It was a relatively stale year for driver changes between the 2017 and 2018 season, with Carlos Sainz’s move to Renault near the end of 2017 perhaps being the biggest talking point. With a multitude of drivers’ contracts running out at the end of 2018, the race is on to put pen to paper on the best driver deals. Here is all the latest speculation and rumours on the 2018-2019 F1 Silly Season!
AT A GLANCE…
Here are the confirmed drivers for the 2019 FIA Formula One season so far:
|Red Bull||Max Verstappen||TBC|
2018 Drivers: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
2019 Drivers: Lewis Hamilton, TBC
Mercedes’ options: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Ocon, Daniel Ricciardo
Lewis Hamilton has a contract with Mercedes until the end of this season, with talk of him signing an extension soon. Most likely, he’ll be at Mercedes in 2019, unless he decides to do a Rosberg…
Valtteri Bottas is currently in the second year of his Mercedes contract. The contract expires at the end of this season.
Esteban Ocon is a Mercedes young driver currently driving for Force India. Toto Wolff has suggested that if Ocon beats his team-mate Sergio Perez this season, and avoids on-track tangles with the Mexican, he may be offered a seat at Mercedes in 2019.
Daniel Ricciardo is in the final year of his contract with Red Bull Racing. He’s said he’d like to partner Lewis Hamilton in the future.
2018 Drivers: Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen
2019 Drivers: Sebastian Vettel, TBC
Under contract: Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel has a contract with Ferrari until 2020.
Ferrari’s options: Kimi Raikkonen, Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Antonio Giovinazzi, Daniil Kvyat, Fernando Alonso
Kimi Raikkonen has been kept on with a year-by-year contract since 2014. His contract is usually renewed around the time of the British Grand Prix. Many feel that it’s time for Ferrari to spice up their driver line-up, but finding a driver who will play a number two role and can bring consistent results appears to be a difficult task.
Charles Leclerc is in his rookie year of F1 with Sauber. He’s also a highly regarded member of Ferrari’s Young Driver Academy. He’ll need to prove that it’s not too early in his career to be promoted to a top tier seat, but his results so far in his junior career show that he’s certainly one to watch for the future.
Daniel Ricciardo is available for the 2019 season. The draw of a re-match with Vettel doesn’t seem to be high on the Australian’s wish list, though. Should he get a choice between Mercedes and Ferrari, Mercedes is the more likely option. Ferrari is nonetheless a possibility. It was reported in April 2018 that Ricciardo had already signed a contract with the Italian team for 2019. This claim has been denied by the Australian. In the Press Conference ahead of the Azerbajan Grand Prix, Ricciardo again denied reports that he has a pre-arrangement for 2019 with Ferrari and said that the only team he’s discussed his future with is Red Bull.
Valtteri Bottas may become available for the 2019 season, if Mercedes choose not to renew his contract. The Finn has proven himself to be a solid number two driver, and more consistent than the Scuderia’s current Finn.
Romain Grosjean is known to want a seat at Ferrari. He switched to the Haas team in 2016, partly so that he was in a better place for a Ferrari drive. The Frenchman has even learned Italian, just in case.
Sergio Perez used to be a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, but turned his back on it for a seat at McLaren in 2013. With his time at McLaren arguably coming too early, it seems that Perez is now ready for another chance at a top drive. The only question is – will Ferrari want a driver who in 2017 showed himself to not be the best team player?
Antonio Giovinazzi is also on Ferrari’s books, and is currently the reserve driver for Sauber. It’s unlikely he’d be called up to a Ferrari drive ahead of Leclerc, but Leclerc’s departure from Sauber, should it happen, could give the Italian a seat in F1.
Daniil Kvyat joined Ferrari as a development driver in January 2018. His role with the team isn’t expected to go much further than that.
Fernando Alonso. According to Spanish sport tabloid Diario Gol, Alonso could be heading back to Ferrari for 2019. The newspaper claims that Alonso and representatives from the team met at the Spanish Grand Prix.
2018 Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen
2019 Drivers: Max Verstappen, TBC
Under contract: Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen signed a new contract with Red Bull last season, which sees him staying with the team until 2020.
