Sergio Perez and Jenson Button have emerged as the two drivers likely to shape the market for the second half of this summer, both drivers likely to be on the move for 2017.
With the top seats already confirmed with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen at Red Bull, the focus has moved to the ‘next best’ teams likely to be pushing for a Q3 spot next season.
Sergio Perez has emerged as one of those drivers who could be on the move, breaking away from Force India who effectively saved his career after his one year stint at McLaren, which didn’t go too well either for Kevin Magnussen, now at Renault. He has enjoyed a great season, even getting a podium position for a team which does extraordinarily well for their budget. His sponsors think they can do more for him though, with multi-Billionaire Carlos Slim already trying to parachute him into Ferrari which was blocked by Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne.
With a ‘works’ team the goal, the next obvious opening would be at Renault. Signed on in the Lotus-era, Jolyon Palmer hasn’t exactly proven himself despite having a poor car alongside Kevin Magnussen, who himself believes will be at the team next season despite only being on a short term contract after the team said goodbye to Pastor Maldonado. Renault would be an ideal place for that Mexican money, but there is also Brazilian money floating around trying to find a home. Felipe Massa has also been linked to the team with backing from Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, along with Mercedes protégé Esteban Ocon, their current test driver.
Also at the top of that pile is Williams. After a period of stability at the team with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas it looks like a change could be on the horizon. Jenson Button has long been linked to a return to the team he started his career with in 2000 and would complete a cycle in his career which would ultimately be his last drive. Claire Williams has stated that Sergio Perez is also on their radar, but it isn’t clear if that is reciprocal given the ambitions of Perez’s backers. Other names which have been suggested included Alex Lynn – their current development driver, Lance Stroll and previously Daniil Kvyat.
A gap at Force India would surely be given to Pascal Wehrlein in preparation on him joining Mercedes possible in three years time, while if McLaren decide against Button will sign Stoffel Vandoorne. In the event of Danill Kvyat leaving Toro Rosso, the natural successor in the Red Bull family is Pierre Gasly. Although the Frenchman is now leading the GP2 championship, until recently he hadn’t won a race for two years.
The midfield could spring a surprise next year, especially those with a strong budget and aero department so although now not performing, McLaren and Renault could be interesting bets for 2017.