be wrong, but at F.I. Perez won’t get more than a fortuitous win at best, and he deserves a true shot at a top team, after that terrible timing with McLaren.

        2. So are you sure PER is much better than MAG? I’m not!
          How do you compare them..would MAG beat PER in a FI racer – or is it based on FI is faster than the Renault…MAG got PER Mclaren seat based on his talent..PER got huge oil sponsors – MAG only a very small sponsor but still got the seat. He is still in F1..wonder why.. how many of the drivers (especially in the slow cars) is there based on their talent and not daddys wallet? This is where F1 fails in my opinion..F1 should be gathering the best racedrivers and not the sons of the richest dads..There should be a max on how much a driver could be sponsored – or the fee for driving in F1 should be the same for every driver..

        3. @mortyvicar How has Perez shown that he is better than Magnussen?

        4. How has Perez shown that he is much better than Magnussen?? This is utter bs. He has a car that can perform I like Magnussen who has a car that can’t but makes it perform either way. There was a reason why mclaren chose kmag instead of Perez at mclaren and that was speed…! The only thing I can agree with you on is that Perez because of his position in a good car is currently a more attractive proposition than Magnussen who has only rarely been allowed and been able to show how good he really is.

    2. I can see some sense in RBR releasing Sainz to Renault. RB face a logjam at RBR with Ricciardo and Verstappen likely to camp out at the top team for years, they’ll likely lose Sainz in 2018 as a result. So it makes sense to allow Sainz to go to Renault, thus keeping him in the extended family. That would leave them room to keep Kvyat for one more season, promote Gasly, and leave a 2018 TR seat free for one of the other five drivers in the junior programme.

      1. The problem is why put the driver in Renault if they’re interested in keeping hold of him long term? The Torro Rosso has been a much better chassis than Renault/Lotus since 2014. This year even with the handicap of the 2015 Ferrari power unit they are hustling some good results especially on chassis dependent tracks. Torro Rosso will still be ahead of Renault next year, especially with the Renault Power Unit in the back.

        Why demote your driver from a team that comfortably fights in the points, and may even challenge for podiums next year to a team currently struggling to break into the points.

        Driving is also not the only thing teams want from a driver. How they help a team develop is crucial as well. They’re getting good information on how Sainz gives feedback and helps as the driver guide car development at the minute, upsetting that makes no sense.

    3. Crashandburn just now
      Renault is trying to win time for their decision:

      Would PAL beat MAG just one or twice in the end season – then PAL is in the seat payed with gold- daddys millions of ££££££..if Not then MAG is in..

      If OCO just beat WER one or twice in the end Season then he will take the seat from PAL or MAG..

      Thats why Renault is waiting for their driver decision..obviously 😉

      But they are missing that the MAGs option is running out 1.october – then others might be interested. He will not stand as the silly boy again waiting without a contract..as he did at the Mclaren..then he rather go to Sauber or Haas – or maybe just drive another class ..as he said “I’m a racedriver I need to drive!”…

      Cheers

      1. Renault just announced today that they had reached agreement with Magnussen to extend their option on him till 15th October. I suppose that is good news towards MAG potentially staying at Renault for 2017?

      2. And now just in here today Monday: Renault aledgedly far deep into signing up Hulkenberg for 2017!
        If so, I would expect to see both Magnussen and Palmer out of job for 2017, as Renault clearly wants Ocon in their car next year.

  2. With Massa leaving Mercedes should really seize this opportunity to put Wehrlein there. He could be pivotal if the pack closes up in 2017, snatching away points from the Ferrari or Red Bull cars.

    1. I was thinking the same thing, I’m very surprised they aren’t showing more interest in doing this

    2. Do Mercedes have such an influence anymore to do that? I know they have the engine, but Toto sold his stake right?

  3. For me next season is a transitional year, 2018 is where the big moves will happen.

    Could be completely different, even something like…

    Ferrari Vettel and Hamilton?
    Mercedes Rosberg and Wehrlein?
    Red Bull Verstappen and Sainz?
    McLaren Ricciardo and Vandoorne?
    Williams Bottas and Stroll?
    Force India Hulkenberg and Celis Jr?
    Toro Rosso Gasly and Kari?
    Renault Ocon and Sirotkin?
    Manor Rossi and King?
    Haas Gutierrez and Leclerc?
    Sauber Ericsson and Fuoco?

    Or people like Button, Alonso, Perez, Kyvat etc. Could all still be here

    1. I don’t think it’s going to happen, very unrealistic. But hey, everything changes.

    2. This is all too unrealistic.

      1)Hamilton isn’t moving to Ferrari. He’s stated he’s going to finish his career with Mercedes power and why would he move to Ferrari anyway? They haven’t shown a shred of promise and instead have regressed. They also lost James Allison at a pivotal moment. If anything, Vettel is going to leave and we’ll see two totally different drivers in 2018. I could see Hulkenberg there as Ferrari tends to go for the mosy experienced, rather than the youngest drivers. Mercedes might not win next year but they’ll be fighting for wins. I don’t see Ferrari any higher than 3rd in the WCC and that’s assuming Honda doesn’t deliver next year cause almost certainly, McLaren’s car is going to be good. McLaren will also have probably the strongest driver lineup on the grid. So if Honda delivers, which is actually looking like it may happen, I can’t see Ferrari higher than 4th.

