Silly season or sensible season? The state of the driver market for 2020


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As Formula 1 heads for its last grand prix before the summer sojourn, the driver market, traditionally known as the ‘silly season’, is gradually switching from bubbling under to full heat. Expect a number of announcements to be made between now and the Belgian Grand Prix, the first event after the break.

Two teams currently hold the key to the market: Mercedes and close ally Racing Point. The Three-Pointed Star faces the conundrum of how best to accommodate three drivers – Lewis Hamilton, current ‘wingman’ Valtteri Bottas and third driver Esteban Ocon, who has been promised a full-time drive in 2020.

Hamilton’s contract will keep him at Mercedes until the end of the 2020 F1 season. But Bottas needs to up his game substantially under pressure and not commit errors such as the one on Sunday in Germany, or his qualifying spin in Canada, which in turn scuppered his team’s strategic plans.

The look of sheer frustration – or was it unbridled anger – on Toto ‘Alfred Neubauer’ Wolff’s face when Bottas tipped his ‘White Arrows’ out of a potential second place and into the barriers on Sunday said it all: Enough is enough! Wonder what Bottas thought when he saw the outburst on replay?

This brings Racing Point into play: While Lance Stroll’s seat seems safe – he is, after all the son of Lawrence, head of the consortium that owns the team – the question is how to fill the second seat. Retain Sergio Perez, or take a punt on whichever of the two Mercedes driver is not kept?

Esteban Ocon, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2019
Will Mercedes make room for Ocon?
The most likely scenario is that Perez will be stay with the Silverstone-based team for a seventh straight year, for not only is he recognised as leader of the midfield pack, but also brings strong backing from Mexico. True, the team no longer needs funded drivers, but a fast driver with money is better than one without one or both these attributes.

Plus, ‘Checo’ is a solid mentor for the boss’s son, something the combative Ocon is unlikely to be. When team principal Otmar Szafnauer was asked by Sky in Germany whether the team would be retaining both drivers for next season, he answered “I hope so”. True, the US-Romanian he is not the final arbiter, but he surely has input into the process, particularly where the overall boss agrees.

Where else could Ocon be accommodated, if not at Mercedes? Renault, as team-mate to Daniel Ricciardo, who is due to stay on next year? Possibly, but what happens to Nico Hulkenberg under those circumstances? The word in Hockenheim is he now intends staying not only in F1, but with the yellow team.

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But of course that may not be his decision: Sunday’s excursion into the barriers cost the team a potential podium, which did not go down well in Paris or Enstone. That said, an air of mistrust prevails between Wolff and Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul after the latter (allegedly) reneged on a deal to stick Ocon in a car this year when it became apparent Ricciardo was willing to take a punt on his team.

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Hockenheimring, 2019
Hulkenberg’s crash came at a bad time
“[Regarding] Nico’s contract, the initial term is coming to an end at the end of this year, but there is some mechanism of options,” Abiteboul explained last month in Paul Ricard. “So, it’s maybe that we continue our journey with Nico. Frankly, Nico has delivered for the team.”

“But also we need to look at the options, like everyone is doing, like I’m sure Nico is doing… things are open for him and for us, but there is also an option in place so that we can possibly continue our journey together.”

Hulkenberg could switch to Red Bull as replacement for the lacklustre Pierre Gasly, but a number of Formula E teams are said to be after Lanky Nick, and while the most obvious outfit – Porsche, for whom he won Le Mans in 2015 – seems out of bounds, who knows what may eventuate between now and the start of the 2019/20 electric season, scheduled to start a week before this year F1’s finale?

Given that the only other Mercedes-powered team is Williams – which already has Mercedes junior George Russell in one car – the chances are slender that Ocon will be seconded to the Grove outfit. For obvious reasons, neither Bottas or Hulkenberg have much appetite to return to their former team. The word from Ocon’s camp is that three teams have expressed interest, so who to add to Mercedes and Renault?

Haas? One wonders how much longer team owner Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner will tolerate their drivers serially crashing into each other. Founder team member Romain Grosjean’s recurring mistakes make him a candidate to be dropped despite being a ferociously fast qualifier (and strong racer) on his day, with Kevin Magnussen retained.

But would Wolff be prepared to farm out his star youngster to a team aligned with and powered by rivals Ferrari?

“There is interest [in] Esteban among other teams,” said Wolff on Friday in Hockenheim. “We need to carefully make a decision for ourselves and with the other interested parties, not only for our own benefit but also for Esteban’s benefit.” Strikingly, he added no caveats, as is usually his wont.

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What about Grosjean’s future should such a move come to pass? Grosjean has long expressed interest in endurance racing, more particularly Le Mans. After being shown the door following his F1 debut in 2009 he raced a Ford GT at the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours and won two rounds of that year’s FIA GT1 Championship.

As things now stand a possible scenario is that Bottas heads to Haas, or Renault with Hulkenberg in the other cockpit, leaving Ocon to slot into Mercedes alongside Hamilton. But that is

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019
Haas are losing patience with their collision-prone duo
predicated upon the current star acquiescing to a young, ambitious charger across the garage, particularly one with a reputation for clashing with team mates. Not what the five-times champion needs at this stage of his career.

Plus, the combination would surely stretch Wolff’s management skills even beyond that trying year in 2016 when Nico Rosberg wrested the title from Hamilton. But that is, after all, what the Austrian is (exceedingly well) paid for. Still, it won’t be an easy pairing and Hamilton, who considers Bottas a comfortable team mate, may apply every trick in the book to block such a move.

All the while rumours that Max Verstappen will wear Ferrari red rather Red Bull blue next season refuse to evaporate. This is despite him scoring two superb wins in four weeks for his current team, powered by a Honda engine that just two years ago was the laughing stock of the grid. Ferrari’s win tally this year? Nil.

Whatever the motivation, there is clearly a long-term, strategic plan. Verstappen’s handlers – his wily father Jos and shrewd manager Raymond Vermeulen – seem determined to steer the youngster, still only 21 despite his seven wins, towards Maranello. Does Jos see Max emulating the achievements of his friend (and former Benetton team-mate) Michael Schumacher in effectively ‘saving’ the Scuderia?

