The Formula One grid for next season is beginning to shape up with more and more drivers confirming their rides for the upcoming season. With the grid almost complete, it’s time for us to give you the rundown on the 2018 grid as it stands and our picks for who should be driving where next season.
Ferrari — Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen
Ferrari will retain both of its world champion drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen, for the 2018 season. Although Räikkönen has not won a Grand Prix for Ferrari during his current stint with the team, his last being the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, the Italian mark have kept the faith in the Finnish driver. 4-time champion Vettel was not far behind extending his agreement with the Prancing Horse until the end of 2020. The German continues to fight Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton for the 2017 championship.
The confirmation of the pair means that there will be no room for Monegasque driver and current leader of the Formula 2 championship Charles Leclerc next season. Should he win the Formula 2 championship, Leclerc will not be invited back in 2018 leaving the talented 19-year-old’s future in the balance.
Force India — Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon’s multi-year deal with Force India continues into next season meaning the feisty Frenchman will remain with the team. Team-mate Sergio Pérez had been in the frame for a drive with Renault in 2018, but admitted that staying was an “easy decision”. The pair have had a number of on-track incidents this season and tensions began to rise between the two. The team have threatened the pair with fines and the atmosphere seems more relaxed now than in previous weeks. Force India will be hoping for another great season in 2018 having been so competitive this year.
Haas — Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen
In an interview back in July, team owner Gene Haas quite confidently stated that the car, engine and driver line-up would remain exactly the same next year to give his team a “continuity boost”. Therefore, drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will stay at the American-based squad in 2018. The team is yet to score a win however, the pair have scored a total of 37 points this season. Grosjean has done most of the heavy-lifting scoring 26 of those, but Haas remains adamant that his team have a winning combination of drivers for 2018.
McLaren-Renault — Stoffel Vandoorne and TBA
McLaren have confirmed that they will be dropping Honda as an engine supplier next season in favour of Renault. The decision comes after one of the team’s worst seasons on record in which they have only managed 17 points for ninth the constructor’s championship. However, one thing will remain the same in 2018 and that is confirmation that Stoffel Vandoorne will continue driving for the Woking-based team. The Belgian seemingly struggled through the season, picking up just 1 point before the summer break. However, a good points haul in Singapore over the weekend sees him with 7 points in the championship and just 3 behind team-mate Fernando Alonso.
Our Top Pick — Fernando Alonso
Our top pick to be Vandoorne’s team-mate next season remains Fernando Alonso. 2-time champion Alonso has consistently mentioned that he wishes to complete motorsport’s Triple Crown by winning the Indianapolis 500 and some day, the 24 hours of Le Mans. However, we’d still maintain that Alonso is the man for McLaren. With a new engine supplier, maybe Fernando would reconsider his position and continue alongside Vandoorne.
Mercedes — Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas
3-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is in the last year of his three-year contract with the Silver Arrows and it seems a no-brainer that they would want to retain his services whether or not that was the case. Hamilton currently leads the driver’s championship by 28 points following his victory at the Singapore Grand Prix. Prior to the Grand Prix, Mercedes confirmed that Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas would join him for a second season after a solid 2017. There can be no doubt that Mercedes will once again be a force in 2018 and they have the perfect combination to make that so.
Red Bull Racing — Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen
Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Dutchman Max Verstappen will continue driving for Red Bull Racing in 2018. Both drivers are on multi-year deals that will see them continue into their second full season as team-mates. The biggest news at Red Bull is that the team have lost Renault as an engine supplier for 2018. The French mark’s vacancy means that the team are left with no engines for the upcoming season of Formula One. Red Bull will need new suppliers if they want to keep racing and to keep racing at the front.
Renault — Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz, Jr.
Nico Hülkenberg is yet another driver whose multi-year contract will carry over into 2018. The German ace has scored 34 out of 42 points for the French team this season and will certainly be hunting for more in 2018. Possibly the biggest news to come out of the 2018 Driver Market is that Carlos Sainz, Jr. will be switching Toro Rosso for Renault in the upcoming season. Renault said that the 23-year-old had been on loan to Red Bull where he had driven for Toro Rosso for the last three years. Sainz was keen to progress his career, something he could not do with Ricciardo and Verstappen at Red Bull.
This leaves the luckless Jolyon Palmer without a drive in 2018. The Briton, having been been informed of the team’s decision, confessed that the news had sunk in when he read about the Sainz-Renault deal via Autosport.com.
“I’m quite excited for next year, I know it’ll be something different, I know what I’m not going to be doing,” he said.
Palmer plans to take a “nothing to lose” approach to his remaining races with Renault in order to save his Formula One career.
Sauber — To Be Announced
Our Top Picks — Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson
Sauber are yet to confirm either of their drivers for the 2018 Formula One Season. However, it seems most likely that the team will re-sign both of their drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson. Wehrlein has scored 5 points this season for the team, more than Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, and Ericsson has shown glimpses of pace by out-qualifying and out-racing Wehrlein on occasion. This is all provided that Sauber will have enough money for another season. Sauber were looking on the verge of collapse if they didn’t beat Manor Racing in the 2016 constructor’s championship. It remains to be seen if Sauber makes the grid in 2018.
Toro Rosso — To Be Announced
Our Top Picks — Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly
Toro Rosso are also yet to confirm either of their drivers for 2018. It seems more than likely that Red Bull Junior driver Pierre Gasly will jump into the vacant seat left by Sainz, Jr. However, the team are also left with a vacancy on the other side of the garage as well. Rumours have circulated that Formula 2 driver Nobuharu Matsushita will jump ship from his McLaren post to join the team. However, it wouldn’t hurt for Toro Rosso to persist with Daniil Kvyat for one more season.
Williams — To Be Announced
Our Top Picks — Lance Stroll and Paul Di Resta
Finally, Williams are the third team yet to confirm both drivers for next season. It seems likely that Lance Stroll will continue driving into next season. Stroll struggled early on in the season, but points at home in Canada as well Baku, Austria, Italy and Singapore have shown that he is no push-over and made a clear case to Williams for next season. That just leaves his team-mate. Will Felipe Massa continue racing in Formula One in 2018 or has the time come for him to hang up his racing boots… Again? Our top pick to replace the Brazilian if he waves goodbye is Paul Di Resta. Di Resta competed at the Hungarian Grand Prix for Massa when he was unwell and drove a solid race despite retirement. Kimi Räikkönen claimed that the Scotsman should “stick to the reporting” during that event however, this was Di Resta’s first drive in the 2017 car for real. We believe that Di Resta deserves another chance and a full season drive at Williams certainly is a lucrative opportunity.