Motorsport: F1 silly season - the experts give their views

Kimi Raikkonen during the European Formula One Grand Prix at Baku. Photo / Getty Images
Kimi Raikkonen during the European Formula One Grand Prix at Baku. Photo / Getty Images

Daniel Ricciardo is staying put at Red Bull but the rest of the F1 driver market is still very much in limbo.

Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz, Mark Hughes and Johnny Herbert discuss the current state of play.

Who is the key to the driver market?

Mark Hughes: What Ferrari decide to do with Kimi Raikkonen is the key to the whole market because if Ferrari take up their option then it pretty much closes the whole thing. But if there is change there then there will be a domino effect. Between now and Germany, how Kimi performs will probably decide the whole driver market."

Johnny Herbert: "It's Kimi for sure. The team keep telling him he needs to deliver strong results - and that's probably a win. He's just got to show that something special is still there. Without Kimi moving on, there's a backlog of everybody behind. Everything will stay put otherwise."

So what's the latest on Raikkonen?

Mark Hughes: If he gets a good run, l think they would prefer to keep things as they are - and a decent performance from Kimi would allow them to make the more comfortable decision.

Ted Kravitz: "Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne told Sky F1 in Baku that they'd like to stay with Raikkonen but it's in the Finn's hands. The path of least resistance is to stay with Kimi because choosing to drop him would trigger a difficult driver selection that they don't really want to think about. Their plate is full with other stuff without having to think of drivers. There are three key points to keeping Kimi: it maintains stability, it guarantees at least some points to help with the Constructors' Championship, and it keeps Sebastian Vettel happy. But there is an argument that if they are to be taken seriously about winning Constructors' and Drivers' Championships they need to have someone who is capable of finishing either immediately behind Sebastian, or ahead of him, in every race. If they do drop Kimi the other options are probably Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean."

Are Perez and Carlos Sainz off the market?

Ted Kravitz: "What we are seeing in the driver market is teams signing up drivers with an eye to possibly selling them later on. We are seeing that with Sergio Perez, who will probably stay at Force India, and Carlos Sainz, who Red Bull have activated an option on to keep at Toro Rosso. But make no mistake - Red Bull/Toro Rosso will sell Sainz for the right amount of money if they get it. The same for Force India with Perez. So just because you read on a website that a driver has signed for one team or another don't be surprised if later in the year you find that he's actually signed for someone else."

Mark Hughes: "Agreed - although Red Bull have taken up their option on Sainz, that doesn't necessarily guarantee he will be at Toro Rosso in 2017. All it means is that any team which would want him would have to negotiate his release. I'm sure they would be very reluctant to release him, but I would imagine Renault are still interested so I don't think we should count Sainz out of the driver market just because Red Bull have taken up their option."

Johnny Herbert: "Although he's very happy and settled at Force India, Perez definitely wants to move on to bigger and better things. Ferrari would definitely give him the next jump up. Would it be another McLaren-style failure? I don't think so because he's got way more experience than he had back then. He's definitely a stronger character than he was."

Who will be driving for McLaren next year?

Ted Kravitz: "McLaren seem ready and willing to give Stoffel Vandoorne a drive - and that means one of Jenson and Fernando Alonso is going to have to go. As it stands, Jenson's contract is up at the end of the season, while Fernando's has one more year to run. They've blocked Stoffel from going to any other team so it appears clear they are ready to give him a seat. That's not a comment about Jenson, it's just about Stoffel."

Mark Hughes: "My gut feel is that the decision has been made and it will be Vandoorne and Alonso at McLaren next year. It seems to be the natural break - Jenson's contract is expiring, Vandoorne has already made his debut and impressed. Stoffel is a driver of immense potential but he is six years older than Max Verstappen so if it is going to happen it needs to happen soon. I'm sure there is already pressure in that direction and if McLaren don't then somebody else will be after him - I thought it was very interesting that immediately after Verstappen's win in Spain, Ron Dennis warned all the other teams off him."

Johnny Herbert: "Stoffel has got to get in at McLaren because he's 25 next year and he's shown what he can do. It would be senseless if he doesn't move in there."

Should we expect Williams to change their line-up for 2017?

Ted Kravitz: "Felipe Massa's not doing a bad job for them at the moment so I think a change would be to just freshen up the team, which wouldn't be a bad thing. Felipe's still pretty quick and his reaction times are actually a crucial part of why Williams are acing their pitstops at the moment. So he's certainly not showing signs of his senses dulling down, he's still absolutely on it. So if they did drop him, it would just be to freshen up the team after three seasons of the Massa-Valtteri Bottas partnership. And if it's all about money for them, then Jenson Button is a very marketable guy. He'd be a good fit for them and it means Jenson would be in a car that could probably score podiums sooner than McLaren-Honda. It would make sense for both parties, so I can see that one happening."

Mark Hughes: "Button still has enormous appeal, not least because he is hugely popular with sponsors and that could make a difference with teams - so in that sense, the decision is still with him."

Why are young drivers so popular currently?

Johnny Herbert: "The whole momentum of the driver market has shifted to the younger generation. Saying that, you would expect Jenson, for example, to have a more difficult time trying to move somewhere because that new generation is about. But is there enough of them? At this particular moment, there's probably still an opportunity for someone like JB to move somewhere if he wants it."


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