All quiet at the top end of the F1 driver market for 2019

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By Jawad Yaqub, Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru


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    Mercedes are yet again a team with two great drivers, but a one-man show. (Image supplied by AMG Petronas Motorsport).

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    The Formula One driver market has once again stagnated, with a number of key seats for 2018 already signed, sealed and delivered.

    Ferrari, who entered the annual Silly Season as the team who had the potential to make significant changes, elected to retain its current line-up – closing off any chances of movement among the top teams.

    It was the confirmation of Kimi Räikkönen, prior to the Belgian Grand Prix, that led to Sebastian Vettel coming to terms with the Scuderia for another three seasons – while the Finn earns another year to his name.

    Valtteri Bottas is a surety to retain his spot with the Silver Arrows following a breakout debut campaign for the world champions, and with watertight contracts in place at Red Bull, it looks unlikely that either Daniel Ricciardo or the ungratified Max Verstappen will be departing.

    Despite the continual disappointments being suffered by Verstappen, having had a sixth retirement of the season at his ‘home’ Grand Prix over the weekend, 2019 is the earliest that the 19-year-old Dutchman could be on the move – and even then, where would he go?

    Though what must be taken into consideration, is that Red Bull still have time to regain its competitive mojo and do enough to provide Verstappen and Ricciardo with a car that is capable of challenging Mercedes AMG and Ferrari.

    While the energy drinks giant’s situation may not be as dire as McLaren, for example, both outfits have the next best chance to match the top two in this era of regulations, based on their available resources and past success.

    As for McLaren, they could be one of the few teams that does see a change in their line-up for 2018, with a perennially despondent Fernando Alonso giving tacit confirmation that he will not remain with the team if the maligned Honda power-unit does.

    At best, McLaren can hope to be a midfield competitor in 2018, whether they maintain Honda as their engine supplier or make a switch to Renault, as has been suggested. However, it is with Honda, despite the three years of pain and embarrassment, that McLaren have some hope of joining the upper echelon again – with that onus on manufacturer teams succeeding.

    As with McLaren’s fate, Alonso can only hope to be behind the wheel of an average car in 2018, whether he returns to Renault, at which he won his two championships, or moves to Williams.

    In short, heaven and Earth would have to be moved – or Lewis Hamilton would have to retire – for any significant changes to the frontrunners before 2019.

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