DRIVER MARKET: How is the 2020 grid shaping up?
McLaren have avoided any 'silly season' surprises by retaining Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz for 2020, but there could be more in store this summer and beyond as the driver market heats up for 2019. So, who’s confirmed to drive for 2020, and which drivers could switch teams?
Lewis Hamilton – confirmed
Lewis Hamilton has a contract that keeps him at the Silver Arrows until the end of 2020, but Valtteri Bottas's future at the team is less clear.
The Finn is certainly doing all he can to show his value, having taken eight podiums and two wins from nine races this season, eclipsing his winless 2018 campaign already.
But while continuity with Bottas, who gets on extremely well with Hamilton, would bring undoubted benefits, the team also have talented former Force India driver Esteban Ocon waiting in the wings and determined to get back on the grid after a year on the sidelines as reserve.
The determining factor, it seems, will be Bottas's form. As Wolff told Autosport, "The first quarter of [Bottas's] season was very strong. He just needs to pick up the bag and continue to perform as he did, and this is what we both – him and us – agree on."
Sebastian Vettel – confirmed
Rumours that Sebastian Vettel might retire at the end of the year have been batted away by the German and his Team Principal Mattia Binotto, with the German set to continue in red for another year.
Binotto told the BBC: “Seb is a fantastic driver. He has been four-time world champion. I believe that if he is comfortable and he has serenity in his mind, he can deliver well.”
Charles Leclerc, meanwhile, has settled into Ferrari with ease and is getting better and better, so it would seem to be a near-formality the Monegasque driver will be confirmed as being back in red next season.
Max Verstappen – confirmed
With Max Verstappen setting the benchmark so high at Red Bull, it’s understandable that Pierre Gasly’s future is attracting question marks given his recent struggles and the way Red Bull haven't held back in switching drivers among their stable in the past.
However, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner backed his driver before the British Grand Prix, saying that he and Red Bull would stick by the 23-year-old. “I think we have got to somehow go 'control-alt-delete' in his head,” he said.
Still, it's unlikely to stop rumours, especially if Alex Albon continues to impress in his rookie season for Toro Rosso.
Verstappen’s future hasn’t been discussed – but after his win at the Austrian Grand Prix, there’s little question over his remaining with Red Bull, and his contract lasts until the end of 2020.
Carlos Sainz – confirmed
Lando Norris – confirmed
McLaren were the first team to blink in the driver market, confirming that Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris – the team's youngest-ever line-up when they were partnered at the start of the season – will stay together in 2020.
Fourth in the constructors' championship ahead of Renault, McLaren are on the up and they've also now stifled thought of a Fernando Alonso-McLaren comeback.
Daniel Ricciardo – confirmed
Nico Hulkenberg’s contract at Renault is up for renewal at the end of the season and there are a number of drivers who could take his place if the 31-year-old and the Anglo-French team do not extend his stay.
Team boss Cyril Abiteboul admitted recently that the team may look at other options other than Hulkenberg, which may or may not include Esteban Ocon, who was linked to the team last year.
One man who is not going anywhere is Daniel Ricciardo, whose contract lasts until the end of 2020.
Kimi Raikkonen – confirmed
With Kimi Raikkonen’s contract lasting until the end of 2020, his future on the grid is secure, but Antonio Giovinazzi's is less certain.
The 25-year-old Italian has scored a single point this season compared to Raikkonen’s haul of 21, but is on an upwards trend, and his Ferrari links certainly work in his favour.
IndyCar driver Marcus Ericsson still has ties with Alfa Romeo, having taken part in the Pirelli tyre test after the Austrian Grand Prix, but he would be an outside bet.
Kevin Magnussen has a contract running until the end of next season, according to Motorsport.com, and he’s comfortably outperforming team mate Romain Grosjean points-wise in 2019. Magnussen sits 12th in the drivers’ standings with 14 points while Grosjean is 17th with two points.
But if the Dane is staying, might Grosjean leave? The Frenchman had a tough start to 2018 and his seat was believed to be under threat, but Haas ultimately retiained him in their line-up.
Whether the team opts for stability or a change of driver in 2020 is yet to be seen. Despite their inconsitent form this year, you would imagine they would attract plenty of suitors.
Having earned 13 of his team’s 19 points this year, Racing Point driver Sergio Perez has been a longstanding, reliable scorer for the squad that was previously known as Force India.
He sees potential in the team that is eyeing up an expansion and an increase in staff from 400 to 600, but hasn’t been confirmed yet. Former Force India driver Esteban Ocon is a potential choice should Perez leave.
With his father Lawrence owning the team and bankrolling a new facility to ensure their competitiveness, Lance Stroll’s future at Racing Point is almost certain.
Toro Rosso haven't maintained the same driver line-up from one season to another for some time, so changes can almost be expected.
The catalyst for action is probably what happens to Pierre Gasly.
If Gasly gets replaced at Red Bull, they could recall Daniil Kvyat or promote Alexander Albon as is common practice in the Red Bull system.
But Red Bull’s junior team also boasts IndyCar competitor Patricio O’Ward, who told Autosport that F1 is his aspiration and who recently made his F2 debut. However, the Mexican doesn't currently have sufficient Super Licence points to compete in 2020.
Then there’s Formula 2 competitor Nobuharu Matsushita, tied to Honda and sitting eighth in the F2 standings this year.
Of course, Gasly’s future is secure for now. But Albon and Kvyat are unconfirmed past 2019.
Robert Kubica’s comeback to Formula 1 has been tough, but he is adamant he wants to continue as a Williams driver.
“I know we are struggling, and we are slow, and the races are difficult, but I enjoy it,” he's said.
But will the team look to retain the Pole, or look elsewhere? Their reserve driver Nicholas Latifi could be an option.
Over on the other side of the garage, team mate George Russell is unlikely to be going anywhere, with the team having tied the impressive British rookie to a multi-year deal.