As the final few races of the 2017 Formula One Season are on the horizon, we thought it was a good time to take a look at the ‘situations vacant’ postings for the F1 Teams. Out of a field of 20 cars, just six seats remain up for grabs – with plenty of talent waiting in the wings to pounce. @F1Barby takes a look at the current opportunities – but resists the temptation to rush out and grab his own superlicence.
Essential requirements: a 2018 Super Licence
(X1) MCLAREN – Fernando Alonso
Fernando will (most probably) renew his McLaren deal, the question is for how long? Eric Boullier is said to be currently “working on the fine details with Fernando Alonso” No doubt that Zak Brown seems ardent to build the team around Alonso if it means retaining him. Alonso, however, is costly. A financial administrators decision that was (conceivably) required to secure a free engine agreement from Honda, an understanding that is now defunct. Fernando is now significant for sponsorship deals that should compensate the extra budget demands 2018 will bring. Certainly, two rookie drivers would amplify that concern but we have to ask how long his earnings will be a justified management judgment when they have a bag full of points affecting 2019 FOM payments and Zak has a pair of bright young starlets idling in the garage, Norris being a particular pick of Zak’s. He won’t want to lose either. No doubt competition for this seat would be fierce.
- Lando Norris: McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team – Zak Brown seems confident Norris is ready for F1 and unlikely to be loaned to a rival team. Labelled “Promising” by Max Verstappen. Currently at the top of the FIA F3 championship in both the Rookie and Drivers tables. If he wins the F3 championship he will gain a further 10 points and gain a super licence – how’s that for an incentive.
- George Russell: McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team – A Mercedes Junior, tested a W08 in Budapest and secured the GP3 championship this month and ready to help with a driver shortage if needed.
(X2) SAUBER F1 TEAM: MARCUS ERICSSON & PASCAL WEHRLEIN
Both seats are currently unsigned for 2018. Frédéric Vasseur has taken control of the team. His first job was to bin the proposed Honda deal and with huge available funds retained the Ferrari engine agreement. Their current performance, however, is arguably the worst in the paddock, In Japan, they qualified over 4 seconds off the pace and both drivers have the lowest average point tally of any current championship drivers. It might be hard to suggest which to keep and which to ditch but one thing is for sure… the team want to work much more closely with Ferrari to work up the order and it would seem that in return it is probable that they have been asked to help develop Charles Leclerc, the third driver for HAAS in 2016 and current Ferrari Driver Academy driver, moved to Sauber in 2017 presumably in pursuit of an opportunity to prove his worth and climb up the F1 ladder. Both teams are supplied by Ferrari. GP3 Champ last year and the F2 championship last weekend.
He was examined in a Ferarri F1 car in the post-race Hungary test in earlier this year following F2 domination and will be further testing at Austin.
Maurizio Arrivabene wants to support the driver up through the ranks as the youngster eyes up the ultimate prize of a seat in a red car drive but wants to ensure he earns his right, proves his metal. Fred Vasseur stated earlier in sept that he would love to have the conversations around Leclerc joining Sauber F1 team but suggested it would be after the F2 title was completed so as not to cause a distraction.
Who to replace?
Wehrlein or Ericsson? Wehrlein has scored 5 points for Sauber V’s Ericcson’s 0. Wehrlein‘s best result this year happened in Singapore – a haul of 4 points BUT Ericsson seems linked to the Sauber’s owners…
My Guess – Wehrlein out and having already acted for Mercedes as a test driver, the ex Merc DTM champ may benefit from possible Mercedes Benz pressure applied to William’s for at least 3rd driver status.
Possible name to watch for: Sergey Sirotkin
(X1) WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING
In June 2017 Felipe Massa stated clearly that he would be open to extending his stay in Formula 1 beyond the end of the season. Up to Baku’s unfortunate incident on lap 22 (up into 3rd place), you could say he was certainly leading the charge for former world championship winning team.
Shortly after this missed opportunity, William’s Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe publicly declared Massa was “at the peak of his powers” (after 15 years in F1), however, has failed to secure the Brazilian to the team for a further season. Some rumours suggest that Massa was concerned that Alonso might have signed for the team and so was Felipe was in no rush to commit. Since Baku, Stroll has developed strongly to now be within two points of his mentor in only his first season.
Lance Stroll’s seat has been confirmed for 2018
Let’s not forget that Massa returned from retirement to take the seat, so it is not unreasonable to suggest that Williams Martini Racing has been exploring other options for 2018. Paul di Resta was used in Hungary as a stand-in due to Massa’s illness.
Paddy Lowe has since stated “We will be making some quite substantial changes.” although some evidence suggests that there are internal splits on the opinion of the best way to move forward.
Kubica, Massa and di Resta seem to be on the 2018 shortlist at Williams
Understandably Felipe would like to know what direction he will be heading in 2018 by his home GP of Brazil, typically a good race for Massa, (scoring 75 points over 13 races resulting in 2 wins, 3 pole positions, 1 fastest lap and 5 podiums). He may just want to make sure he has his chance of a final goodbye to his compatriots.
Massa insists that his remaining F1 outlook is limited to “Williams or nothing”- not sure if that is his wish or intuition speaking, either way, he appears to be “relaxed” whatever the outcome.
He has expressed interest in Formula E which is starting to look like an F1 retirement home, perhaps using Williams links with the Jaguar team.
Who to replace?
- Robert Kubica – Testing for Williams Martini Racing
- Alex Lynn – Williams Development Driver – Super Licence
- Luca Ghiotto – In August 2017, Ghiotto participated in the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test for Williams
- Di Resta in the wings?
- Button (unlikely)
- Palmer – Dad connection PLUS cash plus suddenly not busy
(X2) SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO – DANIIL KYVAT & CARLOS SAINZ
Scuderia Toro Rosso (x2) – Qualified over 3 seconds off the pace in Japan so really it has to be someone keen to gamble on next years performance potential.
Well… both seats up for grabs although in reality, Pierre Gasly (by request of Honda) has taken Kvyat’s for next year.
Carlos Sainz (STR) … well, options for a driver with a team link are fairly limited… Sebastian Buemi? He has a Super licence but caught up in FE, besides in F1 he failed to finish more than a third of the time.
So who has any Honda history, as that seems likely?? Vandoorne and Magnusson are about it. So we are left a bit with who is available and has drivers licence
Palmer?, Button? Sirotkin? For speculation sake I am going to have to go for Palmer or Sirotkin…. but please, suggestions on a postcard. I would quite like to see Ollie Rowland.
THE POOL: Got enough points for a 2017 super licence
Alex Lynn, Alexander Rossi, Andre Lotterer, Anthony Davidson, Antonio Giovinazzi, Benoit Treluyer, Brendon Hartley, Charles Leclerc, Felix Rosenqvist, Helio Castroneves
Jolyon Palmer, Jose Maria Lopez, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kazuki Nakajima, Loic Duval
Louis Deletraz, Lucas di Grassi, Marc Lieb, Marcel Fassler, Mark Webber, Neel Jani, Nelson Piquet Jnr, Nyck De Vries, Oliver Jarvis, Oliver Rowland, Romain Dumas, Scott Dixon, Sebastien Buemi, Sergey Sirotkin, Simon Pagenaud, Stephane Sarrazin, Timo Bernhard, Tom Dillmann, Will Power.
Feel free to speculate!