F1 2018-2019 Silly Season

F1 2018-2019 Silly Season

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:

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton Valtteri Bottas
Ferrari Sebastian Vettel Charles Leclerc
Red Bull Max Verstappen Pierre Gasly
Force India Sergio Perez Lance Stroll
Williams George Russell Robert Kubica
Renault Daniel Ricciardo Nico Hulkenberg
Toro Rosso Daniil Kvyat Alexander Albon
Haas Romain Grosjean Kevin Magnussen
McLaren Carlos Sainz Lando Norris
Sauber Kimi Raikkonen Antonio Giovinazzi

Mercedes

2018 Drivers: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas

2019 Drivers: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas

Under Contract:

Lewis Hamilton signed a new two year deal with Mercedes on 19th July 2018. He’ll be at the team in 2019, unless he decides to do a Rosberg… 

Valtteri Bottas signed a one year contract extension with Mercedes on 20th July 2018. 

Mercedes’ options: Esteban Ocon, Daniel Ricciardo

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. 


Ferrari

2018 Drivers: Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen

2019 Drivers: Sebastian Vettel, Chalres Leclerc

Under contract: Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel has a contract with Ferrari until 2020.

Charles Leclerc‘sresults so far in his junior career show that he’s certainly one to watch for the future and his performance so far at Sauber is backing his reputation up. In June 2018, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Leclerc had signed a two-year deal to join Ferrari from 2019 to driver alongside Sebastian Vettel. After the death of Sergio Marchionne, there was some doubt over whether Ferrari would change their line-up. However, over the Italian Grand Prix weekend, it was reported that the Monegasque driver would be joining the team in 2019. Leclerc’s place at Ferrari for 2019 was finally confirmed on 11th September 2018. 

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. 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.

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 AlonsoAccording 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.  


Red Bull

2018 Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen

2019 Drivers: Max Verstappen, Pierre Gasly

Under contract: Max Verstappen, Pierre Gasly

Max Verstappen signed a new contract with Red Bull last season, which sees him staying with the team until 2020.

Pierre Gasly was confirmed as a 2019 Red Bull driver on 20th August 2018. 

Red Bull’s options: Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly

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. 





Force India

2018 Drivers: Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon

2019 Drivers: Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll

Under contract: Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll

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 has always seemed more stable than his current team-mate’s, though he was known to have been on McLaren’s radar for a potential drive in August. It was confirmed on 18th October 2018 that Perez would remain at Force India for a sixth year in 2019. 

Lance Stroll emerged as a contender for a Force India seat in July 2018. He admitted that his future at Williams was uncertain and said he’d “do what’s best for [himself] as a driver.” After his father bought the team in August, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Canadian driver was announced as Perez’s team-mate for 2019. As it turned out, Stroll was the final driver to have his 2019 drive confirmed on 30th November 2018. 

Force India’s options: Esteban Ocon, Pascal Wehrlein, Nicholas Latifi, Lance Stroll

Esteban Ocon starts his second year of a ‘multi-year’ contract with Force India this year. He’s likely to leave the team at the end of 2018 as a result of Lance Stroll’s expected arrival. 

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.

 


Williams

2018 Drivers: Lance Stroll, Sergey Sirotkin

2019 Drivers: Robert Kubica, George Russell

Under contract:

George Russell. The current Formula Two championship leader had been rumoured to be on Williams’ list of potential 2019 drivers. It was believed that Mercedes were more keen on placing Russell at the team than Ocon. Williams announced Russell as a 2019 driver on 12th October 2018.   

Robert Kubica is the team’s test and reserve driver for 2018. After a lot of speculation about a comeback for the Polish driver in 2018, Williams eventually settled on Sirotkin instead of the Grand Prix winner. Nevertheless, good things come to those who wait and, after several FP1 outings in 2018, Kubica will return to a full-time race seat in 2019. 

Williams’ options: Lance Stroll, Sergey Sirotkin, Robert Kubica, Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean, Artem Markelov, Esteban Ocon

Lance Stroll is expected to leave Williams for Force India in 2019 now that his father owns the Silverstone-based team. 

Sergey Sirotkin was signed to Williams on a ‘multi-year’ contract, but announced he’d be out of the sport for 2019 when Robert Kubica was announced as the team’s second driver in November.

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.

Artem Markelov. The Russian driver has impressed during his career in F2, and rumours in August 2018 have linked him with a seat at Williams, possibly even before the 2018 season is over. 

Esteban Ocon. Esteban Ocon looks likely to be out of Formula 1 for 2019, unless Mercedes place him at Williams. 


Renault

2018 Drivers: Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz

2019 Drivers: Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg

Under contract: 

Daniel Ricciardo & Nico Hulkenberg – Ricciardo surprised everyone by announcing his move to Renault on 3rd August 2018. Renault announced on the same day that Nico Hulkenberg would partner him next year

Renault’s options: Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz, Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon

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. 

Sergio Perez was offered a drive with Renault a few years ago but stayed at Force India. He’s often said that his sponsors will decide where he drives each season. Could they see Renault as an attractive proposition for the Mexican driver? 

Esteban OconSeems like a long shot given his relationship with Mercedes, but some sources link the Frenchman to the French team for 2019. Ocon has previously been a Renault test driver.  


