Silly Season 2018

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    Ben Needham

    It’s around that time of year again… the fun will begin soon! The 2018 grid line-up is one of the hardest to predict in recent memory, with Alonso floating around, Hamilton and Vettel in a Championship battle and still yet to confirm their plans, while the Red Bull queue gets longer.

    I’ll try (and fail!) to put together what I think will happen.

    I suppose the first thing to do is to try to nail on the drivers I am fairly sure will stay put:

    Mercedes: – / –
    Ferrari: – / –
    Red Bull: – / –
    Force India: Ocon / –
    Williams: Stroll / –
    Toro Rosso: – / –
    Renault: Hulkenberg / –
    Haas: Magnussen / –
    Sauber: – / –
    McLaren: Vandoorne / –

    As you can see – this leaves only one driver at 5 teams… so 75% of the grid is still up for grabs. Everything flows from the top, so the first question is naturally: Who will be at Mercedes and Ferrari?

    The first driver to slot in here is Vettel. Ferrari seems to be on an upward curve and the team is now built for Vettel. It’d be a huge risk to jump ship to Mercedes and I think he’ll stay put. This also means that it’s unlikely that Hamilton will move, as the only other clearly competitive team is Ferrari, and I can’t see Hamilton there with Vettel. As for their team-mates, it’s a little more tricky.

    Bottas is only on a one-year contract and while he’s performing reasonably well, he clearly isn’t quite on the Hamilton/Vettel level. I’ll stick my neck out here and say that a 2018 Mercedes contract is why Alonso was so happy in Baku. This leaves a huge queue of drivers looking at Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Bottas, Perez, Ricciardo, both Haas drivers, Giovinazzi, Leclerc and Kimi himself could be there. Ferrari rarely go for rookies, Bottas and Kimi are fairly interchangeable and are the Haas drivers really Ferrari material? Ricciardo is still locked in at Red Bull, which leads me to think it’ll be a straight choice between Kimi and Perez. Personally, of the two, I’d choose Perez.

    Mercedes: Hamilton / Alonso
    Ferrari: Vettel / Perez

    The above means that there is no logical better choice for the Red Bull duo, so they may as well stay put.

    Red Bull: Ricciardo / Verstappen.

    Here is where it gets a little juicier, because the next best options in my opinion are Force India (currently the best of the rest), Renault (another manufacturer team) and McLaren (with their resources, they must come good soon). Ocon, Hulkenberg and Vandoorne are firmly in place, but their team-mates are less clear.

    McLaren losing Alonso is huge and leaves them without a “headline” name driving their cars, which they clearly like to have. Button is contracted but is clearly not a choice for the future, Raikkonen is obviously not top-level any more and Rosberg seems to be done with the sport. This means that they’ll likely be without a World Champion. If I recall, McLaren have not had a line-up without a race winner in it since the mid-90’s. Because of this, I think they’ll get Bottas from Mercedes, with a new contract of engines from them as well, as a sweetener for Alonso going the other way.

    Renault have the pick of the bunch and with a manufacturer budget, there’s no need to hold on to Palmer. For me, Sainz is the logical choice here, having found himself stuck with nowhere to go at Toro Rosso.

    Force India can cement it’s status as a Mercedes junior team by finally taking on Pascal Wehrlein to partner his old Manor team-mate Ocon. With Hamilton and Alonso both looking towards the end of their careers, the winner of this battle should be well placed to take a seat at the main team eventually.

    Force India: Ocon / Wehrlein
    Renault: Hulkenberg / Sainz
    McLaren: Bottas / Vandoorne

    With Sainz gone, Toro Rosso may well hold on to Kvyat for consistency and use him as a yard stick for Gasly.

    Toro Rosso: Kvyat / Gasly

    This leaves Haas, Williams and Sauber. Rumour has it that Martini requires Williams to have at least one driver over 25 and Stroll seems nailed on to continue with his millions (and podiums!). The choice of drivers over 25 is fairly limited and serves to suggest that Massa will continue, having been clearly better than Stroll so far.

    With nowhere else to go, Grosjean will sign on for another year with Magnussen, but I’d expect one of them to be ditched mid-season for Leclerc or Giovinazzi, as it makes no sense for what is effectively a Diet Ferrari team to have none of their young drivers placed there.

    That leaves Sauber, where Ericsson will likely continue for another season and the other seat will probably go to a Honda-placed driver.

