By: Ashley McCubbin
Over the past month, the Formula 1 driver’s market has become more clear with more competitors confirming whom they will drive for in 2021. Though at the same time, new questions have risen.
The latest announcements have the grid set as the follows….
- Mercedes – Valterri Bottas
- Ferrari – Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz
- Red Bull – Max Verstappen
- McLaren – Daniel Riccardo, Lando Norris
- Alpine (formally Renault) – Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso
- Aston Martin (formally Racing Point) – Sebastian Vettel
- Williams – George Russell, Nikolas Latifi
- Alpha Tauri – TBD
- Alfa Romeo – TBD
- Haas F1 Team – TBD
Beyond these announcements, there are several other assumptions that can be made simply based on the current narrative.
Lewis Hamilton will likely resign with Mercedes, given their success together in currently leading the points, as well as the multiple wins and championships. It’s just a matter of working out the fine details on paper.
Lance Stroll should be back at Aston Martin, given his father Lawrence Stroll is a part-owner of the team. There’d have be some interesting shift internally for that not to happen.
So where do we go from here?
As noted previously, Haas F1 Team has some of the biggest questions surrounding it, with not just the drivers but the team’s future in general. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen both know their contracts are up, but so is Haas’ commercial agreement with the series. It also worth noting the team has been late in decisions previously, as it was September of 2019 where confirmation came down of the pair returning for the 2020.
“It’s hard to know what the outcome will be,” Magnussen said in October. “And it wouldn’t be helpful to sit here and tell you guys the deadline and put pressure on the whole situation like that. So I’m taking it day by day and focusing on my racing while I wait for my future to unfold.”
Grosjean went on to add “always the earlier the better that you know your future,” and there’s “less speculation” right now in knowing that ” there aren’t that many seats left.” He’s also keeping his options open, having looked at the option of competing in the World Endurance Championship’s Hypercar category and Formula E.
Sergio Perez was thought to be out of the conversation for discussions as he believed he had a ride with Racing Point – until that was recently announced as not being the case. Now with a veteran driver in the mix, it’s throws a curveball in comparison to some of the other young drivers searching. It’s also worth noting that he’s in no hurry to lock something down, as he evaluate all possible options.
“Right now, I’m fully focused on this season with my team, I think we’ve made some really good progress, we’re getting my season back on track and I just want to deliver weekend after weekend. We are close to third in the constructors’ championship so that is the focus right now. The future is a matter of time and to be honest, I don’t have a lot more to say,” he said. “I’m trying to work around the options that are out there. I don’t really have anything to report at the moment. I hope in the coming weeks things will get a bit clearer and then I will know what will happen with my future. I’m pretty relaxed about it, as I said.”
There is a possibility for Perez to possibly head over to Haas F1 team, as recall there were previous conversations.
“For sure Checo is a good driver, I would never doubt about him, but is he the best for the mid-to-long term? I don’t know,” Haas boss Guenther Steiner said. “That is what we are discussing and therefore it’s not as much a no-brainer as it seems to be.”
Nico Hulkenberg is also looking for a ride, and continues to make a statement in the opportunities he gotten this year in substitution roles with Racing Point F1. Notably, he has been linked to possibly joining Red Bull (should Alex Albon move back to AlphaTauri), or taking over one of the Haas entries.
“Obviously, this is the best I can do, or the maximum I can do to promote myself and advertise,” said Hulkenberg. “But after Silverstone also, nothing really changed dramatically, immediately. I think it’s still a process. People know, obviously, that I’m around but we’ll just have to be a bit more patient to see what’s happening.”
AlphaTauri has yet to confirm either of their drivers, despite having reached victory lane with Pierre Gasly already this year. Now, that’s no surprise as normally Red Bull sets the line-up before the second-tier team, and they have only confirmed Max Verstappen thus far. Returning Gasly to the forefront is not expected, given what happened the first time, but he is most likely remain on this squad given AlphaTauri’s boss Franz Tost rated the Frenchman highly while Red Bull senior management are very pleased with how he has responded.
“As far as Pierre’s concerned, he’s doing a great job at AlphaTauri, he’s a good fit for them, they enjoy having him on the team and their aspirations of a team have changed so they need an experienced, competitive driver,” Red Bull head Christian Horner noted last month.
Daniil Kvyat currently holds the second seat at AlphaTauri, but a lack of consistency could see him shifted out of the seat to allow for Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese driver has impressed with victories in Formula 2, ranked third in standings, and is getting an opportunity to partake in an F1 practice.
There’s also the case of Alex Albon, and whether he can begin to match the performance of Verstappen or perhaps he need a demotion to kick things into gear like they did with Gasly. Should they decide to do that, it opens the door at Red Bull for Gasly (again, highly unlikely), or perhaps a veteran driver to join the squad alongside the young guns with both Hulkenberg and Perez searching for rides.
“Our intention is absolutely to retain our current drivers and Alex is our preferred choice,” Christian Horner commented last month “Inevitably you have to be aware of what the other options are out there, but our absolute preference and likelihood is to retain the current driver line-up that we have.”
Horner did add that everybody will know the line-up “certainly before Christmas.”