Toro Rosso

2018 Drivers: Pierre Gasly, Brendon Hartley

2019 Drivers: Daniil Kvyat, Alexander Albon

Under contract: 

Daniil Kvyat was booted out of the Red Bull family towards the end of 2017 but, after weeks of speculation, it was announced over the 2018 Russian Grand Prix weekend that Kvyat would be returning to his former team for 2019. 

Alexander Albon. Albon used to be a member of the Red Bull young driver program. His stellar performances in Formula 2  led to speculation that Red Bull may re-sign Albon for a race seat at the junior team in 2019. On 20th September 2018, it was announced that Albon would be driving for Nissan in the upcoming Formula E season; though rumours still persisted that he could be on the move to Toro Rosso. Eventually, on 26th November 2018, it was announced that Albon had extracted himself from his Nissan contract to join Toro Rosso for 2019. 

Toro Rosso’s options: Pierre Gasly, Brendon Hartley, Daniel Ticktum, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alexander Albon, Sebastien Buemi, Pascal Wehrlein, Stoffel Vandoorne, Sergey Sirotkin

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. In five appearances in GP3 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. He’s unlikely to get a drive as he doesn’t have enough points for an FIA Superlicense. 

Antonio Giovinazzi. Helmut Marko has said that the team has spoken to the Italian driver about a potential drive at Toro Rosso for 2019, but he has since become unavailable. 

Sebastien Buemi. The Swiss driver has been Red Bull’s test and reserve driver for years. The Toro Rosso posted a picture of him having a seat fit on Twitter, heightening speculation that Buemi could return to a race seat after a seven year absence. On 20th September 2018, it was confirmed that he’d be driving for Nissan in the fifth season of Formula E. 

Pascal Wehrlein. Pascal Wehrlein was rumoured to be taking Brendon Hartley’s seat around the time of the Canadian Grand Prix, though those rumours soon ended. In September 2018, it was announced that Wehrlein would be parting ways with Mercedes at the end of the season, making him a free agent in the driver market. It was announced on 16th October that Pascal Wehrlein would be driving for Mahindra in the upcoming Formula E season. 

Stoffel Vandoorne. After losing his place at McLaren to Lando Norris, could the Belgian driver end up at Toro Rosso for 2019? Over the Singapore Grand Pix weekned, Christian Horner said the team were considering him for a place at the junior team. 

Sergey Sirotkin. It has been reported that Sirotkin’s representatives met with Helmut Marko over the Russian Grand Prix weekend to discuss a potential 2019 drive with Red Bull junior team. 


Haas

2018 Drivers: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen

2019 Drivers: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen

Under contract: 

Romain Grosjean & Kevin Magnussen – On 28th September 2018, Haas announced that they would retain their current driver line-up for the 2019 season. 

Haas’ options: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez

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.

Sergio Perez. If the Mexican is forced out of his seat at Force India, it is thought he may end up at Haas. 


McLaren

2018 Drivers: Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne

2019 Drivers: Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris

Under contract:

Carlos Sainz was announced as Fernando Alonso’s replacement on 16th August 2018. 

Lando Norris is McLaren’s reserve driver for 2018. Given his status on McLaren’s young driver ladder, it came as no surprise when Norris was announced as Stoffel Vandoorne’s replacement on 3rd September 2018. Just as Spanish media reported in April 2018. Fernando Alonso leaves the team at the end of the 2018 season, and will be replaced by Norris.

McLaren’s options: Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean, Lando Norris, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon

Fernando Alonsos 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. On 2n September 2018, McLaren announced Vandoorne would leave the team. 

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.

Daniel RicciardoIn June 2018, it was reported that Ricciardo had been offered a $20m deal to race with McLaren in 2019. The Australian has not yet denied the claims. 

Romain Grosjean may be available for McLaren in 2019, if they need an experienced hand to replace Alonso. 

Kimi Raikkonen wasbelieved to be on McLaren’s shortlist as a replacement for Alonso. Supposedly, he would partner Lando Norris, providing the team with experience alongside their young driver.

Lewis HamiltonThis 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.

Sergio PerezA return to the Woking-based team is a possibility for the Mexican in 2019.

Esteban Ocon was reported to be in the running for Stoffel Vandoorne’s seat for the second half of the season, but was too tall to fit in the cockpit when he went for a seat fitting. Whether that’s true or not, the Frenchman could well be on McLaren’s wishlist for 2019. 


Sauber

2018 Drivers: Marcus Ericsson, Charles Leclerc

2019 Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi

Under contract: Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi

Kimi Raikkonen. For 2019,Kimi Raikkonen will rejoin the team at which he started his F1 career as he swaps seats with Charles Leclerc.

Antonio Giovinazzi will 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. Helmut Marko said that he had contacted the Italian about a 2019 drive, but he has since become unavailable – suggesting he may be in line for a Sauber driver to replace the Ferrari-bound Charles Leclerc. He was confirmed as a 2019 Sauber driver on 25th September. 

Sauber’s options: Marcus Ericsson, Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, Stoffel Vandoorne, Kimi Raikkonen

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. 

Stoffel Vandoorne. Sauber Team Principal Frederic Vasseur is known to be a fan of the Belgian driver. He could find himself with a lifeline here should he be forced out of his McLaren seat, though Sauber commented at the end of August that he was not on their radar for a 2019 race seat.