Formula 1 is now on its annual summer break, and that means it’s time for the silly season to start about next year’s potential team line-ups.
Mind you, there have been rumours flying about for a while and silly season seems to start earlier and earlier.
So, I thought I might have a go at predicting who might be driving for whom next season.
With Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas having already signed on the dotted line, we know that the 2019 Mercedes line-up is secured and locked in.
Sebastian Vettel is already signed to the team until the end of 2020, but what of his current team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen?
Will he be replaced by the new wonderkid on the block, Charles Leclerc? Or, due to the recent and untimely death of Sergio Marchionne, will Kimi receive another year’s grace in order for the dust to settle at Ferrari? And what of the recent rumours that Kimi could be McLaren bound?
Personally, I think Kimi will get another year’s contract at Ferrari as he has proved, rightly or wrongly, to be a good ‘wingman’ for Vettel. Leclerc I think will probably sign for the team in 2020 which is Vettel’s last contracted year.
So my prediction for Ferrari’s 2019 line-up is Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
3. Red Bull
Again Max Verstappen is already under contract until the end of 2019, so he won’t be going anywhere.
That just leaves Daniel Ricciardo, who’s on the market.
With the ‘big seats’ at Mercedes being off the radar, could there be a possibility that we could see Ricciardo as Vettels’ team-mate again? I personally don’t think so, so that means the Ferrari door has been shut too.
Will he stay with Red Bull or try his luck elsewhere? He is another driver linked to joining McLaren and will the Red Bull move to Honda engines tempt him to stay or seek out fresher pastures, leaving a seat open with Red Bull.
My gut feeling is with all the problems Red Bull have had with the Renault engine this season, along with some excellent results, that the change to Honda will be a good thing. After all, look at how well the Toro Rosso’s are performing. And with that in mind, I think Ricciardo will stay put, at least for 2019, and then? Who knows.
Red Bull 2019 line-up: Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen
Currently standing fourth in the constructor’s championship, will their current line-up of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr be their 2019 line-up?
Sainz is only ‘on loan’ to Renault this season from Red Bull and Hulkenberg’s ‘multi-year’ contract could well mean that one or both of the Renault seats will be up for grabs.
With rumours abound that Renault have been in serious talks with Esteban Ocon and given the current problems at Force India, I think that Ocon will be signed by the Renault team.
Leaving one spot open and one driver already said goodbye too.
If, Renault sign Ocon I feel it will be to replace Sainz, who is after all, only on loan.
But, what of Hulkenberg? In 147 starts in Formula 1, he has achieved no wins and no podiums. Will his age and ‘lack of’ trophies mean he will be passed over in favour of a younger driver?
This is the one of the teams, where I feel anything could happen, especially with the talented youngsters in Formula 2 banging on the door to get their shot.
I think I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that both current Renault drivers will be replaced.
Ocon will be signed in one seat, leaving the other seat open for either Artem Markelov or Jack Aitken, both of whom have tested for Renault.
Aitken is Renault’s current reserve driver and a member of the Renault Sport Academy. However, Markelov, in my opinion has excelled in F2 this year, overtaking as if his life depends on it, so I’m leaning towards a Markelov signing here.
Renault 2019 line-up: Esteban Ocon and Artem Markelov
Both drivers are out of contract at the end of this year, but Kevin Magnussen has a clause in his contract that gives Haas the option to keep him for 2019.
The Haas has been an excellent car this season and both drivers have done well in qualifying.
However, with Magnussen consistently scoring points, in fact he has scored the majority of Haas’s points, I can’t see him losing his drive in 2019.
Grosjean, on the other hand, with his disastrous season I can see not having a drive next season.
So, if Grosjean is given the elbow, who will be given the seat?
I think Leclerc could well be bumped up to the ‘top end of the midfield Haas car’ as a stepping stone to the full Ferrai seat in 2020. After all, the Haas is Ferrari-powered.
Haas 2019 line-up: Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc
6. Force India
Like everyone, I’m hoping that Force India will actually be on the grid in 2019.
With the enforced administration process and hopefully new injection of cash from new buyers, this could well be a ‘pay-drive’ team for next season.
Both current drivers, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, are out of contracts at the end of the season and I have already predicted I think Ocon is Renault bound.
With the current ‘crisis’, I can’t see Perez being signed for next season. And that has nothing to do with him putting the company into administration.
There are several rumours about likely investors and buyers for the team.
