Overview: Formula 1 silly season rumbles on
18 August 2017 – While the Formula 1 community has recharged its batteries over the summer break, the silly season has rumbled on in the background. GPUpdate.net provides an overview of the situation and speculation.
Lewis Hamilton is contracted through to the end of 2018, having signed a three-year extension in 2015. Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, is on a one-year deal, and has impressed with his speed and application since moving from Williams to replace Nico Rosberg. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he would spend the summer break considering options, but that keeping Bottas is "almost a no-brainer".
Sebastian Vettel is in the final season of a three-year deal with Ferrari, and has repeatedly insisted he is in "no rush" to settle his future, with focus on the fight against Mercedes. Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne has said there is a "better than 50 per cent" chance of Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen being retained, having hinted at an announcement at the team's home event next month.
As per the leading teams, Red Bull has both of its drivers locked down for 2018, with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen contracted. Red Bull has reiterated that, unlike for Vettel, there are no performance-based get-out clauses for either Ricciardo or Verstappen. Red Bull has Toro Rosso racer Carlos Sainz Jr. as a back-up in the highly unlikely event that something does change.
Impressive Mercedes-backed young gun Esteban Ocon is on a multi-year deal and therefore staying, while Sergio Pérez has intimated that he wants his future sorted when Formula 1 returns from its summer break. Pérez was previously linked with Renault, which is rebuilding after returning to the sport as a full works team, but is expected to remain with Force India for a fifth season.
Another team which is likely to field an unchanged line-up. Williams benefits substantially from the financial might behind rookie Lance Stroll, and has been through the worst with the young Canadian, in terms of his experience/pace. Felipe Massa has been tipped to stay, though Williams was open to the prospect of Paul di Resta making a comeback, after his competent stand-in performance in Hungary.
Will he, won't he? Fernando Alonso has repeatedly emphasised he will decide his future in September or October, dependent on McLaren's prospects for 2018. As it stands, irrespective of engine supplier, Alonso has few options elsewhere, with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull all uninterested. In F1 terms, it's McLaren or bust. Stoffel Vandoorne will stay. McLaren still has Jenson Button under contract for 2018, with youngsters Nyck de Vries and Lando Norris also on its books.
Carlos Sainz Jr. commented in Austria that it was "unlikely" he would stay with Toro Rosso for 2018, only to be admonished by senior Red Bull figures. With graduation to a top seat unlikely, Sainz Jr. will stay, unless Renault is inclined to buy out his contract – rumoured to be at the $8 million mark. Red Bull has hinted that Daniil Kvyat will stay – and the Russian wants to – but should the line-up change, Pierre Gasly would be slotted into the vacant seat.
The saga over Esteban Gutiérrez's future was a talking point for months last year, before the Mexican eventually lost his seat, but this season Haas has ensured that it will not be part of the rumour mill, already confirming that it will continue to field Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen into 2018, with both drivers scoring points.
Nico Hülkenberg will stay, but intrigue over the second seat remains a primary talking point. Robert Kubica's testing comeback has ignited huge interest, but the Pole insisted he is staying "very, very realistic", while Renault has been coy over the subject. Kubica/Renault for 2018 is the match the majority want to see; if not, Renault has the option to buy Sainz Jr.'s services, having touted the youngster 12 months ago. Renault also has Oliver Rowland, Sergey Sirotkin and Nicholas Latifi on its books. Pérez, having come very close to a 2016 drive, is an outside possibility.
Sauber's planned Honda collaboration has been ditched in favour of a renewed, strengthened partnership with Ferrari. Marchionne has suggested Sauber could become a Ferrari junior squad and runaway F2 title leader Charles Leclerc has been strongly linked with the minnow. Antonio Giovinazzi, following his two-race spell, is also an option; Marcus Ericsson, with strong connections to Sauber, is expected to stay, but by no means a certainty.