There is little doubt that Lewis Hamilton will continue with Mercedes beyond the end of this season, but a deal is still ongoing. Team boss Toto Wolff, who also has no contract at the end of the year, insists that the team and driver simply haven’t found the time to work out the details, but it would be a big surprise if the negotiations didn’t go well in the meantime.
The big questions will be about contract length and money. Hamilton’s last deal was a two-year contract with a guaranteed salary of $ 39 million a year that had the potential to make $ 52 million with bonuses.
Hamilton is now 35 so this contract could be his last in Formula 1. A three-year deal will take him to the age of 38, but a two-year deal with an option would allow both team and driver a little more flexibility after the first season of the new F1 regulations in 2022.
Valtteri Bottas will partner with Hamilton in 2021, but was only able to negotiate a one-year contract.
Ferrari had its line-up for 2021 sorted before the start of the season. Carlos Sainz came from McLaren to replace Sebastian Vettel and partner Charles Leclerc. Sainz has a two-year contract with the team while Leclerc is currently on a five-year contract in season one.
The team’s poor performance this year has raised questions about both drivers’ decision to make long-term commitments, but Ferrari is confident they can return to the top of the grid in 2022.
It is difficult for Red Bull to find a teammate who can keep up with Max Verstappen. When Daniel Ricciardo left in late 2018, the team chose Pierre Gasly, but within 12 difficult races his confidence was ruined and he was replaced by Alex Albon. Now Albon is battling the driver and Gasly, who recently took a notable victory in the Italian Grand Prix at AlphaTauri, proves that he still deserves a place in F1.
Red Bull’s plan A for 2021 was to stay with Albon, and for the most part, team boss Christian Horner has stood by his driver. However, as the bad results continue to pile up, there are signs – mainly from Red Bull agent Helmut Marko – that the team may be looking for a replacement elsewhere.
Gasly, who has looked like a new man since being downgraded to Toro Rosso last year, seems like the obvious replacement, but Red Bull has downplayed the likelihood of that scenario, saying Gasly still has an important role to play in order to To play AlphaTauri.
This has sparked speculation – fueled again by Marko – that Red Bull might break with tradition and recruit from outside its own driver pool. Both Sergio Perez and Nico Hülkenberg would be willing candidates for Red Bull Drive, as they would have spent their entire careers outside the race-winning machines.
The Hülkenberg rumors caught on after the Eifel Grand Prix when it was found that Marko had turned to the German driver before the race weekend when Albon returned an inconclusive COVID-19 test. Albon later tested negative and was able to race, but the fact that the story was leaked to the media only increased the pressure on the Thai driver and fueled speculation about a move next year.
Perez seems to be offering a similar package as Hulkenberg, but with the added benefit of additional sponsors. Red Bull would be a perfect landing spot for the Mexican, who will be leaving Racing Point at the end of the year to make way for Sebastian Vettel and speculation in his home country is rife.
And to complicate matters even further, there are several reports that Verstappen may work his way out of his Red Bull deal in late 2021 after engine maker Honda confirmed its retirement from the sport late next year.
When Sainz McLaren said he was approached by Ferrari earlier this year, the UK team got back in touch with Daniel Ricciardo to discuss options for 2021. The Australian was close to signing ahead of the 2019 season but McLaren was still struggling towards when he got back on the line in 2018, he opted for a two-year deal with Renault instead.
That two-year deal expires this year, and even before a wheel spun in 2020, Ricciardo signed a deal to move to McLaren in 2021. The move in that contract paved the way for a happy breakup between McLaren and McLaren Sainz, despite McLaren CEO Zak Brown claiming he would have blocked the Spaniard’s move to Ferrari if the Ricciardo deal had failed.
Ricciardo will partner with the current McLaren driver Lando Norris next year.
Losing Ricciardo was a huge success for Renault and at some point it seemed to be the last straw for the French automaker in Formula 1. Since then, the Renault Group has committed itself to Formula 1 until 2025, signing two-time champion Fernando Alonso to take the lead.
It is clear that the two-time Formula 1 world champion is not finished yet and will switch to Renault when the team emerged as the best midfield team behind Mercedes and Red Bull. The team will change its name to Alpine from 2021 onwards, but that shouldn’t affect the progress it has shown over the past few months.