      2) By next year, Red Bull is going to be the team to be at. They’ve had a team working on the 2017 car all year. They’re going to dominate next year. Ricciardo and Verstappen are also locked in until 2019 and it’ll be a cold day in hell before RBR releases either of them to another team. They’d be crazy to. Ricciardo is a top 3 driver and Verstappen has his moments of brilliance.

      3) You left Alonso out. I know that he’s optional for 2018 but McLaren is going to want him for sure and I can’t see him leaving. He’s going to be #1 driver next year.

      1. Hamilton doesn’t need 7 titles, I don’t think that motivates him tbh. I can see him at Ferrari in 2018, it’s a pretty good match tbh and he doesn’t have the same love as he once did at merc it seems. Either that or back to McLaren of course… I could see that happening.

    3. I would make a couple of changes to that list;
      Ferrari – Vettel & Ricciardo (again)? ;-)
      McLaren – Hamilton & Vandoorne

    4. @sam3110 Rossi has apparently signed a three-year deal with Andretti, so his return to F1 appears incredibly unlikely right now.

      1. Not official as of yet. But is definitely going to that direction.

    5. Why would Perez leave F1?

    6. Grosjean and Magnussen?? And why would Perez leave?

  4. The rumor in (disclaimer: Spanish) press is that Renault would acquire Sainz in exchange of engines for RB/TR, and that the contract extension from RB is just a way to raise the price.

  5. Giovinazzi to go to Sauber or Haas with Ferrari backing after winning the GP2 title would be my prediction.

  6. As has been said before, I would have thought it made sense for Stroll to move into the Manor seat (given their technical partnership) and for Wehrlien to move into the Williams seat (given their engine deal). The deal is the best of both as it would allow Stroll a season to get up to speed before moving to Williams in 2018 and it would reward Wehrlien for his frankly fantastic performance this season.

    1. @geemac I highly doubt Stroll would want that. If Wehrlein were to join Williams, it would be for a few years, not 1.

  7. I know contracts mean very little in F1 these days, but I thought Grosjean was already under contract at Haas for next year?

    My guesses for next year will be:

    Williams: Bottas and Stroll
    Toro Rosso: Sainz and Gasly
    Haas: Grosjean and Gutierrez
    Renault: Magnussen and Ocon
    Manor: Wehrlein and money
    Sauber: Ericsson and money

    Now who I want in those cars vary drastically to what I think will happen:

    Williams: Bottas and Kvyat
    Toro Rosso: Sainz and Gasly
    Haas: Grosjean and Leclerc
    Renault: Magnussen and Sirotkin
    Manor: Wehrlein and Ocon
    Sauber: Giovinazzi and Marciello

  8. Can’t understand the reason behind keeping Gutierrez. He’s been mediocre since day 1, back with Sauber and again with Haas. Another driver would’ve scored at least a point… even Maldonado!

    1. @fer-no65 Even among pay drivers he’s terrible.

    2. I must be one of the few people who rates Gutierrez. He’s been outperforming Grosjean of late (and I really rate Grosjean) .

    3. Wow. Regardless of whether you rate him this is just blatantly untrue. He’s been outperforming Grosjean for a good half of the season now.

  9. No one really mentions Oliver Rowland at all – and Keith says he’s not ready. I’m not really sure what more he can do. Anyone who follows GP2 regularly knows that scoring over 100 points for MP Motorsport is pretty giant-killing. I’d say he’s ideal for Renault.

  10. Here’s my predictions:

    Williams:
    Bottas & Wehrlein
    I can really see that Mercedes want to move Wehrlein up to a better team, and with Massa retiring, this is the best chance they’re going to get. Stroll isn’t ready. Give him a year in GP2 and then look at the situation.

    Renault:
    Magnussen & Ocon
    Since Palmer was never originally involved in Renaults plans, I think Renault will not sign him up for another year. Ocon is a promising talent, and while he has struggled at Manor (so far), his junior record is promising and also he’s french, something Vasseur wants to have in his team.

    Sauber:
    Ericsson & Giovinazzi
    Let’s not forget that Giovinazzi is a Rookie in GP2 and has shown a lot of promise, he may even win the title. Regardless if he does I’m convinced that Ferrari will pick him up as a junior driver and place him at Sauber for an engine deal. Ericsson stays because of his money.

    Toro Rosso:
    Sainz & Gasly
    Easiest team really. Kvyat will get kicked out and Gasly get his seat. End of story.

    Manor:
    Palmer & King
    As I see it, Manor will loose both of their drivers. Palmer basically switches seats with Ocon and King’s Father owns the Manor team as far as I remember. Maybe Haryanto could out-bid one of them, but a long time in hell would have to pass before I name him an F1 driver again.

    Haas:
    Grosjean & Gutierrez
    As much as I would like to see Alex Rossi in Gutierrez’ seat, I fear we’ve lost Rossi to IndyCar. Since there’s not really anyone else available, Gutierrez gets yet another chance. Hopefully his last.

    1. Who really decides at Renault F1?
      Their leadership team does not appear to have aligned priorities with all the turmoil going on there and lack of decision on their 2017 driver lineup. Managing director Abiteboul appear to have a different opinion on what profiles they need ideally to drive their cars compared to what their team principal Fred Vasseur expresses to the media. Is it also a battle between their UK based F1 team at Enstone and their French base in Viry ??

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