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The F1 driver market: The 2017 grid takes shape

14 Oct 2016

Nico Hulkenberg's switch from Force India to Renault completes another piece of the 2017 driver market puzzle - but there are still plenty of big decisions to be made up and down the pit lane...

Mercedes

Both seats confirmed

Lewis Hamilton signed a deal to be at Mercedes through to 2018 last year. Nico Rosberg had more scrutiny, given that his contract expired at the end of the current season, but negotiations began early and despite rumoured interest from Ferrari both parties confirmed a two-year extension in July, shortly before Rosberg's home race.



Red Bull

Both seats confirmed

In Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, Red Bull have one of the most dynamic, aggressive and talented pairings on the grid - little wonder they opted against changes for 2017. So far Ricciardo has had the best of qualifying, with honours on Sunday far more evenly matched. Perhaps most encouraging is the manner in which both men are pushing each other on while also working collaboratively - leading team principal Christian Horner to hail them as 'fantastic'.



Ferrari

Both seats confirmed

Speculation about Kimi Raikkonen's future at the Scuderia was halted abruptly when Ferrari announced in July that the Finn would be retained for 2017. Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said the early deal would take pressure off Raikkonen, who will therefore partner Sebastian Vettel for a third straight season.



Force India

One seat available

When we wrote about the 2017 driver market in August, it was the status of Sergio Perez that was still in question. A deal with the Mexican was concluded earlier this month - but even so there remains a seat open, after news that Nico Hulkenberg will leave the team to join Renault from 2017. Already speculation is rife about the German's potential replacement, with current Manor incumbent Pascal Wehrlein one of the early favourites.



Williams

Neither seat confirmed

With Felipe Massa retiring at the end of the season, one seat is definitely up for grabs at Williams next year - and so far 17-year-old Lance Stroll, champion elect in the FIA Formula 3 Euro Series, appears to be leading the race. Rumours still persist about the future of Valtteri Bottas, however, with Renault reported to be interested in the 27-year-old Finn.



McLaren

Both seats confirmed

Jenson Button's future at McLaren was perhaps the biggest talking point in the summer, with endless speculation as to whether McLaren would pick the Briton, or their highly-rated youngster Stoffel Vandoorne, to partner Fernando Alonso in 2017. The situation was resolved in Monza: Button will step back and take on a new ambassadorial role with the team, with Vandoorne promoted to a full race drive. A 2018 return for Button has not been ruled out, but for 2017 both seats are filled.



Toro Rosso

One seat confirmed

Sainz is to stay at Toro Rosso for a third season - a clear sign of how highly Red Bull rate the 21-year-old Spaniard, given they don't make a habit of keeping drivers for such a long period in their junior team. Who partners him is still far from clear: Daniil Kvyat has been somewhat revived of late after mid-season struggles, but he does face competition, most notably in the shape of 20-year-old Pierre Gasly, who currently sits second in GP2.



Haas

One seat available

While Romain Grosjean is widely expected to stay at the American team next year, his 2017 partner remains less certain. Current incumbent Esteban Gutierrez has shown good turns of pace, but is yet to score a point for the team. Current GP3 championship leader Charles Leclerc - who like Gutierrez is one of technical partner Ferrari's stable of drivers - could yet be an outside bet.



Renault

One seat confirmed

Having signed Nico Hulkenberg to spur their challenge in 2017, attention turns to the second seat at the French team. Current drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer remain candidates - of the two it is Magnussen who is ahead in the championship, having scored seven points to Palmer's one. Esteban Ocon, now at Manor, has also been strongly connected to the drive - while various media outlets have also connected them with a lingering interest in Williams' Valtteri Bottas.



Manor

Neither seat confirmed

In recent years Manor have been among the last teams to confirm their line-up, and 2017 may be no exception given that current drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon have both been linked with moves elsewhere. The pair have matched up well in the five races they have been partners at the team.



Sauber

Neither seat confirmed

Their future secured by the arrival of new owners, Sauber's attention now turns to improving their fortunes on track - and therefore inevitably to their driver line-up. Marcus Ericsson's backers reportedly have links with the new owners, but team principal Monisha Kaltenborn insists that won't be a factor when it comes to deciding which drivers the team take on for 2017.