Many of the seats at front-running Formula 1 teams have already been filled for the 2017 season but there are still plenty of drives up for grabs in the super-competitive midfield pack.
Typically, September’s Italian Grand Prix kicks off the F1 driver market rumour mill and that remained the case this year. But who looks likely to be on the grid next year and who is in contention for a seat? We’ve taken a look:
Felipe Massa’s retirement announcement at Monza opened up one F1 seat at Williams, but Valtteri Bottas hasn’t been officially confirmed for 2017, so both remain unfilled – for now. It seems likely that Bottas will remain for another year, despite being linked to a few other teams.
But there are a couple of options for the second seat. GP2’s Alex Lynn is a development driver for Williams and he has an outside chance, while Felipe Nasr has history with the team and has done a decent job.
The favourite, though, seems to be Formula 3 championship leader Lance Stroll. The 17-year-old comes with strong financial backing, has proved himself in F3 this year and is currently undergoing tests with a 2014 F1 car with Williams. Another Max Verstappen? It’s a possibility.
This one should be straight forward, as Vijay Mallya said at Silverstone both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez will be retained. But Perez seemingly contradicted that statement by saying his options were open. His future is also partly decided by his sponsors.
So Renault could be an option, maybe Williams too. It seems extremely likely he’ll stay but if not, it could open the door for Pascal Wehrlein.
Carlos Sainz Jr. has done a pretty good job in his season and a half so far. Keeping him for 2017 looks likely and they’d be silly to lose him to another team. The second seat is more interesting, though.
Daniil Kvyat was demoted to Toro Rosso after the Russian GP this year and his form has been terrible since then. It picked up in Singapore but Pierre Gasly is impressing in GP2 and could well snatch away Kvyat’s seat.
Romain Grosjean is a very safe bet for a Haas seat in 2017, having scored all of the team’s points so far this year and been pretty impressive. But Esteban Gutierrez has had a pretty “meh” season, even admitting he’s become “bored” with 11th.
Well, drive a bit better then, Esteban? If he is ditched, Ferrari protégé and GP3 front-runner Charles Leclerc is a good option. A Ferrari-linked driver is what Haas will want but Jean-Eric Vergne is busy and Antonio Fuoco isn’t ready. Perez might be a possible option if Force India doesn’t work out but that seems unlikely.
Renault’s driver line-up for 2017 has been a major talking point in recent weeks, with both Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer looking at risk of losing their seats. Magnussen has scored the team’s only points but has had a few incidents and Renault are said to not be fans of his more relaxed work ethic. Palmer hasn’t set the world alight and has struggled to be a consistent match for Magnussen.
If we had to pick one to stay, it’d probably be Magnussen. Esteban Ocon was a reserve driver for Renault earlier this year before being snapped up by Manor. He’d be a great addition to Renault’s driver line-up. Other drivers in the frame are Bottas and Perez but they’ll probably stick with their current teams.
Manor has enjoyed a more competitive season in 2016, so hopes are high for next year. Current drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon could remain at the team if other doors fail to open. Rio Haryanto’s return to Manor is a possibility if he finds some money, while Alexander Rossi could have an outside chance but the Indy 500 winner looks set to stay in IndyCar. GP2 racer Jordan King is also an option.
The Swiss team has new owners, but its driver line-up will probably stay unchanged. Nasr has been linked to rivals but his options look pretty limited. Nasr and his Banco do Brasil money look set to remain at Sauber, alongside Marcus Ericsson. His backers have been linked to the team’s takeover so it’s a safe bet he’ll stay on for another year.