Back from the summer break and we are now in the countdown to the end of the 2016 Formula One season. The final two ‘European’ races are over the next couple of weekends have been pivotal in the last couple of years to building a momentum to the end of the season for Lewis Hamilton, so far claiming two out of two championships for the Silver Arrow.
With car development either slowing or stopping for most of the teams down the field for this season, the order shouldn’t change dramatically. There is a of course always a chance that a team could do better on a given weekend, with the current ranking looking like Mercedes leading from Red Bull and then Ferrari, with Williams and Force India being left behind.
That is all of course apart from Sauber. Renewed thanks to the Swiss-backed mysterious buyout, they haven’t had the money to add the development parts to the car for this season, although that could be set to change. Locked in a battle at the back of the field with Renault and Manor, the team are sitting at the bottom of the table and need championship points to return to tenth. Felipe Nasr had been critical of the team earlier in the season, with a car in which he said was impossible to drive and lamented the lack of updates to the car, a stance which has since cooled as we head to 2017.
The driver market is in flux over the summer break. We are still waiting for three big names to announce their intentions for next season – Jenson Button, Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa. Although discussed at length over the last couple of seasons, Jenson Button is still linked with Williams, heighted even more in recent comments by Williams’ Pat Symonds that the team are ready for a top rate driver. With Valtteri Bottas looking more likely he will stay at the Grove based team, it would mean that Felipe Massa would be on the move, some say he will retire, while others think he could have a chance at Renault.
Renault could be an interesting proposition and with an intention to increase funding could claw their way up the grid quickly, especially if they make the improvements they think they can in the engine department. Already staking their claim for a driver who can lead the team, it looks like they are searching beyond their current pairing of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. The suitors, Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa come with their own baggage. Sergio Perez, backed by Carlos Slim and his Mexican companies would clash with the rumoured backing from Movistar, while there are doubts about the future of Felipe Massa which could spell retirement. Esteban Ocon could also be an outside chance for a second seat, given he is to start for Manor this weekend in the place of Rio Haryanto.
The news that Rio Haryanto would depart his Manor race drive, to that of a reserve drive isn’t a surprise with rumours circulating for months he didn’t have enough money for the rest of the season. Replacing him, Esteban Ocon, another Mercedes protégé alongside Pascal Wherlein which creates a Mercedes junior superteam, which will be an interesting one to watch as we close in on the end of the season. A promotion to Force India could be on the cards for Wherlein, while Ocon could get his hands on a Renault for 2017.
Spa once again is going to be an interesting weekend, expect rumours to fly before we hit Monza – the traditional point in the season when many of the deals start to leak.