2020 F1 Driver Market: The latest silly season news and rumours from Germany
The enigma that is the Formula 1 driver market continues to intrigue, with Mercedes reserve Esteban Ocon a big talking point – but which other drivers are rumoured to be going, or staying, or returning for next season?
Mercedes - Stick with Bottas or switch to Ocon?
Toto Wolff says Mercedes will wait until August to make a decision on whether Valtteri Bottas will remain at the team for next season or not, but he didn’t rule out promoting Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon, currenty fulfilling reserve duties for the Silver Arrows.
Wolff has called Ocon's lack of a 2019 seat “unfortunate”, the Frenchman spending the year embedding himself in the team and performing simulator duties, but also praised the role Bottas has played in the team.
There's a big decision to be made at Mercedes, but if they do decide to keep Bottas, whose deal expires at the end of the year, on for 2020, Ocon could still find a drive at another F1 team...
Renault - Hulkenberg to stay?
Ocon continues to pop up in driver market discussions, and has been rumoured to replace Nico Hulkenberg at Renault next season. This isn't the first time, of course, that he has been linked with Renault, the Frenchman having looked like he was heading to Enstone for 2019 before they signed Daniel Ricciardo.
However, Hulkenberg - who joined the team in 2017 - seems confident of staying on for a fourth season. Speaking at Hockenheim, he said he is “likely” to stay at the team alongside Daniel Ricciardo next year.
“There’s nothing set in stone, but I think it’s quite likely that I’ll remain with the team,” he said.
Racing Point - What will happen with Perez?
Sergio Perez has been the same fast and reliable pair of hands that Racing Point have come to expect this season, but he isn’t a certainty to stay beyond 2019.
The Mexican has been at the team, when it was formerly Force India, since 2014 and has on several ocassions been linked with a move elsewhere on the grid. Each time that has occured, the management have always said they would not stand in his way should a better opportunity should arise.
And Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer says that while he would like to stick to that policy, his preference is to keep the same line-up of Perez alongside Lance Stroll.
“We’ve traditionally let drivers go if they have those opportunities but that was through the old ownership. I haven’t asked the new ownership what their policy is on that. But you never want to stand in anyone’s way of progressing their career and themselves. I don’t know, it’s a good question [whether Racing Point will retain its drivers next season]. I hope so,” said Szafnauer to Sky Sports F1 on Friday.
Perez himself said that he hopes to come back from the summer break with his future resolved...
Toro Rosso - Could Honda pull the strings?
Toro Rosso’s Team Principal Franz Tost wants to hold onto his pairing of Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon, the latter of whom he called a “surprise” talent in the Friday press conference in Germany.
“We have two really good drivers,” he said. “Daniil Kvyat, we knew from the past that he is fast, he is also matured now and he is showing a very, very good performance. Alex Albon, for me, is the positive surprise of the young drivers, together with [McLaren’s Lando] Norris.”
He added that their driver line-up will be announced around the beginning of October, “but this in the end is a decision from Red Bull”.
There is one more factor that could affect Toro Rosso’s line-up next year, and that is engine supplier Honda. They wish to field a Japanese driver in F1, and defending Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto is the driver leading that queue.
Autosport reported that the 31-year-old is eligible for a superlicence, and that Honda want to place him in a Toro Rosso or Red Bull this year for an FP1 session.
Expect the driver market to ramp up over the coming months, particuarly as teams use the summer break to open up the lines of communication with drivers...