One strong rumour that has been persistent for a while is an investment of cash from Lawrence Stroll. Rumour is he doesn’t want to buy a team, but merely invest in one and seeing as Force India need a lot of help at the moment an investment from Daddy Stroll could see Stroll Junior given a seat at Force India.
(To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s just because the William’s hasn’t been the strongest car in the last two years but Lance Stroll doesn’t seem to strike me as an amazingly talented driver. After all, look at what Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc have done this season)
Another little rumour is that has been circulating is that GP3 driver Nikita Mazepin’s father, Dmitry, is considering buying into Force India. Nikita joined the Force India driver programme in 2016, along with finance from his father, so if this comes about, then I can see Mazepin being the other Force India driver.
Force India 2019 line-up: Lance Stroll and Nikita Mazepin
Oh, what a torrid time McLaren have had over the last couple of years. But Alonso, has proved time and time again why he is a multi world champion and Stoffel Vandoorne has had a great teacher.
But what of 2019? I think Alonso has probably had enough and with his close victory at his maiden Indy 500 last year, and WEC victories this year I can see him hanging up his F1 boots to concentrate on other adventures in racing. After all, it’s no secret he wants that elusive Triple Crown.
Vandoorne has options in his contract to extend his stay at McLaren, but after two years of lacklustre performances (compared to Alonso) will he find himself another driver without a contract?
If Alonso goes, aside from Raikkonen and Ricciardo who I believe will stay put, other names in the running for seats at McLaren are Perez, Sainz Jr and F2 rising star Lando Norris.
Seeing as Perez replaced Hamilton at McLaren in 2013, and had a pretty awful season I can’t see him going back.
So that leaves Sainz, Norris and Vandoorne to fight over two seats.
I think McLaren and Red Bull might do a ‘loan swap’ for one year, whereby Norris will be given a seat at Toro Rosso and Sainz take the drive at McLaren, with Vandoorne being safe … for 2019 at least.
McLaren 2019 line-up: Stoffel Vandoorne and Carlos Sainz Jr
8. Toro Rosso
I think Pierre Gasly’s seat at Toro Rosso is secure for 2019, considering his stellar drives this year.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Brendon Hartley, drafted in at the tail-end of 2017 to replace Sainz, who was loaned out Renault to cover Jolyon Palmer’s in-season departure. He just hasn’t consistently to the same level as his team-mate and has had some unfortunate incidents.
I don’t think he will be renewed for 2019 and his vacant seat will go to Lando Norris.
Toro Rosso 2019 line-up: Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris
Having already predicted Charles Leclerc will move to Haas for 2019, that leaves at least one seat available in the Sauber.
Although Marcus Ericsson hasn’t set the world on fire, he has been a steady driver for the team and I think he will get a year’s extension/renewal on his contract for 2019.
Rumours of a Leclerc replacement at Sauber include Robert Kubica and Antonio Giovanzzi.
Giovanazzi has Ferrari experience, being their 3rd driver in 2016, took part in Sauber’s 2017 pre-season testing and stood in for an injured Pascal Wehrlein for the first two races of the 2017 season.
He also took part in this week’s in-season test in Hungary for Ferrari on day one setting the fastest lap, and for Sauber on day two finishing fourth.
I think he could be a hot favourite for the Sauber seat in 2019.
Sauber 2019 line-up: Marcus Ericcson and Antonio Giovanazzi
Another team whose seasons go from bad to worse, what next for Williams?
With my prediction of Lance Stroll and his money off to Force India, have Williams got the resources to do without the money of Sergei Sirotkin, who is apparently on a multi-year contract, but there has been concrete confirmation of how long, just a ‘one-plus’ message?
I’d like to say they can survive without Sirotkin’s money and will sign Robert Kubica for 2019. After all, he has out-classed both Williams’ drivers in most practice and test sessions this season.
But at 33, is Kubica’s F1 dream over, despite many people wanting him to be a great comeback story?
On the hand, Kubica could just have the experience Williams need to turn their fortunes around.
This is tricky.
Much as I think I’m going to have to go with the premise that Williams are in need of Sirotkin’s money, I’m going to throw that curve ball out there and say Robert Kubica will be signed.
That just leaves the vacant Stroll seat.
With Stroll moving, potentially, to Force India, that leaves one Mercedes’ engined car available at Williams for Formula 2, and Mercedes 2018 reserve driver, George Russell, who is currently leading the F2 championship.
Williams 2019 line-up: Robert Kubica and George Russell
And those are my predictions for the 2019 driver line-up.
Just in case you gave up on my ramblings, here are my predictions in one spot:
||CARLOS SAINZ JR
What do you think??