Red Bull’s options: Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Brendon Hartley
Daniel Ricciardo is yet to commit to a future with Red Bull Racing.
Carlos Sainz is currently on loan to Renault. If a space comes available at the team in 2019, it is a near certainty that Sainz will fill the gap, reigniting his Toro Rosso rivalry with Max Verstappen.
Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley are both at Toro Rosso this season. If Sainz is unable to join Red Bull from Renault, then the drive would likely go to one of the junior drivers. This is not a very likely situation though, with both Gasly and Hartley inexperienced and only in their first full season of F1.
2018 Drivers: Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon
2019 Drivers: TBC, TBC
Force India’s options: Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon, Pascal Wehrlein, Nicholas Latifi
Sergio Perez claimed after his contract was signed last year that staying with Force India was a ‘priority’, despite the lengthy delay in signing on the dotted line. Perez’s future at the team will largely be based on whether there is an opening further up the grid, and whether he can keep things amicable between himself and his younger team-mate.
Esteban Ocon starts his second year of a ‘multi-year’ contract with Force India this year. He’s likely to stay at the team for 2019, unless he gets called up by the Mercedes team.
Pascal Wehrlein is sitting out of Formula One this season and returns to DTM. He is still a member of the Mercedes junior program, so it is entirely plausible that the German manufacturer may want to place their driver here, as they have with Ocon.
Nicholas Latifi joins the team as a reserve driver for 2019, and will be getting some practice running. The Canadian F2 driver may be searching for a race seat at the team next season.
2018 Drivers: Lance Stroll, Sergey Sirotkin
2019 Drivers: TBC, TBC
Williams’ options: Lance Stroll, Sergey Sirotkin, Robert Kubica, Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean
Lance Stroll is likely to stay at Williams in 2019 purely for the amount of money he can bring to the team.
Sergey Sirotkin is signed to Williams on a ‘multi-year’ contract. He’s expected to stay for 2019.
Robert Kubica is the team’s test and reserve driver for 2018. After a lot of speculation about a comeback for the Polish driver, Williams eventually settled on Sirotkin instead of the Grand Prix winner. Nevertheless, with Nico Rosberg as his manager, Kubica will still be looking to make a full-time return in 2019.
Valtteri Bottas spent four seasons at Williams before he left for Mercedes. If he’s ditched from the championship winning team for 2019, could the Grove-based team get their former driver back?
Romain Grosjean is without a contract for 2019. Paddy Lowe is known to be a fan of Grosjean, whose experience would be handy.
2018 Drivers: Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz
2019 Drivers: TBC, TBC
Renault’s options: Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz, Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean
Nico Hulkenberg is expected to stay at Renault in 2019. He may have missed his chance for a drive at a team such as Ferrari or Mercedes, but Renault is a team on the move up the grid, and Hulkenberg would surely like to be a part of that journey.
Carlos Sainz is on loan to Renault from Red Bull. If Daniel Ricciardo leaves the Red Bull team, it is expected that Sainz will be his replacement. Otherwise, he’ll stay put for 2019.
Valtteri Bottas is available to Renault should he be forced out of the Mercedes team. A Renault seat may be one of Valtteri’s more attractive offers should this scenario arise.
Romain Grosjean is available for 2019. The Frenchman has a history with the Enstone-based team and has openly said that he’d like to return one day. A French driver for the French team as they move up the grid could work well for marketing.
2018 Drivers: Pierre Gasly, Brendon Hartley
2019 Drivers: TBC, TBC
Toro Rosso’s options: Pierre Gasly, Brendon Hartley, Daniel Ticktum, Nobuharu Matsushita
Pierre Gasly embarks on his first full season in F1 with Toro Rosso. He is Red Bull’s main feature of the junior program in recent years, so he’s more likely to stay at the team than his team-mate.
Brendon Hartley was handed a second F1 chance by Toro Rosso after being ditched from the Red Bull driver program in 2010. His place at the team seems to be more at risk than his team-mate’s, so he’ll need to prove himself worthy of a second season over the course of 2018.