Esteban Ocon is expected to enter the second year of his two-year contract with the team in 2021. Recently, however, there has been speculation that Gasly could replace him. The move seems unlikely as Ocon has a deal for 2021, but Perez’s situation at Racing Point has shown how little a contract can be worth in F1.
Still, Gasly is more likely to become a factor / bargaining chip in 2022 when Red Bull may have to switch to Renault engines to replace the outgoing Honda.
As always, AlphaTauri (the team formerly known as Toro Rosso) relies on the senior Red Bull team to choose their drivers before deciding on a 2021 line-up. Gasly has been in favor of returning to Red Bull next year, but with high-profile figures downplaying such a move, he could be hired at AlphaTauri for another year.
Although Gasly’s team-mate Daniil Kvyat has shown a change in shape in recent races, he seems to be on his way out. He could make way for Albon if Red Bull Perez or Hulkenberg want to recruit or if his place could be taken by Honda-supported F2 driver Yuki Tsunoda.
Tsunoda, who is also supported by Red Bull, will test for the team in Imola after the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix and will also drive the car in the young driver test in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season.
Sebastian Vettel will lead the redesigned Aston Martin team in 2021, where he will join the boss’ son, Lance Stroll. Vettel’s arrival is at the expense of Perez, whose contract was cut to make way for the four-time world champion.
The team are confident they can improve Vettel’s current form. In the last five races at Ferrari, he only scored one point. The Mercedes concept of this year’s Racing Point is a good sign for further development in 2021.
Since the last race at the Nürburgring, Kimi Raikkonen became the most experienced driver in the history of Formula 1. It is not yet clear whether he will extend his record of racing starts until 2021, but at the Grand Prix of the Eifel there were stories that he was already had agreed a new deal with the team. He denied that a deal was made in a press conference the same day, but it seems the door remains open for him to stay.
If not, Hulkenberg and Perez remain serious options and both have ties to the team that drove for them in the past.
Meanwhile, Antonio Giovianzzi’s position on the team is threatened by the rising stars of the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA). Giovinazzi takes a Ferrari-owned seat at Alfa Romeo and with FDA member Mick Schumacher – the son of seven-time world champion Michael – on the way to becoming Formula 2 champion, he faces very tough competition.
Even if Schumacher ends up elsewhere (see Haas), the FDA currently has a talent jam in Callum Ilott (currently second in the championship after Schumacher) and the reigning Formula 3 champion Robert Schwartzman.
The American team have maintained their line-up of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen since 2017, but the pairing is unlikely to last until 2021. Previously, the team had justified its line-up on the grounds that it needed stability to improve its results, but its steady decline over the past four years suggests that driver stability will not cure Haas’ problems.
Money, on the other hand, could, and the latest rumor has it that Russian billionaire Dimitry Mazepin is desperate to get his son Nikita on the F1 grid in 2021. Mazepin Jnr currently drives in Formula 2 and has bought private tests with Mercedes (in two year old cars) has more F1 experience in recent years than many of its F2 competitors. If a deal can be made at the right price, it would make sense for Haas to beat the 21-year-old.
Perez and Hulkenberg are also in the market if Haas wants a more experienced driver in his car and doesn’t see a future with Grosjean or Magnussen, although another rumor has it that Ferrari might be planning a Haas ride for Schumacher.
Alfa Romeo makes more sense (and it was the team Schumacher was supposed to race for during the first practice session at the Nürburgring before the session rained), but Haas has offered tests to FDA members in the past and ran Esteban Gutierrez as a racing driver in the year 2016 when he was a Ferrari signed driver.
Current drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi both have contracts for 2021 but that hasn’t stopped rumors of their future in recent weeks. Since those deals were announced, Williams has been sold to Dorilton Capital, leading to speculation that the new owners may want to override the existing contracts.
This would be slightly at odds with previous information suggesting that Russell’s contract for 2021 was being marketed as an asset during the team’s sale, and that Latifi’s sponsorship money helped add up the numbers.
On the flip side, neither Russell, who is expected to join Mercedes in the coming seasons, nor Latifi, who has not impressed in his first season with the team, seem to have any long-term prospects for Williams and Dorilton for a driver to help rebuild the team helps over several years.
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