    Williams: Stroll / Massa
    Haas: Grosjean / Magnussen
    Sauber: Ericsson / Matsushita

    So how’s this for a predicted line-up:

    Mercedes: Hamilton / Alonso
    Ferrari: Vettel / Perez
    Red Bull: Ricciardo / Verstappen
    Force India: Ocon / Wehrlein
    Renault: Hulkenberg / Sainz
    McLaren: Bottas / Vandoorne
    Toro Rosso: Kvyat / Gasly
    Williams: Stroll / Massa
    Haas: Grosjean / Magnussen
    Sauber: Ericsson / Matsushita

    – Is it wishful thinking to partner Alonso with Hamilton in a top team again?
    – Will this really be Kimi’s last year?
    – Would Mercedes brutally drop Bottas after only a year?

    I’m interested to see where yours differs… give it a shot!:


    David Not Coulthard

    Already? I remember when someone wrote how funny it was that the silly season had moved from around Monza to around Silverstone


    Ben Needham

    @davidnotcoulthard… sorry, but I think it’s all starting now. Alonso has indicated that he’s agreed some plans for next year and Massa has started to lay his intentions out. Hamilton and Vettel have begun playing games with talk of retirement and ending contracts.

    Moves are often announced in late September around Monza, but have no doubts that it’s all moving in the background already.


    David Not Coulthard

    @ben-n Hmm….yeah but at this rate @keithcollantine might start a prediction contest on when the silly season for year X will start to begin in year X-2 :)



    Mine is quite boring at this time. I would like to see Raikkonen move on to change it up a bit.

    Mercedes: Hamilton – Bottas
    Ferrari: Vettel – Raikkonen
    Red Bull-TAG Heuer: Ricciardo – Verstappen
    Force India-Mercedes: Perez – Ocon
    Williams-Mercedes: Massa – Stroll
    Toro Rosso-Renault: Kvyat – Gasly
    Renault: Hulkenberg – Sainz
    Haas-Ferrari: Grosjean – Magnussen
    McLaren-Mercedes: Alonso – Vandoorne
    Sauber-Honda: Ericsson – Wehrlein



    If I’d have to guess now, I’d say the grid for next season will look like this:

    Mercedes: Hamilton/Bottas
    Ferrari: Räikkönen/Vettel
    Red Bull: Verstappen/Ricciardo
    Force India: Ocon/Perez
    Williams: Alonso/Stroll
    Toro Rosso: Sainz/Gasly
    Renault: Hülkenberg/Buemi
    Haas: Magnussen/Leclerc
    Sauber: Wehrlein/Matshushita
    McLaren: Vandoorne/Grosjean

    Can’t see anything changing in top teams. Mercedes have found harmony inside their team. Bottas has been easily good enough to fulfill Rosberg’s seat and I’d imagine he is getting even better when season goes on. Hamilton’s retirement talks are just that, silly talks. He is still battling fiercely on track. There is still fire in him. I don’t believe he’d retire after this season.
    Räikkönen’s start to the season was pretty weak, but Kimi has greatly improved in last few weekends. Luck just hasn’t been on his side. And besides, there are no super talent going up the ladder right now to replace him. There’s no point for Vettel to go anywhere else, so no changes in Ferrari.
    Ricciardo and Verstappen is a great pair for Red Bull. Red Bull has zero need to change a thing and there’s no better seats available for either of the RB drivers. The same applies for Force India’s pair.
    Alonso is desperate to get out of McLaren and Williams is one of the only places in the paddock where he hasn’t destroyed team spirits or burned bridges yet. That’s where he’ll end up. Stroll’s wallet secures his drive at Williams.
    Kvyat gets the boot from Toro Rosso and he is replaced by Gasly. Sainz has to settle in and wait for another day until he gets out of junior team.
    Hülkenberg continues in Renault but he gets a new team mate for next season. Abysmally bad Palmer leaves the sport and he is being replaced by Buemi who is doing excellent job in WEC and Formula E. He has contacts to Renault through their e.dams FE-team and he has been driving tyre tests for Pirelli, making him a tempting option for Renault.
    Magnussen continues in Haas, while under-performing Grosjean has to go. Leclerc takes his place after utterly dominating the entire F2 field.
    Wehrlein continues to improve at Sauber throughout this season, so he’ll stay there. But for next year Honda wants to have Japanese colours in the grid, so they’ll bring in Matshushita who can outbid Ericsson with the help of Honda and other Japanese sponsors.
    McLaren still believe in Vandoorne despite mediocre debut season. He’ll be paired with Grosjean who has nowhere else to go at this point.


    Ben Needham

    A slightly contrasting weekend for the Finn’s trying to hold on to their seats at top teams. Bottas is making it more and more difficult for Mercedes to show him the door and a few more wins this year would surely cement his position. Kimi meanwhile is now behind even Ricciardo in the Red Bull, while his team-mate leads the way by some distance.