Whatever, in Hockenheim the word in the paddock was that negotiations between Red Bull and Ferrari were continuing apace, with the end-game being the straight swap between him and Sebastian Vettel. Then, of course, came the race, where Vettel scored second from the back after an aborted qualifying, and Verstappen took arguably his best career victory. Why would either wish to go the other way after that?

Still, Red Bull’s future is far from secure until F1’s post-2021 landscape is fully mapped, and restoring Ferrari to title-winning stature would surely cement Verstappen amongst F1’s greats as it did Schumacher – something not achieved by Sebastian’s despite scoring four titles on the bounce with Red Bull – but it is likely to be a long-term project, as it was with Schumacher.

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Thus, the sooner they start, the sooner the Verstappens will achieve their objective. Will the swap happen? Better than 50/50, say sources familiar with the details.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2014
A Vettel-Red Bull reunion could be on the cards
What about the rest of Red Bull’s line-up, for the likeable Pierre Gasly seems to be in last-chance saloon, particularly as regards the main team. Importing an established replacement could, though, create problems for the drinks company, though it could make a case for rewarding Daniil Kvyat or Alex Albon for their strong performances with Toro Rosso to date.

“We have two really good drivers,” said Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost in Germany even before Kvyat landed on the podium. “Daniil Kvyat we knew from the past that he is fast, he is also matured now and he is showing a very, very good performance. Alex Albon, for me, is the positive surprise of the young drivers, together with [Lando] Norris.”

The talk is that one or other – likely the former – will be promoted, and Gasly relegated or even dumped, as was Kvyat two and three seasons ago respectively. In that case, who to employ given that Red Bull’s junior programme is currently light on talent ready for the gig? Don’t bet against Sebastién Buemi being recalled from Formula E / WEC, for the world champion in both disciplines triples as Red Bull’s simulator driver.

The situation elsewhere seems more settled. McLaren have already confirmed Carlos Sainz Jnr and Norris for another year, giving further proof the methodical incoming team boss Andreas Seidl has both feet firmly under the desk. Alfa Romeo is likely to continue as is, primarily as Kimi Raikkonen has another year to run on his current deal and is delivering on Sundays, while no there is no Ferrari junior on the horizon to trouble Antonio Giovinazzi.

Which leaves Williams. George Russell has proven he deserves to be on the grid even if has been unable to showcase his full skill set due to a recalcitrant Williams. However Robert Kubica’s showing has seemingly confirmed what many in the paddock feared: that his ultimate talent has withered over time, whether due to his injuries or the long absence from top-level racing they forced upon him.

While the point scored by Kubica in Germany provides a feel-good factor, it’s an inescapable fact that it came courtesy of two exclusions of cars ahead of him in a chaotic race that saw numerous more fancied drivers retire. The problem facing Williams is that it needs a funded a driver in at least one seat, and with Kubica unlikely to continue, who to slot in?

Nicholas Latifi, Williams, Paul Ricard, 2019
Williams tester Latifi could step up from F2
Nicolas Latifi, that’s who. The Canadian is well-funded by Daddy’s bank: father Michael of Sofina Food fame recently dropped £200m in Woking in exchange for 10 per cent of McLaren. Latifi has upped his level in F2 this year, winning two feature races to currently lay second in the championship. An F1 move is possible next year providing he amasses sufficient points towards his superlicence.

Then there are other F2 drivers to consider, either for full-time seats or as third/development drivers: championship leader Nyck de Vries is one such candidate, but the Dutchman was dropped by McLaren last year and is busy rebuilding his credentials by, for example, doing simulator duty for Mercedes.

Renault’s Guanyu Zhou is currently F2’s top rookie, so could be up for third driver role coupled with FP1 outings in 2020 with the French squad, as could Jack Aitken, – currently fifth in the F2 title hunt, one place ahead of Zhou.

Equally, Super Formula/Super GT champion Naoki Yamamoto could be in the frame for similar duties at one of the Red Bull teams. Any gigs are, though, likely to be with Toro Rosso given his Japanese/Honda connections, although there remain some lingering doubts as to whether he ready for F1. Time will tell.

Although F1 personnel are officially out of office for two weeks in three during the break between the Hungarian and Belgian grands prix, team lawyers traditionally sort contracts during that time – witness last year, when Ricciardo signed for Renault and Sainz for McLaren, with other vacancies being hurriedly filled thereafter.

Thus, do not be overly surprised if elements of the driver market firm up this weekend, with one or two announcements (or confirmations) being a distinct possibility. Given that it is all change for F1 in 2021 this ‘silly season’ may prove to be not so silly after all.


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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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99 comments on “Silly season or sensible season? The state of the driver market for 2020”

  1. I will be shocked if the VER-VET swap happens. You would think that on the long run RB are more capable to beat Mercedes than the Ferrari team

    1. True, also last weekend one of Sky commentators mentioned that if Verstappen stays in 3rd place in driver standing he may not be able to weasel his way out of contract. In the long run it seems like RBR would be the right team to beat Mercedes as Ferrari are their usual mess.

      1. @Chaitanya
        “weasel his way out” ….yawn, someone is (as usual) behaving like a frustrated lil’ toddler!

      2. Your anti VER attitude is becoming tiresome.

        1. I’m not sure how the comment was anti-VES

      3. If there is such performance clause in verstappen’s contract then it is not weaseling out at all. Contracts are made when two people or entities accept every single thing in those contracts. If red bull is not competitive enough to fulfill verstappen’s performance requirements then verstappen has the full right to move if such opportunity comes. It is nothing more or less than what they both agreed when they put their names on that contract.

        1. Really a contract, besides meaning you have to stick to it, means you can charge more to get out of it. So if Ferrari wanted to buy out Verstappen then they’d have to pay Red Bull some money because he is contracted to Red Bull. The only question is would Ferrari think it was worth paying Red Bull the amount they desire for a driver that will be on the market in a year or two?

