F1 2020 – 2021 Silly Season

With only a handful of drivers confirmed in their seats for next year, the F1 silly season in 2020 could be one of the wildest in years. Here are all the latest rumours and stories regarding the Formula 1 driver market for 2021. This page will be updated as the silly season progresses.


What we already knew

Ferrari and McLaren have already locked in their line-ups for the 2021 Formula 1 season. At the end of 2019, Charles Leclerc signed a new long-term deal with Ferrari, keeping him at the team until 2024. Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari announced that they would part ways at the end of 2020, and Carlos Sainz was confirmed as his replacement within a matter of days. Replacing Sainz at McLaren is Daniel Ricciardo, with Lando Norris confirmed to be staying at the team for a third year. Outside of those two teams, Max Verstappen signed with Red Bull through to 2023 in early 2020. Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez were the only drivers with their positions set for 2021. In August 2019, Ocon signed a two-year deal to race for Renault starting in 2020, while Perez’s future with Racing Point (who will become Aston Martin in 2021) had been confirmed through to 2022; though the Mexican driver’s contract was later terminated to make way for Sebastian Vettel. .

THE 2021 GRID SO FAR:

MERCEDES

VALTTERI BOTTAS

FERRARI

CHARLES LECLERC

CARLOS SAINZ

RED BULL

MAX VERSTAPPEN

McLAREN

DANIEL RICCIARDO

LANDO NORRIS

RENAULT

FERNANDO ALONSO

ESTEBAN OCON

ASTON MARTIN

SEBASTIAN VETTEL

ALPHATAURI

PIERRE GASLY

ALFA ROMEO

KIMI RAIKKONEN

ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI

HAAS

WILLIAMS

GEORGE RUSSEL

NICHOLAS LATIFI


TEAM BY TEAM:

MERCEDES

Rumours of Mercedes’ departure from the sport were quietly let go ahead of the 2020 season – though murmurs of Toto Wolff departing for Aston Martin continue to swirl. Whatever the future looks like from a managerial perspective, the team looks set to remain one of the leaders in 2021. Whoever ends up here is likely to be in title contention next year. UPDATE: Valtteri Bottas was confirmed to be staying at Mercedes for 2021 on 6th August 2020. 

THE CONTENDERS:

LEWIS HAMILTON: Will Lewis Hamilton stay with the team who have so far brought him five of his six World Championship victories? There seems to be only two reasons why he wouldn’t – retirement or a left field move to Aston Martin with Toto Wolff, should that be a situation that arises. Hamilton has spoken of his loyalty to Mercedes, so expect to see the number 44 on a Mercedes car again in 2021.

VALTTERI BOTTAS: If Valtteri Bottas has another strong season, like in 2019, Mercedes are likely to want to keep hold of the Finn for 2021. A known quantity, and the perfect foil for Lewis Hamilton. The safe money would be on Bottas retaining his seat in 2021.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL: A four-time German World Champion’s services are currently available for Mercedes in 2021. Putting the two drivers who have dominated the last decade of Formula 1 together in the same team is a mouthwatering prospect. Could Mercedes, and Vettel, be tempted? Toto Wolff has denied that the team has any intention of signing Vettel.

GEORGE RUSSELL: The Mercedes junior driver impressed in his first year in the uncompetitive Williams. Mercedes will be keeping a close eye on his progress in 2020, and he’s a good bet if a 2021 seat becomes available.


RED BULL

Make no mistake, Red Bull is Max Verstappen’s team. The Dutchman is confirmed at Red Bull until 2023, but there is plenty of intrigue over the identity of his 2021 team-mate.

THE CONTENDERS:

ALEX ALBON: It’s likely that the deciding factor in who Verstappen’s team-mate will be in 2021 depends upon each of their current drivers’ performances in 2020. Albon is in the best seat to impress, and will need to start scoring podium finishes in order to remain with the team.

