The European leg of the 2017 F1 Season has come to an end and the "Fly-Aways" remain.
The new owners of F1 have ensured that the sport is in the news for all the right reasons. Its also that time of the year when teams are locking down driver contracts or are in the final stages of talks with prospective pilots for next year.
Driver Markets is one topic that the media can never get enough of. Many claims turn out to be true, many don't.
Lets take a quick look into who is confirmed for 2018 and who isn't.
Scuderia Ferrari :
Scuderia Ferrari confirmed their lineup on the Belgian GP weekend with Sebastian Vettel signing a 3 year deal up until 2020 and Kimi Raikkonen till the end of 2018. Raikkonen's extension had a mixed reception but as a fan of Raikkonen its great news! I believe its the right decision by Ferrari to persist with the duo ( totally unbiased analysis here ). Raikkonen complements Vettel very well and the atmosphere within the team is extremely healthy. Kimi with his experience provides invaluable feedback to the team and Ferrari still have some catching up to do with Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel knows Ferrari is his best chance to get his 5th world title. Vettel is loved in Maranello and its great to see him continue in the red.
Experience over youth is the way forward for 2018 for Ferrari
Mercedes AMG F1 Team :
Lewis Hamilton continues his contract until the end of 2018. Staying put is a no-brainer for him. Valtteri Bottas joined the team for 1 year and the team made its intentions clear to continue the partnership into 2018. Bottas is doing an exceptional job in his first year. The team-mate relationship is as good as that in Ferrari. Bottas and Lewis are doing a fine job of keeping Ferrari at bay and the team have one hand on the Constructors' Trophy! Bottas is no slouch either and will be a more potent force in 2018. Its imperative that he must stay inspite of having protegees waiting to move up into the A-Team.
Red Bull Racing F1 Team :
The Honey Badger Daniel Ricciardo & The Flying Dutchman Max Verstappen continue their partnership for 2018. The chances of a seat opening in the other 2 front runners seemed a difficult prospect so it is best for the duo to stay put.
Sahara Force India F1 Team :
Force India also announced their intention to persist with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon for 2018. It hasn't been smooth sailing with the team-mates coming together and causing the team grief on a few occasions. They are banned form racing each other in 2017. However their talent cannot be belittled. Force India is a force to reckon with and it needs motivated and hungry individuals to pounce on any opportunity they may get from lapses by the front runners. There are few who can do what Perez and Ocon are capable of.
McLaren Honda F1 Team :
The Situation at McLaren is very tense. Their hopes of returning to glory with Honda have fallen flat. Fernando Alonso is very vocal about Honda's failures to deliver a powerful reliable engine, Stoffel Vandoorne feels no different. McLaren, the 2nd most successful team in F1 are now at a crossroads. Fernando Alonso will leave if McLaren choose to continue with Honda in 2018. Losing a two time World Champion to another team will be disastrous for McLaren and there is no driver that can replace a man with Fernando's experience. Renault power units is the only other option for them and the possibility of a switch has gained traction in the past fortnight. McLaren also need to consider the cost of divorce with Honda. Only McLaren can afford the pay demands of Alonso. Will they switch to Renault? I
definitely think so. A must to maintain their respect and prestige in
F1 besides holding onto the best driver on the grid ( personal opinion
). Stoffel Vandoorne is confirmed for 2018.
Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :
Williams have a talented prospect in Stroll who is finding his feet and beginning to impress people. Felipe Massa came in to fill the void left by Bottas at the end of 2016. Williams made it clear that they are in no hurry to discuss options for 2018 up until the end of the season. Paul di Resta is the reserve driver but his chances of landing a seat seem bleak. Stroll should be able to do enough to warrant a contract extension. Felipe's decision to stay or retire is still a debatable one. Williams hiring Alonso was also doing rounds for some time. Williams need someone experienced enough and fast to aid the development of the 2018 Contender. They must convince Felipe to stay another year before they can actually scout talent or hire a capable replacement for him in 2019. Pascal Wehrlein is out of contract and Mercedes would try to get him a seat at Williams should Sauber not opt to continue with him. Wehrlein is one driver Williams must consider.
Haas F1 Team :
Haas confirmed Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean quite early in the season and they rightly shifted their focus to developing a stronger and a faster car.
Renault Sport F1 Team :
Nico Hulkenberg is confirmed for 2018 and as per the reports coming in in the past couple of days, Renault have acquired the services of the talented Carlos Sainz Jr. This means that Jolyon Palmer's career in F1 might be coming to a sad end. Hulkenberg is fast and consistent and Renault is improving its car at a brisk rate. They will definitely be moving up the grid in 2018. Carlos Sainz Jr. has been stuck for quite sometime in Toro Rosso, Red Bull's B Team and his chances of moving up to the main team has dwindled drastically. He will definitely benefit from joining a Work's Team. Carlos Sainz's impending move to Renault will be just reward for his performances - but it could also hand a well-earned F1 chance to another deserving racer.
Renault will benefit from having 2 consistent strong drivers. Jolyon Palmer, as for him, its best to seek other pastures.
Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :
Toro Rosso are yet to announce their 2018 line-up. Daniil Kvyat is out of contract but with Carlos Sainz Jr. departure to Renault, he should bag an extension. Pierre Gasly, Red Bull Racing's Reserve Driver is slated to take up the 2nd seat for 2018 and the Frenchman has proven his potential in test sessions earlier. If Kvyat does get a contract extension, its imperative that he outperforms Gasly to ensure a strong case for promotion in 2019, should any of the current Red Bull Drivers opt to switch to another front runner.
Sauber F1 Team :
Sauber has both seats available for 2018. Ferrari are intending to invest in Sauber and re-brand it under the umbrella of Alfa-Romeo. Should the move come to fruition the team could become Ferrari's B Team and that could open up places for Antonio Giovinazzi and the talented Charles Le Clerc in F1. Marcus Ericsson would also have an opportunity of continuing there ( performances in second half matter ). Its improbable that Ferrari would allow a Mercedes Protegee in Wehrlein to continue in the team. Sauber still has the freedom to choose what they think is the way forward for them but for how long?
The championship resumes in Singapore this weekend and there will be a lot more clarity with teams and drivers in the coming weeks.
The general consensus for most has been to continue with the current pairing of drivers. Continuity is key for 2018..