    2. @roltec That is indeed the case at the second half of the last couple of seasons, but every winter RB seems to lose the advantage, starting on the back foot in Australia over and over again.

    3. @roltec But will RB stay in for the new rules in 2021? Ferrari have been a shambles for a long time, but seem to be improving a little. Can Mattia Binotto turn the team into winners again?

    4. The thing is both ferrari and red bull are effectively factory teams now with full engine support. The ferrari engine is the best of the grid, mercedes is probably extremely close or equal and then you have renault and honda. While the honda engines are not total junk anymore they are not yet very close to merc or ferrari. If you compare the mercedes, ferrari, renault and honda engines in austria mclaren gave pretty good picture what is the differences. Mercedes and ferrari cars could easily out accelerate the renault powered mclarens whereas honda needed the full straight with drs to get by. And vice versa when renault powered cars go for the overtake they need to do it in the braking zone.

      As these horrible engine rules seem to stay pretty much unchanged from 2021 onwards there is some part of the performance that is set in stone. In the end ferrari just needs a better chassis whereas redbull needs better car and better chassis. But what ferrari really needs is better driver. It would also be somewhat idealistic to look at red bull as some kind of legit threat after the last 3 races. Hockenheim was a weird race with wet conditions. Had hamilton not crashed out it would have been another win for mercedes. Silverstone was another weird race. In austria hamilton had to pit for new nose and mercedes had heat issues. It is not a question of when mercedes has issues it is the red bull who wins but it is verstappen who wins.

      If I had to pick which of the red bull or ferrari will be the main challengers to mercedes I’d say the answer is verstappen (or ricciardo). Red bull has worse car and engine than ferrari but red bull has the better driver. Out of the 4 drivers at redbull and ferrari verstappen is the only one who is getting the job done at the moment. Leclerc is unreliable, vettel has psychological issues (he almost went off on the last lap in hockenheim) and gasly is nowhere near the top. Red bull with verstappen is likely to stay where it is. Second with fighting the ferrari. But if ferrari had verstappen it would be a step forward for ferrari and also for verstappen. Whether verstappen should replace leclerc or vettel is tough question though.

    5. I’d be as well. Things are finally turning good at Red Bull. VER has no compelling reason to go there just yet. Actually, it would make more sense for Red Bull to poach VET and pair him with VER. A really solid duo to take on Mercedes. But honestly, I don’t think VET will be around after his contract with Ferrari.

  2. Nice image at the top – it definitely draws one in and forces us to read the article. :)

  3. the combative Ocon

    But that is predicated upon the current star acquiescing to a young, ambitious charger across the garage, particularly one with a reputation for clashing with team mates.

    These two extracts are exactly why I think Bottas will remain at Mercedes for 2020. He’s upped his game this season, I don’t think anyone can doubt that despite this weekend’s crash, and he is a great team player, something that Mercedes value. He is supporting Hamilton beautifully and has picked up results when Lewis has faltered this season (e.g. Austria, though that obviously wasn’t Hamilton’s fault).

    Ocon is the real deal, but I don’t think he is right for Mercedes just yet. He’s still a bit too willing to force contact with his team mate, he will be race rusty after a season on the sidelines and he is no doubt out for himself and would push for his agenda rather than the teams. Putting Ocon in the seat next to Hamilton next season would be a risk.

    1. Maybe I read between lines too much, but I noticed some tense in Mercedes garage.
      1. (before German GP) Toto: “Valtteri needs to show a good performance in the next two races” (Hockenheimring and Hungaroring)
      2. (after his crash) Valtteri: “I risked too much, I didn’t have to. I should have had good points, but the team asked me to push.”
      3. (now) Toto says “Valtteri could have blah-blah…”
      I don’t know, but looks quite warning to me.

      1. And did you pick up when Hamilton answered regarding his possible replacement, referring to Ocon as the 2nd driver, without even mentioning Ocon’s name, that is telling to me how the relationship is between Hamster and Ohcon.

  4. The world of F1 is so crazy that Ricciardo had a contract for next year with Renault, but lost it just a couple of paragraphs later. It really feels like you had a bad dream, woke up and tried to write it down here on this article, what a trip.

    1. @dusty – those contracts are not worth the paper they’re written on. For the right motivation or money, anything can be rewritten :)

      In deference to you, we will rename the next few months as F1’s “trippy season” ;)

      1. @phylyp: In the Waterworld worldview paaaaiiper is highly valued. If only Kevin Costner got the F1 Drama deal and not Netflix

  5. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    31st July 2019, 12:39

    I can’t see Verstappen going to Ferrari. I don’t believe Ferrari would be able to manage a LEC-VER pairing, and at the moment Red Bull are entirely built around Verstappen and have won 2 races while Ferrari have none. Leaving a team built around you to fight Leclerc with a team that’s been unable to win a title in years despite being consistently a front runner? Ferrari have problems and it’s not the drivers. That said a Vettel-Kvyat pairing at Red Bull would be fun to watch. It would also be amusing if Red Bull-Honda suddenly became dominant again and Vettel won a whole load of titles again.

    1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
      31st July 2019, 18:33

      I agree.
      And with Ferrari’s often tempestous and inconsistent management, it’d seem like career suicide to do such a move right now

  6. I just hope the Canadian Jolyon Palmer doesn’t go to Williams. If they need a driver that gives them money they could eventually lobby Mercedes to put Ocon in the Racing Point and poach Perez

    And how about Zhou, doesn’t he have backing? How close are those ties with Renault?

    Apart from that, the article is missing Wherlein, isn’t he a Ferrari test driver? I can see them replacing him with Giovanazzi, and I actually rate Pascal higher. Gio is Italian though, it could play a role in that equation. Or he could go to Haas (I don’t understand how they didn’t try to get Alexandre Rossi for that seat to be honest)

    At the top, with exception of RedBull with Gasly, for 2020 I think it will stay the same, as will with Renault

    1. (I don’t understand how they didn’t try to get Alexander Rossi for that seat to be honest)

      I’d be very surprised if Rossi would be willing to swap competing for wins in Indycar for scrapping for the off point in F1. And besides, he’s just signed a new “multi year” deal with Andretti.

