A Team By Team Look At The F1 Driver Market
The past couple of weeks have seen some big moves in the F1 driver market with Ricciardo going to Renault, Alonso retiring from F1, and Sainz signing for McLaren. It has been one of the busiest seasons, in terms of driver movement, in recent years. With seats opening and closing up and down the grid we aren't any closer to knowing the 2019 driver lineup than we were at the beginning of the summer break.
Within the top three teams there are two seats open, one at Red Bull and one at Ferrari. Gasly looks set to take the Red Bull seat after Alonso and Sainz announced their plans for 2019. At Ferrari, rumor has it that Raikkonen will renew his contract, but the possibility remains that Leclerc could make the move to the Scuderia.
All the movement among the front runners means that seats in the midfield have opened up too. Renault are the only team in the midfield who have confirmed both of their drivers for next season. Both Haas drivers are in need of a contract renewal, but if Leclerc doesn't get the Ferrari drive he could sign for the American team. Grosjean would most likely be forced out due to his significant lack of points this year in a car that deserves much more. Over the year as a whole he has been behind Magnussen who has had one of his best seasons of his career.
Force India's driver situation got a lot more interesting after Lawrence Stroll (Lance Stroll's father) saved the team from administration. Most assume that Lance Stroll will take one of the seats at Force India but it's unclear which driver will be forced out. If Perez or Ocon are forced out it will be difficult for either of them to find a competitive car for next year.
McLaren have locked Carlos Sainz into a multi-year contract, but have to decide whether or not to resign Vandoorne. He has struggled with chassis problems for a chunk of the year which has prevented him from challenging Alonso. The two-time world champion considers him one of his quickest teammates throughout his career. Lando Norris could replace Vandoorne which would make for an extremely young team. That could be what McLaren are looking for as they attempt to rebuild the team into a title challenger.
Toro Rosso are likely to lose Pierre Gasly to Red Bull, and with Hartley's seat up for grabs they could have a whole new driver lineup next year. Hartley has struggled in comparison to his teammate this year but his relative experience could be key next year with a new driver in the team. Lando Norris has been rumored to join Toro Rosso too, but McLaren will have first choice as he is currently their third driver.
At Sauber, their lineup is dependent on whether or not Leclerc leaves for Haas or Ferrari. Ericsson will most likely stay after his improved form this season and the financial backing he brings to the team. Giovinazzi would most likely fill the any empty seat.
Williams look set to lose Stroll to Force India and all the financial backing that comes with him. The team are already struggling financially as their title sponsor Martini will end their partnership with the team at the end of the season. Williams will also lose prize money this season due to their struggles at the back of the field.
Overall the driver market still has plenty of life left with countless scenarios that could play out leading up to the 2019 season. Comment what moves you think will happen before the end of the summer break and don't forget to bump.