Driver changes between seasons are often hot topics in Formula 1 and there have been some major modifications to the grid in the past.
‘Silly season’ is known as a period of time where the media create frivolous stories when news starts to get a little slow, but in sport it’s the gap between competitive sporting seasons.
For F1, silly season is a little different. It often begins late in the summer when rumours and speculation starts to pick up pace about what next year’s grid will look like.
It’s also when announcements will be made, often continuing on and off over the remainder of the season and through the winter. So, silly season can last for quite a while.
We’ve seen some unusual, dramatic and surprising silly seasons in recent history. Here are some of the best:
There were so many changes for the 2010 season, the biggest story being Michael Schumacher’s return to F1 with Mercedes – the German manufacturer having taken over Brawn GP and also snatched Nico Rosberg from Williams.
We also had reigning world champion Button switching to McLaren, with Heikki Kovalainen moving to Team Lotus – one of three new teams on the grid, alongside HRT and Virgin Racing.
It also saw BMW and Toyota pull out of F1 for 2010, with Sauber taking back its team and returning to F1 as an independent team and the three new teams helping to boost the grid numbers up.
Fernando Alonso moved from Renault to Ferrari in what was a huge shift in the F1 driver market world, with Rubens Barrichello moving to Williams (naming just a few more changes).
Bruno Senna, Nico Hulkenberg and Vitaly Petrov were just a few of the rookies. Meanwhile Kimi Raikkonen left Ferrari and F1 (although he obviously returned a few years later). So the grid was very different compared to the 2009 season…
The 1993 F1 season featured a whole host of big changes to the grid, including Alain Prost’s return to the sport after a sabbatical. Nigel Mansell left the team because Williams wouldn’t guarantee number one status, so Damon Hill was drafted in as his replacement (using the number 0).
At McLaren, it looked as if Ayrton Senna wouldn’t drive for the team after Honda left as its engine supplier. It appeared IndyCar could be an option for Senna but he eventually signed a race-by-race contract, alongside Michael Andretti.
Gerhard Berger went back to Ferrari after leaving McLaren, while Riccardo Patrese was ditched by Williams and moved across to partner Michael Schumacher at Benetton.
Those were just some of the major moves, but in the midfield and at the back of the pack, there were plenty of changes and as it was the 90s, a few hopeless teams left F1 too.
The huge news from the 2013 silly season was Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes. When the rumours first appeared, many rubbished them, but it actually proved to be true.
After so many years with McLaren, Hamilton needed a change and felt Mercedes was his best bet for the future – taking over Schumacher’s seat when he retired for the second time.
With Hamilton moving teams, it sparked a big chain reaction in the driver market. Sergio Perez was named as his replacement, while Nico Hulkenberg moved over to replace him at Sauber alongside rookie Esteban Gutierrez.
Adrian Sutil made a return to Force India and Valtteri Bottas was promoted to a race seat at Williams. The line-up at the backmarkers (now without HRT) changed again, with Charlies Pic and Giedo van der Garde at Caterham and Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton at Marussia.
McLaren was, as often seems to be the case, the hot topic of discussion over 2007 silly season with Alonso moving from Renault – the team he won back-to-back titles with – to the Woking-based outfit.
Unusually, McLaren took a risk in opting for a rookie driver, with Hamilton stepping up to F1 alongside Alonso. Little did they know it’d be a volatile combination…
Fellow rookie Heikki Kovalainen stepped up to a race seat at Renault, while Kimi Raikkonen switched from McLaren to Ferrari to replace Michael Schumacher, who had retired from F1 for the first time.
Elsewhere, Mark Webber moved to Red Bull from Williams, with Alexander Wurz taking his place. Away from F1 driver news, Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn took a sabbatical – a huge headline for 2007.
There were a hell of a lot of changes to the 2005 F1 grid compared to 2004, with a wild silly season across the final stages of the season and the winter break.
Giancarlo Fisichella joined Alonso at Renault, with Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld going to Williams. Ralf Schumacher moved to Toyota and Juan Pablo Montoya replaced David Coulthard (who went to new team Red Bull) at McLaren.
Jacques Villeneuve returned to F1 full-time with Sauber. Both Jordan and Minardi, F1’s backmarkers at the time, both had completely new line-ups.
A major story throughout 2004 regarding 2005 silly season was Button’s future at BAR Honda. He signed a two-year Williams deal but there was a huge contract dispute, which eventually went to court.
BAR felt they had the right to exercise their option to keep Button for 2005 but Button’s management and Williams disagreed. BAR eventually won the battle and Button was forced to stay. Awkward…
There were major shifts in the driver market between 1987 and 1988, with a big headline being young star Senna’s move to McLaren alongside Alain Prost. It would go on to become one of the biggest team-mate battles of all time…
Nelson Piquet won the previous year’s title but left Williams to go to Lotus, being replaced by Ricardo Patrese. There were a couple of new teams too, including the oddly-titled EuroBrun and Rial, but none of them achieved very much.
We haven’t even got to the 2017 F1 season yet but already there’s been a hell of a lot of movement in the grid, with Nico Rosberg’s F1 retirement being the big headline.
Having won the title in Abu Dhabi for the first time, Rosberg announced his retirement from F1 leaving a vacant seat at reigning champions Mercedes.
We probably won’t hear about his replacement until closer to the new season but already it appears Valtteri Bottas is in prime position to move to Mercedes, with Felipe Massa’s retirement lasting just a few months before coming back to Williams for another year.
There have already been quite a few changes too. Esteban Ocon has moved to Force India, Nico Hulkenberg is racing for Renault in 2017, Jenson Button is taking some time off and has been replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne, Kevin Magnussen is off to Haas and Lance Stroll will debut.
It’s been a busy and exciting one so far and there are still seats left to be filled…