      1. @geemac yes I noticed that

        This is more of wish of mine to be honest. Regardless I think a mid table drive would be enticing enough for him, especially because he had the taste of F1 before.

        I feel that if he had won a championship in Indycar already it would also help on making that move

        1. That’s a fair point. If I was him I’d have a “if an F1 team comes knocking I can leave” type clause my contract, just to keep options open.

    2. @johnmilk, yes, Wehrlein is currently being employed as a test driver and simulator driver for Ferrari (one of four drivers that have that role).

      That said, I believe that Giovinazzi had indicated earlier this year that Ferrari had been recalling him to do some simulator work for the team, with the suggestion being that Ferrari were not entirely happy about the quality of the feedback that their simulator drivers were providing.

    3. When did Jolyon Palmer become Canadian?

      1. @mrfill the Canadian Jolyon Palmer, as in Nicolas Latifi

  7. Mercedes, Renault, Force India, McLaren and Haas will retain their driver line-ups.

    After a frustrating season Vettel will retire and he’ll be replaced by Räikkönen. Mick Schumacher takes Räikkönen’s free seat at Sauber. Giovinazzi stays.

    Red Bull will re-promote Kvyat and demote Gasly. Albon and Verstappen stay where they are.

    Ocon replaces Kubica at Williams. Russell stays.

    1. Ocon replaces Kubica at Williams. Russell stays.

      @huhhii – I can definitely see this playing out – Toto keeps his promise to Ocon, and still is tough with him in saying: there’s a seat, take it or leave F1.

    2. That’s early for that game but why not…
      Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, Alfa, Racing Point* and McLaren will retain their driver line-ups. *Racing Point changes name.
      Williams: Russell, Ocon
      Haas: Magnussen, de Vries
      RedBull: Verstappen, Albon
      Toro Rosso: Kvyat, Gasly

      Not the biggest shake up but that happened this year, teams will want a bit of stability for next year. And RBR/STR are lacking options from their junior academy and fill all seats.

      1. De Vries?! Eh no.

        That guy is older than half the current F1 grid! He’s already in his third year in F2 and he also took ages to achieve some success in the lower categories.

    3. “After a frustrating season Vettel will retire and he’ll be replaced by Räikkönen”

      Laughed out loud.

      1/1000, but if it does happen I will drink a toast to your health :)

    4. @huhhii

      After a frustrating season Vettel will retire and he’ll be replaced by Räikkönen.

      The bias is strong with this one. Raikkonen to Ferrari was already a prolonged failed experiment, why go back and sign someone who has proved he’s not good enough for the front of the grid anymore. Keep him at Alfa Romeo.

      1. @mashiat You really must hate Kimi, don’t you? Or maybe you hate me? Every single time I write something about Kimi you come up with similar replies.

        Rumors about Vettel quitting have been going on for quite some time already and while his result last time out was pretty okay he surely felt fed up with the sport after qualifying. If Vettel calls it a day Kimi is the most sensible option for Ferrari. Leclerc is their golden boy so they don’t need to bring another young gun. They just need a reliable driver who can score them some points and keep the car on the road. Plus Kimi is still very much loved in Italy. His great performances at Sauber have gained praise in Italian media.
        Here’s one Italian media rumoring that if Vettel leaves Ferrari’s plan B is to bring Kimi back

        But to be honest I’d prefer Kimi ending his career at Sauber. He seems to be having a really good time and he has been putting up some great performances lately.

        1. @huhhii I have nothing against Raikkonen at all. I don’t dislike him as a driver. But I certainly dislike it when you make comments that put him on a pedestal he doesn’t deserve to be on. Raikkonen is finished at the elite level. Every single season since 2014 has shown that. To only have 2 poles and 1 win in the time that his teammates have had 10 poles and 13 wins. That’s just pure facts at this point, and 99% of all non Kimi-fanboys would agree with me. And it’s not like he’s young either, so it’s highly unlikely he’ll be at F1 past 2020. If Ferrari just wants someone to sit around and score some points, why not just get Perez? He’ll do the job, plus he’s 10 years younger, and brings sponsorship money as well. Or get Bottas off Mercedes, he’ll do a solid job for you. But any top team with ambitions will stay away from Raikkonen. Raikkonen is still good enough for F1, just not at the sharp end of the grid anymore. Perhaps it’s time you accept that Raikkonen is not the driver he was in 2005, let alone the best in the field.

          1. oh I don’t know about any top team, I don’t see Ferrari going back to him or him being keen to go back there. But I do see a slim chance he could go to RBR for a year whilst letting Gasly and Albon fight it out as STR for the 2021 seat.

            It’s a very different situation, RBR would want someone for a year only and Raikkonne going year to year makes sense at this stage., Ferrari would want someone for longer ideally as none of their juniors will be ready for 2021 (unless Gio makes massive strides in the next 12 months) and the likes of Perez/Bottas would want multi-year commitments.

        2. @mashiat I never said 2019 Kimi is the same Kimi what we had in 2005. If he was he’d finish on podium consistently in that Sauber. That’s how much better he was compared to the rest of the field. Finishing 7th today with a car that shouldn’t be anywhere near points scoring positions plus making it to P10 proves Kimi still got it. Perez is nowhere near Kimi’s level so if Ferrari wants to have a competitive driver in 2nd car in case Vettel retires they should hire Kimi. And if they’re sane they won’t even look elsewhere.

          By the way, it’s Day number 4018 with Kimi as the reigning Ferrari’s World Champion.

  8. Speculative at best, this article. It goes all over the place. I switched off around the VER at Ferrari part. Never gonna happen next year. Why would he? They been …. for decades now

    1. I don’t think that matters much in the long run, they were when Schumacher went there, Vettel too. The difference is both of them had they titles first before going to rebuld the Reds, VER would likely be better to wait for his too, I think he’ll wait and see how things go in 2021.

