George Russell’s move to Williams pieces together another part of the 2019 line-up puzzle, but there’s still a handful of seats available next season. So who’s in the running? And what gossip has got the paddock talking? We’ve done some digging…
Stroll is widely expected to move to Force India next season, with his father a key player in the team’s recent takeover. But while the Canadian is destined for pastures new, his current team mate – Sergey Sirotkin – could retain his seat for 2019.
However, the Russian may have to see off the challenge of Robert Kubica once more, for the BBC report that the Pole – who Sirotkin beat to a 2018 drive with Williams is on a shortlist of candidates for the second seat once more.
Prior to Russell’s confirmation, fellow Mercedes-affiliated driver Esteban Ocon was linked with the vacant seat, with Williams boss Claire Williams telling Sky Sports that he remains on their list.
The team, she said, would be ‘crazy’ to not consider him, although Toto Wolff, the Mercedes boss who manages Ocon’s career, recently said ‘we are not desperate for a seat next year’, mentioning a sabbatical could well be an option for the current Force India driver.
As an outside bet, another Russian - Artem Markelov, currently fifth in the F2 standings - has been mentioned by Motorsport as a potential candidate to race alongside Russell. But with no F1 experience, it remains to be seen if Williams would want to promote two F2 stars in one season.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see how this one plays out…
Kvyat returns to F1, having lost his Red Bull backing last year, to take Pierre Gasly’s spot, with the Frenchman doing enough in his rookie season to earn a promotion to the senior team in place of the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo.
Should Hartley fail to hold on to his seat, it’s likely that Red Bull will have to look beyond their driver programme in their quest to find a racer for their junior team, and a few familiar names have popped up.
Another name recently mentioned is Alexander Albon, who currently sits second in the F2 standings behind George Russell. This link also comes as something of a surprise, with the London-born Thai driver currently preparing for his debut Formula E campaign after signing with Nissan e.dams. But Auto Bild claim that Albon is still on the Toro Rosso shortlist.
Dan Ticktum is not on that list though, with Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner recently suggesting a drive next year would come too soon for him – and the driver would not have enough FIA super licence points for a 2019 F1 seat anyway.
And according to The Independent, the man who beat Ticktum to the European F3 title - Mick Schumacher - is not on the radar either, while former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi was also linked, but has now committed to continuing his Formula E career with Nissan.
Toro Rosso have remained very tight-lipped at the moment - and don’t be surprised if another name pops up in the near future…
The Silverstone squad are the only team yet to nail down at least one driver for 2019, although now Russell has taken his Williams seat next season, it’s surely only a matter of time before Lance Stroll’s switch is confirmed.
Ever since his father Lawrence led a takeover of the F1 team, Stroll’s name was linked with a move, with some suggestions a switch before the season’s end was on the horizon.