F1 is on holiday, the drivers are resting. The perfect opportunity to take stock of what might or might not happen in the transfer market by the end of the season.
What will the grid look like in 2018? Who will change stables, who will stay, who will arrive in F1? So many questions that the agents and managers of pilots are trying to answer at the moment.
Like every year, during the summer, the rumors rumble in the paddock and involve cadors like Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso, as much as possible rookies like Charles Leclerc. What is certain is that we are sure of nothing, and the mercato 2017-2018 could prove to be as flamboyant as very, very calm.
Vettel and Alonso have the keys
Two world champions are at the end of the long contract this year, Vettel at Ferrari and Alonso at McLaren (they both arrived in their respective teams in 2015). And the German as well as the Spaniard hold keys to lock or free the transfer market.
Kimi Räikkönen, who also comes to the end of his one-year contract with the Scuderia, is also the case. This is a contract that Ferrari executives threaten each season not to renew if the Finn is not raising his level, and that they finish each time by prolonging. Will it still be the case this time?
Ferrari thinks of Verstappen, but for when?
If Räikkönen is not prolonged, or if Vettel goes away, it could create an air call, but for whom? The Scuderia would like to attract the star of the Max Verstappen paddock, but Red Bull is confident in his ability to retain the young Dutchman and in the contract that binds them.
Ferrari could thus wait another year for Verstappen, so keep Räikkönen, unless trying to bet Sergio Perez to heat the place to the Dutch. Another driver has never hidden his urge to race in a red car: Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas Extension at Mercedes, “an obvious”
The British has one more year of contract with Mercedes and it is hard to leave this winter, but why not imagine a duo Hamilton – Verstappen at Ferrari in 2019? At Mercedes, what will happen to Valtteri Bottas? A priori, given the level of performances of the Finn (3rd of the Championship with two victories), it will be preserved by the German stable.
Toto Wolff even assured that his extension was “obvious.” But it has not yet been confirmed and rumors have turned in the paddock in recent weeks, speaking of a pre-contract already signed between Mercedes and … Vettel, which will be free in a few months. Free, as quadruple world champion, to go in the stable that he wants but who also has the means to offer it. And they are few …
The other big question of the end of the season concerns the future of Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has three options: stay at McLaren, go to another team or leave F1, probably to join the Indycar, his experience at the 500 miles of Indianapolis having delighted him.
His third season with the Honda engine not happening frankly better than the previous two, he certainly desires elsewhere. But, as for Vettel, with his salary worth tens of millions of euros, which team could recruit Alonso? Mercedes and Ferrari have already announced not to be interested. It should not be forgotten either that McLaren is looking for another engine for 2018 (Mercedes?), Which could prompt Alonso to stay.
Renault is preparing the sequel
And if not, what can we expect from this transfer window? Carlos Sainz, after three seasons at Toro Rosso, said in a somewhat categorical way that he felt ready to move to the next level at Red Bull. But that would require Verstappen or Ricciardo to go. If not, then the Spaniard could go elsewhere (Ferrari? Renault? Williams? Force India?).
Sauber, which will be equipped in 2018 with Ferrari engines of the current season, is likely to host, in exchange, the Monegasque Charles Leclerc, potential F2 champion this season and member of the Ferrari Driver Academy. Renault, who assures for the moment that Jolyon Palmer is not in danger, prepares all the same the ground to replace it, before or after the end of season, by Robert Kubica.
There are also other unknowns at Toro Rosso, where Daniil Kvyat, whose level has only declined for two years, could be replaced by the French Pierre Gasly. And at Williams, where Felipe Massa only won for a season and Lance Stroll also signed only for 2017. At the moment, the only stable to have confirmed his two drivers for next season is Haas (Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen).