The next F1 grid: Who is in contract with who for 2018 and 2019

By H. Mayor – photo: | The 2017 World Championship is decided in favour of Lewis Hamilton and the off-track activity in the form of transfer deals for 2018 is slowly rounding off. As of today we can safely say that the 2018 grid is practically closed as the scuderias postpone any major reshuffling for 2019, a key year in the F1 calendar.

The confirmation of Max Verstappen’s renewal with Red Bull at the USA Grand Prix last weekend will mean that the same drivers will remain at the top of the game for next year’s competition. All pending contract extensions have already been signed over the last few months and Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull will all keep their team drivers in 2018. Force India, one of the best performing scuderias this season, will have Ocon and Checo Perez still under contract in 2018 and the other two classic teams, Renault and McLaren, which are hoping to up their game next year, have already closed their deals. The French scuderia are counting on Carlos Sainz to provide a helping hand to Hulkenberg for the remainder of the year and the Britons have already convinced Fernando Alonso to stick around (together with young Vandoorne) for their new venture with Renault.

Next year’s World Championship will be very similar to this one as far as line-ups are concerned. Williams might be one of the few scuderias where we could still see some changes. Lance Stroll is expected to stay with them following his début this year but Massa could leave his seat, perhaps to be replaced by Kubica or Di Resta. The other one is Toro Rosso where Sainz’ exit and their change to Honda as their engine provider leaves everything out in the open. Pierre Gasly has been given a lot of praise and will certainly be a likely candidate as Kvyat is officially dropped after his dreadful performance this season. Haas has also confirmed the continuity of Grosjean and Magnussen whereas Sauber’s cards are still on the table.

2019 On the horizon

All of this years’ moves in the F1 transfer market, as well as the duration of any new commitments have been strategically crafted to leave a door open for  2019  when the contracts of most drivers on the grid come to an end  and a big reshuffling is expected across scuderias.

Lewis Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes, the absolute leader of the latest years,  ends in 2018 with the British pilot at the peak of his career. Valtteri Bottas’ freshly signed one year extension will come to an end at the same time. It is unlikely for Lewis to abandon such a winning partnership, even more so when the chief alternative (Ferrari) have decided to keep Vettel until 2021.  In any case, Bottas’ seat will be again up for grabs in 2019 and whatever Mercedes decides to do, it will surely be the most awaited deal of the season.

Ferrari chose to secure Vettel for the long term but Raikkonen’s highly coveted seat will become available again at the end of 2018 even more so given his discreet performance of the latest years and his seniority. One of the key figures in the 2019 market puzzle will be Daniel Ricciardo and his possible transfer from Red Bull, particularly after the energy drinks’ scuderia has decided to keep Max Verstappen until 2021. The other exciting player will be Fernando Alonso. The twice-champion  (and one of the brightest stars of the grid) has given McLaren one more year to provide him with a vehicle that is able to compete at the top. Whatever happens in Woking next season will therefore be decisive as if the Britons make him endure another bad year he will doubtlessly be exploring other options amongst the greatest seats of the grid.

Force India will no doubt be also on the spotlight. They are a growing scuderia which has demonstrated its ability to put out some excellent performances over the last few years. We will have to wait and see what happens during 2018 but as things stand now both Ocon and Perez will be free in 2019. This will leave us with an attractive team offering two empty seats and two hot pilots looking for one. Similarly Renault knows next year is going to be key in deciding their future as well as Williams and Toro Rosso really conscious that whatever happens this year will predetermine their future deals.  

Leave a Reply