  9. If i was a top driver, i wouldnt be moving anywhere until there was confimation on exactly what the 2021 regulations are to determine which team is best placed to exploit them. Worst thing to do is get locked into a long term contract beyond 2021.

    1. I don’t think anyone is signing long term other than perhaps Leclerc if they offer him a bigger deal. Most will sign on for 2020/2021 and see where things stand.

  10. Ocon to Haas, now Rossi has been confirmed for Andretti next season (although Albon did sign for Toro Rosso after signing for Nissan in Formula E, so if Haas want Rossi I suppose it’s still possible, testing would be necessary though). I think Ocon is their best option to replace Grosjean who is underperforming for the 2nd year in a row. He occasionally has weekends that remind you he is actually a very good driver, but he’s so inconsistent and when every point is important, a good weekend every now and then isn’t good enough. The only worry would be given what happened with the relationship between Ocon and Perez (who previously seemed to get on with all his teammates), and that he’d now be alongside Magnussen. But I suppose Magnussen would have to be as quick as Ocon first.
    For Red Bull, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them drop Gasly altogether, and in desperately trying to find a seat, Gasly ends up somewhere like Williams. Either Kvyat or Albon get the Red Bull seat, probably Kvyat due to experience. Then, we have the issue of the final spot at Toro Rosso. I’d expect Honda to push for a Japanese driver to get the seat, from which point I just suppose it depends on who impresses them most. It’s probably between Naoki Yamamoto and Nobuharu Matsushita. Or, they could try Pato O’Ward out in some of the testing days, I do rate him very highly, it’s just a shame in Indycar he ended up with the relatively uncompetitive Carlin, rather than Herta who ended up with Andretti is impressing a lot – but O’Ward beat him in equal machinery in Indy Lights last year, so if he impresses Toro Rosso more than any of Honda’s drivers, Pato could get the seet. Or alternatively, Gasly does alright for the rest of the year and Red Bull decide to leave things as they are.
    Mercedes could decide to try and get Russell into the Racing Point, which would probably end up in a swap deal with Williams for Perez. Which would be a shame for Checo, but could be quite nice for Williams. Or Latifi gets himself the seat at Williams, at which point either Perez or Gasly are likely out of the sport. Could Perez follow Ericsson to Indycar? Or would one of them go into Formula E.
    Alfa, Raikkonen will stay, Gio seems to fit in well there and is Italian, only option could be for Ferrari to try and get Wehrlein in the seat as he’s shown more promise than Gio has for me.
    Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, McLaren all to stay the same. I don’t think Vettel will retire, or leave Ferrari.
    Only thing completely out of left field, would be if Vettel does leave to Ferrari, Mercedes take Verstappen, and Ferrari take Bottas. Unlikely but yeah.
    Those are my thoughts. But who knows. Anything could happen and I’m probably completely wrong.

    1. I don’t think we’ll ever see Rossi. Maybe if he wins the title there first and gets a midfield job offer, but I’d say <10%.

      Dropping Gasly completely would be stupid. I actually don't think he's been terrible, it looks a lot worse because of who his team-mate is but I don't think he's driving that far below the car's level most of the time, he certainly has the talent to improve still. The main issue is that neither Kvyatt or Albon would be good replacement either. Kvyatt isn't quite good enough for a top drive, not only did he do what Gasly is doing this season when he had the chance, but he has also failed to really put Albon away this year. Speaking of, Albon has been a pleasant surprise, but is nowhere near ready for a top drive yet, he needs at least another year. The best option would be to move Gasly back to STR alongside Albon and get in somone to keep the seat warm and productive for a year. The problem being I can't see who would take it on, Bottas, Perez and Hulkenberg could all be available, but I don't think any would settle for a one year deal, Kimi would, but would also be a very long shot. Ironically, once again, Sainz would have been perfect.

      Grosjean and Magnussen should both be shown the door, both have proven themselves to be incapable of consistently keeping it together. If I were Steiner I'd be throwing everything into getting Perez from Racing Point, they aren't as desperate for his cash any more but Haas could do with it given their recent issues with Rich and he's the perfect driver for their team in terms of sponsorship, quality and consistency, that would allow them to take on a dev driver like Ocon or Russell or even Giovanazzi if they wanted to double down on the Ferrari link. There is zro chance Perez falls to Williams.

      Matsushita is odds on to get a test role with RBR/STR next year and O'Ward should switch to F2 full time in 2020 both with an eye on what could be two vacant STR seats in 2021. Yamamoto is in his 30s, he shouldn't be anywhere near F1 at this stage.

  11. I think Max and Seb will stay where they are. Bottas too.

    The only change in the big teams will be Gasly going back to toro rosso.

    1. I mean apart from the fact that it’s impossible for that to be the only chance as someone would have to replace him

  12. Verstappen to Ferrari will be one of the best thing to happen in 2020 for us Ferrari fans. But Ferrari being Ferrari,with the current management and strategy team, it doesn’t seem to be the best move for Verstappen. Remember that Fernando and Sebastian were also hot properties when they joined Scuderia, only to get frustrated with the team’s incompetence eventually..

  13. Ocon to take Bottas seat Bottas to Haas? Verstappen will stay with RB why would he move and Merc don’t need him anyway. No changes at Ferrari, Racing point, Williams or McLaren. Gasly back to TR but really who do they have to replace him? RB are really hurting after Ricciardo left. Hulk a bit of an unknown, Sauber no changes.

    1. Bottas to Haas

      @johnrkh – Poor Steiner will get whiplash from the stark difference in attitudes between his ’18 and ’19 driver :-)

      1. @phylyp ha ha, too true

      2. @phylyp Well i’m only speculating but I think the HAAS is a good car let down mostly by poor driver performance. The silly thing is both drivers are good but not in the same team. So Bottas may be a good choice to settle things down.

        1. @johnrkh – fully agree. The question of which driver to replace is an interestingly divisive one. I – for one – feel KMag is the hothead who needs replacing, but there are others who make a convincing argument for Grosjean’s departure, particularly when considering errors like Spain last year. What are your thoughts?