PIERRE GASLY: After Pierre Gasly’s troubled start to life at Red Bull in 2019, the Frenchman moved back to Toro Rosso. His form at the junior team impressed. If he impresses again in 2020, could he find his way back to the top?

DANIIL KVYAT: Daniil Kvyat formerly drove for Red Bull between 2015 and 2016, before being replaced by Max Verstappen. Kvyat needs to up his game in 2020 against team-mate Pierre Gasly in order to have any hope of re-joining the senior team in 2021.

NICO HULKENBERG: Nico Hulkenberg is an option for Red Bull in 2021. After being dropped from Renault at the end of 2019, Hulkenberg has made impressive substitute appearances for Racing Point during 2020. In October, the team confirmed that Hulkenberg is of interest for the coming season, and that the team even spoke to the German ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix as his services may have been needed due to an inconclusive coronavirus test for Alex Albon.

SERGIO PEREZ: Should Red Bull be looking for a more experienced driver to partner Max Verstappen in 2021, Sergio Perez is on the market. Perez is a proven solid points scorer and would be a useful consistent back-up to Verstappen.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL: The former Red Bull driver is a free agent for 2021 – could Sebastian Vettel return to the team with which he won four titles? Christian Horner says that it is “enormously unlikely” that Vettel will re-join the team in 2021.


RENAULT

Renault have made their way through seven drivers since their return to the sport in 2016. Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to quit the team in favour of McLaren leaves the French manufacturer in a difficult position. Who do they choose to partner the already signed Esteban Ocon in 2021? UPDATE: Fernando Alonso was confirmed as Daniel Ricciardo’s replacement on 8th July 2020. 

THE CONTENDERS:

FERNANDO ALONSO: Will 2021 be the year that Fernando Alonso returns to the sport? Alonso remains Renault’s only F1 champion, and a return to the Enstone team would be his third stint at the outfit. If Alonso wants to return to Formula 1 in a somewhat competitive car, Renault seems his best shot – and with Renault needing a lead driver, Alonso surely has to be high on the consideration list.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL: If Sebastian Vettel wishes to have a team built around him – unlike his proposed deal at Ferrari – Renault would be the place to do it. A works team, who are in desperate need of strong results, with no obvious lead driver – the pairing would make a lot of sense. Don’t forget, Vettel won all four of his titles in a Renault-powered car.

NICO HULKENBERG: Nico Hulkenberg was dropped from Renault at the end of the 2019 season. Should the team be unable to sign a big name such as Alonso or Vettel, Hulkenberg – whose performances were of a similar level to Ricciardo when the pair were team-mates in 2019 – would be a good choice.

VALTTERI BOTTAS: If Valtteri Bottas is unable to secure a seat at Mercedes for 2021, Renault may be the best seat available to him.

GUANYU ZHOU: An outside bet to take a seat alongside Esteban Ocon is current Formula 2 driver and Renault Academy member Guanyu Zhou. Zhou impressed in his maiden F2 season last year and with F1 keen to expand in the Chinese market, having a Chinese Formula 1 star could be a good way to do it.


ALPHATAURI

Red Bull’s driver development programme has dried up in recent years, which may mean an unchanged line-up at AlphaTauri in 2021. UPDATE: Pierre Gasly was confirmed as an AlphaTuari driver for 2021 on 28th October 2020.

THE CONTENDERS:

PIERRE GASLY: Pierre Gasly was dropped from Red Bull midway through the 2019 season and returned to his former Toro Rosso team. He impressed on his return, regularly out-performing Daniil Kvyat and scoring a second place finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

DANIIL KVYAT: Daniil Kvyat also scored a podium finish at last year’s German Grand Prix, but his performances against Gasly in the second half of the year left something to be desired. While there’s no obvious candidate to replace Kvyat, the Russian may have to up his performances against his team-mate to secure a 2021 seat.

