2018 driver market is closing more and more doors

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Singapore, Marina Bay Street Circuitsg

The driver market for the 2018 season unravels rapidly as more puzzle pieces were put into place over the last weeks. Robert Kubica's chances for a return were cut down after Renault signed Carlos Sainz for the next season.

Drivers line-up for the upcoming 2018 season was believed to deliver big surprises, but recent (re)signings mean more driver-team collaboration continue for the next season. The most recent deal was announced on Sunday morning in Singapore when Force India reported it reached an agreement with Sergio Perez. The Mexican expected to clarify its own future right after the summer shutdown, but talks between his sponsors and the Silverstone-based teams delayed the deal. The Guadalajara-born driver will start his fifth season with the Anglo-Indian squad.

Mercedes also announced last week that it will continue the collaboration with Valtteri Bottas

Prior to the Italian Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari announced that it will work with its current line up for the next championship season. Kimi Räikkönen will team up with Sebastian Vettel to fight for the titles. It means the Scuderia is set to employ the same driver pairing for the fourth season.

Toro Rosso and Red Bull loaned Carlos Sainz for Renault.

Williams will retain Lance Stroll, McLaren Stoffel Vandoorne. With Haas retaining its driver pairing, only a few seats are available for next season.

Alonso is the last top driver to find a place

Fernando Alonso is expected to stay on at McLaren after the traditional and successful British teams agreed with Honda to terminate its contract. There is a high chance that current Formula 2 leader Charles Leclerc will make his debut at Sauber. There are two drivers for the other seat of the Swiss team. Ferrari would gladly promote its official third driver Antonio Giovinazzi, but the heavily backed Marcus Ericcson might also have a chance. The other current driver Pascal Wehrlein seems to lose his seat and will have a very hard time in his pursue for a race seat for the coming championship campaign.

Toro Rosso is rumoured to retain Daniil Kvyat nd promote its current most promising young driver Pierry Gasly who has been racing in the Japanese Super Formula. It would leave only one seat available. Williams has not signed yet any driver for its second seat. Felipe Massa said previously that he would stay for another season with the Grove-based team.

Renault plans its future without Kubica

After Robert Kubica was completing tests in Valencia and at the Hungaroring recently, the Pole was keen to rejoin the F1 field as of 2018. However, with Renault closed in the door, the only real chance for the one-time GP winner is to fight with Felipe Massa for the Williams. Kubica’s management was strengthened by Nico Rosberg and is led by Alessandro Alunni Bravi. The Italian disclosed recently that the plan is to find a race seat for the 2018 season as soon as possible to give the chance for the Polish driver to start working on the 2018 car.
Interestingly, more drivers only signed a one-year contract as seat at the three current top teams – Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull – become available.

2018 line-up up to date

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen
Red Bull-Renault: Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen
Force India-Mercedes: Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon
Williams-Mercedes: Lance Stroll, to be confirmed
Toro Rosso-Honda: to be confirmed Haas-Ferrari: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen
Renault: Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz Jr
McLaren-Renault: Stoffel Vandoorne, to be confirmed
Sauber-Ferrari: to be confirmed