          1. Again only spec but I’d say Grosjean will be let go. KMag is full of potential and good driver to keep.

          2. @johnrkh – Nice! Let’s see if your version, my version, or neither version pans out for 2020 :)

          3. Grosjean crashed his car during a safety car period in Baku and thought someone hit him, think it was Ericsson. I never laughed so much in my life! KMag is questionable but would rather him than Grosjean.

          4. @icarby, except that Grosjean never actually claimed somebody hit him – it was his race engineer who said it. It’s been comprehensively debunked that he never made that claim – you only have to listen to it to tell it’s not Grosjean’s voice – so why there are so many who still want to push this claim seems strange.

            @phylyp, to be honest, I’d question why Haas wants to keep either driver, and maybe suggest that they let go of both of them. Grosjean has been erratic, but Magnussen has not shown significantly better performances either – indeed, in the latter part of 2018, Magnussen was usually slower than Grosjean and had several on track clashes to boot.

            I know that @johnrkh is arguing that Magnussen is full of potential, but I’m not so sure – he’s already into his fifth season in the sport, and his fourth at Haas. The indication is that most typical drivers will stop making significant improvements in form after four seasons, and thereafter any improvements tend to be incremental – with the level of experience that Magnussen has, it’s more likely that he is in that phase of his career where his current form is probably not far off what his ultimate potential is.

          5. @icarbym Grosjean also crashed on the warm up lap in Brazil a couple of years ago, and in the pitlane at Silverstone a couple of weeks ago…

        2. Agree with the first half of that, it is a decent car let down by the drivers, I disagree with them being good drivers though, Grosjaen has been consistently inconsistent and dangerous with it, Magnusson has been consistently slower than average and difficult to work with. And then you have the poor attitude both have shown.

          Both should be dropped, Haas should go all out to get Perez who brings in sponsorship to replace Rich and is a better more consistent driver than either of their current two. That allows them to use the second seat on a junior driver to bolster their relationships, either Russell from Merc or Gio/Wehrlain from Ferrari.

  14. I dont understand what is going on with Gasly. He was so impressive in Toro Rosso and finished P4 on merit in Bahrain last year. And now he is struggling for p4 and p5 in a much superior Redbull. Really hope he picks up the pace soon.

    1. @amg44 Going to ruffle feathers but RB do play favourites.

      1. His form last season was also pretty patchy to be fair. A few really high highs but there were also a lot of anonymous drives. I assume Red Bull thought that they could train him to more consistently harness his speed…

        1. @geemac Yes they took a slight chance with Verstappen and it paid off he is very good, Gasly has not been able to cut through, maybe in another team?

    2. For one thing P4 on merit? Both RBRs and one Mercs failed to finish, Ricciardo and Bottas were both a second a lap ahead of his speed in Qualy before that and Verstappen would have been too if he had been able to set a time. He was the best outside the top 6, but his P4 was because of dropouts.

      He’s doing a very similar job this year to be honest, he’s slowest of the top 6, but then so would most other drivers be in that car.

  15. One name missing here is Mick Schumacher. Although not necessarily F1 material (at least at the moment) I have no doubt that the surname will get him there sooner rather than later…at least as 3rd driver.

    Bottas is in tough spot, indeed. This is, after all, the year when he made no secret of being a changed man, no more Mr. Nice Guy, determined to beat his teammate. But it is not working out that way, and his inability to capitalize when Hamilton has a bad day does him no favours.

    I really like Kvyat, but he unfortunately still seems determined to return to Red Bull. I don’t believe he has long term future with the outfit where Verstappen is the golden boy. And should Gasly be booted, the team likely could decide to promote Albon. The Russian should use his strong finishes to escape the Red Bull constrains and lobby another team…Haas comes to mind.

    1. @gpfacts Can’t argue with any of that.

    2. @gpfacts +1 to your Kvyat exit strategy.

    3. Magnus Rubensson (@)
      31st July 2019, 16:44

      Another +1 for you Kvyat exit strategy.
      How about Kvyat + Perez at Haas…?

    4. GtisBetter (@)
      31st July 2019, 18:12

      I doubt mick Schumacher will collect enough points for his superlicense to get into f1

    5. Given how Red Bull has no one better than Kvyat in sight for the foreseeable future, I would argue that Red Bull is EXACTLY the place Kvyat should be if he wants to score some more podiums.

    6. It isn’t missing, he’s shown flashhes bt is at least 12 months more in F2 away from getting a junior seat in F1.

      I don’t see RBR giving Kvyatt the chance either.

  16. Pauls F1 fix
    31st July 2019, 16:12

    So have the early rumours linking Hulkenberg to Red Bull gone away now?

    It’ll be interesting where everyone will be by the end of the season.

    1. The Red Bull is a regular podium contender. The Hulk chokes when a podium is in sight. I think Horner did the math.

  17. ‘The word in Hockenheim is he now intends staying not only in F1, but with the yellow team.’

    Curious. Was that ever different? Did I miss something?

    1. @hahostolze I think there were rumors that Ocon might join Renault for 2020, with Hulkenberg preferring to move to WEC or some other series.

  18. I was a BIG Bottas fan until last year. He managed to snatch defeat from the very jaws of victory on too many occasions. COTA as an eg. Where Hamilton and Verstappen seem to be able to extract way more laps from old and hard tyres, he winds up in the pits. Pun intended. His race-craft is disappointing, something that we arm-chair racing experts pay attention to.
    As for comparisons between Shumacher and any current driver, forget it.
    Michael’s strength was as much his expertise at assembling an entire management and logistical team around himself and throughout Ferrari as it was about driving the car. And he was exemplary at that.
    I am not a M Shcumacher fan, never have been, but he did an amazing job building the team and driving the car. I don’t see anyone in the current F1 driver ranks with either the capability or the opportunity to replicate this.
    In the current market, this falls for the the Team Managers, Wolfe and Horner are two that come to mind.