YUKI TSUNODA: Yuki Tsunoda is in the running for the Formula 2 title and is an obvious contender to step up to Formula 1 in 2021. A member of the Red Bull junior team, the Japanese driver will make an outing with AlphaTauri in the post-season young drivers test at the Yas Marina Circuit.

ALEX ALBON: If Red Bull opt to give Gasly or Kvyat – or someone else – a chance in the seat alongside Max Verstappen, Alex Albon could find himself back with the team he started his F1 career with at the start of 2019.

SERGIO SETTE CAMARA: In March 2020, Sergio Sette Camara moved from his role at McLaren to become Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s test and reserve driver. Of those on Red Bull’s driver programme at the moment, the Brazilian could be in the running to take a seat should one become available at AlphaTauri.

JURI VIPS: After placing fourth in the Formula 3 championship last year and taking three race wins, Juri Vips moved to Super Formula in 2020 and has made several Formula 2 outings. The Estonian has been a member of the Red Bull junior team since 2018 – could he get the call up to F1 in 2021?


ASTON MARTIN

In 2021, Racing Point will become Aston Martin as the British name returns to the sport for the first time since an ill-fated stint in 1959 and 1960. Sergio Perez is already confirmed at the team through to 2022, but a break clause in his contract may be activated. Will the team maintain status quo with Perez and Lance Stroll or look to make a big name signing? UPDATE: Sebastian Vettel was confirmed to be joining Aston Martin for 2021 on 10th September 2020. 

THE CONTENDERS:

SERGIO PEREZ: Sergio Perez already has a contract with the Silverstone-based team through to 2022; but with the team keen to sign Sebastian Vettel – and the other seat taken by the boss’s son – Perez is known to have had contact with other teams for a move in 2021.

LANCE STROLL: Lance Stroll is the obvious candidate to retain his Racing Point seat next season – not least because of his father’s connection to the team. However, with a four-time champion available – and with Perez being the more consistent points-scorer – could Stroll be placed at another team in 2021?

SEBASTIAN VETTEL: If Aston Martin are looking to make a statement as they join the sport in 2021, signing a four-time World Champion would be the perfect way to do it. Could Vettel be tempted to join the team based on their grand ambitions? Vettel has confirmed that he has held tentative talks with the team.


ALFA ROMEO

Kimi Raikkonen looks set to become the most experienced driver in Formula 1 history this season – but will both he and Antonio Giovinazzi remain at the former Sauber team for a third successive year in 2021. And if not, who are the other contenders? UPDATE: Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were confirmed as 2021 Alfa Romeo drivers on 30th October 2020. 

THE CONTENDERS:

KIMI RAIKKONEN: Will Kimi Raikkonen extend his tenure at Alfa Romeo, and in Formula 1, for another year? The Finn is surely in the twilight of his career, but he still seems to be enjoying racing. With no obvious replacement, the team may be keen to keep hold of his services for 2021.

ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI: Antonio Giovinazzi’s form improved throughout his maiden season with the team in 2019, and he was regularly matching Raikkonen’s pace at the end of the season. If that progress continues in 2020 – and with no obvious step up available – the young Italian is likely to remain at the team for a third year.

MICK SCHUMACHER: Could the legendary Schumacher name return to Formula 1 in 2021? Mick, son of seven-time World Champion Michael, currently races in Formula 2. Schumacher embarks on his second season in the feeder series. He finished twelfth in the championship last year, taking a win at the Hungaroring. Should he progress well in 2020, expect his name to be on the list for an Alfa Romeo seat in 2021.

ROBERT SHWARTZMAN: Like Schumacher, Robert Shwartzman is a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy. In 2020, Shwartzman will partner Schumacher at the Prema team in F2. The Russian heads to F2 as the reigning Formula 3 champion. If he has a stellar maiden season in F2, he too could be in line for an Alfa Romeo seat in 2021.

CALLUM ILLOT: Another member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Callum Illot is currently battling for the 2020 F2 title. With more experience than Schumacher and Shwartzman, could the British driver be another consideration for Alfa Romeo in 2021?