Daniel Ticktum is a British driver who was signed up to the Red Bull Junior Team in 2017. He won the Macau Grand Prix in 2017 and is likely to race in GP3 in 2018. In five appearances in the series at the end of 2017, Ticktum finished in the top five on three occasions, and finished on the podium in the final race of the season. Will his 2018 performances put one of Toro Rosso’s current drivers under pressure?
Nobuharu Matsushita competes in F2. Honda were keen to place one of their young drivers at the Toro Rosso team for 2018 as they began to supply the team with engines. Matsushita didn’t have enough license points to qualify for a superlicense, however. If he finishes high enough in F2 this season, he could be under consideration for 2018.
2018 Drivers: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen
2019 Drivers: TBC, TBC
Haas’ options: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Santino Ferrucci, Antonio Giovinazzi, Charles Leclerc
Romain Grosjean starts his third season with Haas in 2018. With them unlikely to move up the grid this year, will Grosjean be looking for a new challenge in 2019, as his career reaches its mid-point?
Kevin Magnussen starts his second season with Haas in 2018. This is the first time he has spent more than one season racing for the same team in F1. Will Haas want to retain his services for a third year in 2019?
Santino Ferrucci is America’s best hope for an F1 driver in the near future. Haas has recently said that no American drivers are ready for F1. Can Ferrucci prove him wrong in F2 this season?
Antonio Giovinazzi may be available to the Haas team in 2019. He put in some practice sessions with Haas in 2017, but lost control of the car a few times, so has perhaps dented his reputation with the American team.
Charles Leclerc is currently driving for Sauber. Ferrari may wish to place him at the Haas team in 2019, if it is considered a move up the grid.
2018 Drivers: Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne
2019 Drivers: TBC, TBC
McLaren’s options: Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne, Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean, Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton
Fernando Alonso‘s future with McLaren depends largely on how competitive they are this season. Alongside F1, Fernando will be competing in the World Endurance Championship as part of the 2018/2019 superseason – meaning he is committed to racing in the WEC until June 2019. Will his experience in endurance racing pull him away from F1 for 2019? It seems to be McLaren or bust for Alonso next season.
Stoffel Vandoorne is in his second year as a full-time McLaren driver. Will his performances against Alonso in 2018 be enough to keep his seat for another season?
Valtteri Bottas is available for the 2019 season. If McLaren move up the order in 2018, a seat here may be one of Bottas’ best offers for the 2019 season.
Romain Grosjean may be available for McLaren in 2019, if they need an experienced hand to replace Alonso. Grosjean has had a good working relationship with Eric Boullier in the past, during his time at Lotus.
Lando Norris is McLaren’s reserve driver for 2018. All being fair, Norris is the most likely candidate to replace one of McLaren’s drivers if the opportunity arises, given his status on McLaren’s young driver ladder. Norris contests in F2 for the first time in 2018. Spanish media reported in April 2018 that Fernando Alonso would be leaving the team at the end of the 2018 season, and will be replaced by Lando Norris.
Lewis Hamilton. This could be a long shot, but Zak Brown says that he’s open to re-signing the former McLaren driver in the future. Hamilton himself has also said in the past that he’d like to return to McLaren one day.
2018 Drivers: Marcus Ericsson, Charles Leclerc
2019 Drivers: TBC, TBC
Sauber’s options: Marcus Ericsson, Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, £££££££££
Marcus Ericsson is starting his fifth season in F1 and is still yet to deliver a stand-out result. His place at the team is mainly thanks to his sponsors’ cash. Will Sauber want to take talent over money in 2019 if the car becomes more competitive?
Charles Leclerc is starting his first season in F1 with Sauber. Will he be able to put in performances to move him up to a more competitive drive in 2019? He’s certainly already on Ferrari’s radar.
Antonio Giovinazzi may finally get his F1 chance with Sauber in 2019. The 2016 GP2 runner-up performed well when standing in for Pascal Wehrlein for Sauber at the start of 2017, despite his crashes in Shanghai.
££££££££. It’s likely that at least one of Sauber’s drivers in 2019 will be the person who can bring the most money to the team.