    1. @rekibsn I feel like times are different now. Schumacher enjoyed a freedom and control that no driver since has been afforded. Ferrari basically made him their main man, and let him have control over basically everything, including personnel recruitment. I can’t imagine Toto Wolff or Horner letting Hamilton or Verstappen to choose which technical director or chief aerodynamicist would join the team. Schumacher was extremely gifted at working with people and getting everybody onside, but it mustn’t be forgotten that he was also allowed to have freedom to do what he wanted. You could argue that Vettel did something similar in Red Bull, although nowhere near the same extent, with the team of Horner, Newey, Vettel, Fallows, Prodromu and Rocky almost working in perfect sync most of the time

  19. Verstappen to Ferrari would be the most stupid decision Max or RBR can make right now! Why would Max leave RBR right now. They are in the upward trajectory already surpassing Ferrari in overall performance (chassis plus engine) and have a better team overall.

    1. @arnoudvanhouwelingen Agreed. Hadn’t heard/read any of this Max to Ferrari stuff until this article, nor Jos wanting an MS-like dynasty for his son, but I don’t see why he can’t shoot for that at RBR, and let’s not forget Max has Newey in his corner for the wholly new F1 in 2021.

      Hey Max has years yet in F1 so for sure going to Ferrari at some point is not just a possibility, I think it is likely…but not now. Max will remain in demand for the duration of his career, so no need to make such an abrupt change now when they have only just begun with Honda. I just think the 2021 Newey RBR Honda piloted by Max could very well be formidable.

  20. I can still see Hamilton going to Ferrari next year in a straight swap with Vettel… but I think I might be the only person in the world that thinks that might happen.

    1. Hamilton won’t leave Mercedes until he has 7 or 8 WDCs. Hopefully some other team/driver combo will give him some competition while he’s achieving those WDCs.

    2. Not at all. I regard this an option as well. He will have to balance this against wanting to beat Schumi’s records though. But he is extremely vain and will be tempted to do what Alonso and Vettel couldn’t and to do it (his overall WDC’s) at 3 different teams. So vanity vs sanity

  21. I can see Ocon taking Bottas’ place, and Bottas joining Haas only if one (or both?) their drivers are dropped. Mercedes could also choose to do a very disappointing decision and put russell in as the number 2 driver, theres no way he is going to cause hamilton problems.
    The dropped driver from Haas could join williams.

    I dont think redbull will completely drop Gasly, most likely demote him to torro rosso. With eihter kvyat or albon taking his place, too early to tell who.

    As long as Verstappen has a contract I am 100% sure there is no way redbull will let him loose. Plus Ferrari are happy with Leclerc, he’s going to be their number 1 driver soon, they dont need another fast youngster.

  22. I want Ham and Ver at Ferrari!

  23. My prediction:
    Mercedes- Hamilton/Bottas
    Ferrari- Vettel/Leclerc
    Red Bull- Verstappen/Hulkenberg
    McLaren- Sainz/Norris
    Renault- Ricciardo/Ocon
    Alfa Romeo- Raikkonen/Giovinazzi
    Toro Rosso- Gasly/Albon
    Racing Point- Perez/Stroll
    Haas- Magnussen/Kvyat
    Williams- Russell/Latifi

    1. @f1frog Sounds plausible.

      1. I think this is as likely a scenario as anything. Or as others have proposed, Ocon to Racing Point, Perez to Haas, Kvyat to Red Bull and Hulkenberg staying at Renault. I think it will be one of these two outcomes.

    2. My perdition:

      Verstappen to Merc, Hamilton to RBR just to blow up the pundits. Max will be partnering Ocon at Mercedes, because Toto wants a reason to take the FIA gig. And over at the new cool Bull, Norris will be chasing Lewis around in his instagram simulator.

      Meanwhile upheaval for the heaving horse as Ricciardo drives Seb to the airport departure lounge and pulls away with Leclerc in the boot. While Russell is signed by Renault to be mentored by Gasly.

      At Williams, Bottas and Latifi join just as the Williams boffins carve off 3 seconds per lap by simply disabling the parking brake when not parked. Hulkenberg joins Alonso at McLaren-Honda for more Netflix performance art reruns.

      Hass-Renault usher in a new era of behind-the-scenes expletives while trying to build a car from leftover 2018 Ferrari parts they actually understand. Their driver pairing is unannounced but the fastest driver to hack the Pirelli dev server first will get the drive. The second driver will be chosen by rigorous focus group selection at Netflix HQ.

      The only driver pairing unchanged on the grid is the combo of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in the freshly re-branded Sauber FCA Jeep Wrangler Formula 1 All Turns Vehicle Racing.

      Perez is dropped by Racing Point after the Strolls decide that one driver can drive both cars at once in order to maximize points and minimize qualy comparisons. The stated goal is for Lance to become the youngest driver to finish 1st and 2nd in a GP.

      In a year of unbelievable twists, the twistiest was the buyout of RBR’s junior team. The new Stroll B-team will have drivers, Albon and whoever Chloe is dating at the time. The will be known as either Racing Rosso Ferrari or Toro Point Aston Martin Tommy Mercedes Ralph & Kors & Associates Ride Share Marketing Vehicle Sports LLC.

      And some say the big changes won’t happen until 2021.

  24. Again with the “do a Schumacher” talk. Same thing happened when Alonso and then Vettel joined that team. Trying to replicate what Ferrari did in the mid 90s is impossible, not only they’d have to lure Verstappen or any other top driver, but also the whole technical side of whatever team is dominating or doing well enough. Like Mercedes or Red Bull.

    All Verstappen will get from joining Ferrari is dressing in red. Which, to be fair, it’s what most drivers want, you are instantly recognized forever. But as a platform to win championships? Ferrari is a complete mess right now, even more than before when Marchionne was with us. Plus they already have a hot driver waiting to punce in Charles.

    In any case, I don’t care about any of that. Max can go to Ferrari if he wants. My desires for next year rest on Gunther finally dropping Dumb and Dumber of their seats and hiring proper drivers. With a good pairing, Haas, tyre troubles and everything, would have double the points, I’m more than sure!