SERGIO PEREZ: With his Racing Point future in doubt, it is believed that Sergio Perez has made contact with other teams. Could the Mexican return to the former Sauber team, with whom he made his debut in 2011?


HAAS

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen have been team-mates at Haas since 2017. With no obvious better seats available to the pair, a driver change is likely to come from the team wanting fresh blood, rather than one of their current drivers wanting to move. UPDATE: Haas announced on 22nd October 2020 that both Grosjean and Magnussen will be leaving the team at the end of the season. 

THE CONTENDERS:

ROMAIN GROSJEAN: Romain Grosjean has been with the Haas team since they first raced in Formula 1 in 2016. After two disappointing years, the Frenchman needs to impress in 2020 to ensure a sixth year at the outfit.

KEVIN MAGNUSSEN: In their three years as team-mates, Kevin Magnussen has finished ahead of Grosjean in the Drivers’ Championship twice. His seat, therefore, seems more secure than Grosjean’s for 2021.

NIKITA MAZEPIN: Russian Formula 2 racer Nikita Mazepin is in the running to pick up a race seat at Haas in 2021. Mazepin would provide substantial financial backing to the team.

NICO HULKENBERG: Could a return to Formula 1 at Haas be a viable option for Nico Hulkenberg in 2021? The German is said to be keen to return to the sport, but only if the correct opportunity opens up.

SERGIO PEREZ: With his Racing Point future in doubt, it is believed that Sergio Perez has made contact with other teams. Haas is one of few options available to him.

LANCE STROLL: If Lance Stroll were to be forced out of his father’s team, it’s plausible that he would secure a seat at another team. Of the options available, Haas seems the most likely.

MICK SCHUMACHER, ROBERT SHWARTZMAN or CALLUM ILLOT: All members of the Ferrari Driver Academy, the trio of Formula 2 stars are currently vying for the F2 title. With Haas’ close links to Ferrari, it’s not impossible that one of their young drivers may be placed at the team in 2021.


WILLIAMS

Aside from their financial situation, Williams’ biggest worry in 2020 is likely to be losing George Russell to another team. If he leaves, or if Nicholas Latifi fails to impress, the team have an array of development drivers to call up to a race seat. UPDATE: George Russell and Nicholas Latifi were confirmed as Williams’ 2021 drivers on 16th July 2020. However, the team was since bought out by new owners, which may have affected their 2021 plans. Despite rumours that Sergio Perez would join the team, Simon Roberts confirmed Russell and Latifi as the team’s 2021 line-up on 30th October 2020. 

THE CONTENDERS:

GEORGE RUSSELL: George Russell impressed in his first season and, if his trajectory continues, Williams will be keen to keep the Brit on board for 2021. Whether another team will come swooping in with a better deal for Russell is another question.

NICHOLAS LATIFI: Will Nicholas Latifi continue for a second season with Williams? We’re yet to see him race in anger, but a strong campaign in F2 last year may suggest that the Canadian will stay at the team for next year.

SERGIO PEREZ: Sergio Perez’s services are available for 2021. Could Williams’ new owners be interested in the Mexican’s services, and the money which he would bring to the team?

JACK AITKEN: Jack Aitken left the Renault Driver Academy at the start of 2020 to join Williams, becoming the team’s reserve driver. Should a seat open up at the team for 2021, Aitken – a multiple race winner in Formula 2 – would be the obvious candidate to take the place.

DAN TICKTUM: Like Aitken, Dan Ticktum is another driver currently on Williams’ books. He was dropped from Red Bull’s driver programme in 2019, and soon after joined the Williams Racing Driver Academy. He will race full time in the F2 championship in 2020, with DAMS. Could his performances there grant him a shot at an F1 seat?


Who do you think will end up at each team in 2021? Send us your predictions on Twitter – @LightsOutF1Blog!