  25. I don’t see why Max would want to go to Ferrari in 2020 when he has a team built around him at RBR. I could see Seb returning to RBR but why would he, and would they want him in the same team as Max.

    RBR do of course have a history of having two competitive drivers in the same team and they might see it as improving their chances. Cannot see it happening before 2021 though.

    If Seb does leave then who will replace him? I think they are likely to promote Charles to no.1 so it would presumably be someone also fairly inexperienced or reliable in the Raikkonen mould. I could not see it being Giovanazzi. Perez?

  26. Loads of talk about who where why and for what ….
    All this goes out the window if someone, pretty much anyone, does a Rosberg and leaves the fold. That is the sort of shake-up that lights up the internet.
    There should also be more ruminating about who is going to shine and who won’t, in the second half of the season. And my bet is that there will be some winners and stinkers.
    Is The Break over yet.??

    1. I don’t get toto’s fascination with ocon. He failed to beat perez overall in 2 seasons. Be better off promoting Russell to learn his trade in a quick car whilst playing ‘wingman’.

      I don’t think Lewis will ever leave Mercedes to join ferrari but that will be his one regret when he retires, never driving the red car.

  27. I raced against Fernando and his best friend the last weekend in his own circuit. Asking his best friend whether Fernando would join again the F1 or not, he told me that he still doesn’t know what to do but it’s always a possibility. It all depends on how the market stays after this summer. Should we take this into account?

  28. My guess is very little movement. Only Grosjean out and maybe Ocon in.

    Even Gasly gets another season at Red Bull probably.

  29. In Wolff’s shoes, I’d give OCO to Renault, for the sake of the ambient. But I’d also let BOT go, for the sake of the team’s mightiness over competition. Let’s be honest: chances are VER is gonna eclipse BOT for 2nd place at WDC. To lose it for the 3rd time in a row in a state of his tenure where MERC is more ahead than ever is reason enough to be cut loose.

    Then, I’d take a leap of faith over HUL and give him his proper shot, see what he’s made of. After all, he was MERC’s first choice in the first place. Not only that, but he is just as good teammate as BOT, but also arguably more consistent. He’s well experienced to play the long game, and if he manages to keep choking for a podium in a real car, then he may pursue other things for good. By that time HAM would be bagging his next 2 or 3 WDCs whilst RUS gets ready. When the time is right, both HAM and HUL leaves, maybe even both with titles. Then enters RUS and OCO to carry on the legacy.

    That way Wolff watches both for his lead driver and his Team.

  30. The article has not one mention of Leclerc?

    I wonder why Ferrari is chasing Verstappen so much? They’ve got such a great tallent in the second car, Seb will very quickly become a No.2 to him in the coming year.

    Why have two bucking bulls at an already politically intense Ferrari?

  31. I can’t see all that many drivers wanting to commit until the new regulations surface. That’s the other unknown that could affect a teams performance, particularly as tyres likely to be massive changes for aero.

    Love to se Max go to Ferrari – be great comedy given Ferrari’s propensity for shooting itself in the foot and Max’s temper when things go wrong.

    Unfortunately of the drivers who least deserve to be on the grid, 1 is pretty much guaranteed a seat which in turn has pretty much ruined any chance Ocon has. He really has no choice but to leave Mercedes (and should have last year) as they’re not likely to put him in their car.

  32. Does Jos see Max emulating the achievements of his friend (and former Benetton team-mate) Michael Schumacher in effectively ‘saving’ the Scuderia?

    What a ridiculous statement. I think Todt, Brawn, Byrne and Goto had a lot more to do with saving Ferrari than Schumacher did. Max is probably the most talented driver out there, but without any of the other key components he will just be another Alonso or Vettel in the Scuderia. Could he win a championship with this years car? I doubt it with the management they have at Ferrari.

  33. “with a reputation for clashing with team mates.” Ocon only has this rep from this kind of misinfo. The guy has a reliability-WR in F1, the all-time record for most consecutive finishes from start of career, with 27. And he still only has had 50 starts, so he’s still rather inexperienced.
    The only clashes he was at fault, were Baku’17 and Baku’18, the latter not even with his teammate but with kimi.

  34. Dieter, if I was you, I wouldn’t make such unanimously critical judgments about Robert. I know it’s your personal dislike for Robert since he told you that you are asking stupid questions.

    You know what? I have no doubt about it, that you’ll have to eat your words about him at some point :-)

  35. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    3rd August 2019, 13:16

    I’m not sure why Mercedes would be focussing over these 2 races for Bottas’ future rather than looking over every race he’s had with them. It would be pretty silly to base everything on this one negative result. That is the only time in over 6 years in F1 that Bottas has crashed out of a race with just himself to blame. Don’t think any other driver in F1 has gone that long without making this sort of mistake. It is incredibly unlikely to happen again if he’s like he usually is and it didn’t look like it was a massive mistake at all. it was a tiny error with a terrible outcome. If Mercedes base it all on this result in this little amount of time, It would be like judging him for the first race of the season and signing him on instantly. I think they will look further back and consider that they have had the best start they have ever had to a season which will have been 6 lots of 1 – 2 without Verstappen hitting Bottas in Monaco. Then several more 1 – 2 finishes after this. With a start like this, a bad race effectively isn’t quite as bad. But both drivers really undelivered last race though. But as so many other drivers made simple errors that ended in retirement, I’m not convinced this will put quite as much pressure on Bottas to perform as some think. And I think Toto’s anger will have heavily been down to having already had Hamilton messing up and Bottas just adding to it. As silly as it sounds, if Bottas had been the only one that messed up, I don’t think he will have been as annoyed as it wasn’t a total loss for the team.

    How can we confirm anyone will have done better than him in that car? Given his highly rated wet weather performer team mate made a total mess of his race too, I think it just showed that any driver could have done what Bottas did really easily. It doesn’t represent his normal ability.

    I’ve still got the feeling they will stick with Bottas. Looking for future options and testing out a new driver would be the only reason i can see a swap, but out of the options they have, i can’t see the line up or points over the year being as strong as they are with the current line up. At least not in the first year. I see no need to change.

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