    He’s been unlucky at times, but Ferrari will surely have to look for a new option if they lose the WCC because of Kimi’s points deficit.



    Ben- surely if Ferrari want to win a Constructors Championship then Kimi has to be replaced. In Monaco it was great to see him get the pole and I was hoping he would take the win (disclaimer: if Daniel cant get it) but apart from that race he hasn’t been up to it.

    Since your first post both Mercedes and Ferrari have said that they don’t want Alonso, so you need to assume then Hamilton and Vettel are both staying (and don’t want him as a teammate). Red Bull the same- no room. So I honestly think he hopes McLaren will whip Honda into shape, he takes a chance a Renault or he leaves F1!!

    Even Alain Prost has said Renault cant give him a winning car next year and quite possibly the year after. To me that seems to be Morse Code of “we don’t want him either!”

    Bottas will stay at Mercedes I think- done enough to get another chance and I really hope he starts beating HAM & VET more often and gives the title a real shake! Many names linked to Merc, but I think Bottas is safe.

    So drivers for Ferrari are Dan, Max, Carlos or Checo (I think Romain and The Hulks time has passed, unfortunately).
    And I think it will be Checo. Vettel will have respect for him but think he has him covered, but Checo will be closer in that battle if it comes to be.

    Palmer will go- combo of bad luck and maybe not quiet the performances he should have had, which would be a shame as the guy has talent but maybe just not at F1 standard.

    I would love to see Giovinazzi on the grid next year but not sure yet where he would fit? Sauber seems logical but Marcus seems to have a solid spot there at the moment.

    I like this silly season LOL !!


    Mercedes : Bottas manages to finish the season ahead of Lewis. Lewis leaves to…
    Ferrari: Seb gets the WDC, Kimi leaves and Lewis takes his place, lured by Ferrari’s potential.
    Red Bull: Ric stays. Max gets sick and tired of his bad luck. Mercedes gets him. Red Bull gets Sainz (at last!!)
    Williams: Massa retires. They need a new experienced driver. Grosjean gets in, tired of Haas brakes. Stroll stays.
    Renault: Hulk stays. Palmer is out. Kubica returns (cross fingers).
    Force India: same line-up.
    Haas: Magnussen is joined by Palmer (too much money to be ignored).
    McLaren: (Hopefully) Honda starts getting more performance and endurance. Regularly in the points. Alonso $tay$. Vandoorne too.
    Toro Rosso: Gasly arrives. Kvyat is out. They hire any new rookie they find interesting.
    Sauber: Ericsson is out. Vandoorne is joined by a new rookie, or maybe Giovinazzi.
    * all my silly prediction doesn’t consider how strong contracts actually are.



    Figured I’d partake in this, but kind of shocked to see how slow the forums have become..

    I like to do my Silly Seasons in the style of cheap 90s F1 magazines.

    Hamilton wins the title, leaves F1 per Rosberg’s example. Toto Wolff, having burnt several bridges to experienced drivers as they spoke up about the FIA favoring the title contenders, has to resort to a Mercedes Junior.
    77. Bottas
    31. Ocon

    Vettel, determined to emulate Schumacher, stays on. Raikkonen announces his shock retirement after winning the Belgian GP. Ferrari, not wanting their radio communications to be heard less on TV, sign a loud driver.
    5. Vettel
    8. Grosjean

    Red Bull Tag Heuer
    After Ricciardo announces a shock change of teams, Red Bull quickly withdraw their other drivers from the market.
    33. Verstappen
    55. Sainz

    Force One Mercedes
    Name change goes on, Ocon is lost to Mercedes. Name change allows for more Brexit sponsors.
    11. Perez
    4. Rowland

    Haas Ferrari
    After a strong second half of the season, the team loses Grosjean to Ferrari, but gain another Ferrari driver.
    20. Magnussen
    36. Giovinazzi

    Williams Mercedes
    With 2016 being a year of regression, Williams seek aggression. Who better to get than the honey badger?
    3. Ricciardo
    18. Stroll

    Toro Rosso Honda
    With Sainz moving to the mother team and a new engine supplier, Toro Rosso will concede into a transitional year.
    96. Gasly
    87. Matsushita

    The team finally signs a big name and retains the Hulk.
    14. Alonso
    27. Hulkenberg

    McLaren Mercedes
    Despite getting a Mercedes engine, they lost their star driver. They gained something else due to the Mercedes engine deal, too.
    2. Vandoorne
    94. Wherlein

    Sauber Ferrari
    Honda deal falls through, Ferrari steps in on a condition. The team is to be rebranded Alfa Romeo in the future.
    9. Sony Ericson
    50. Leclerc



    Mercedes: Hamilton, Bottas
    Ferrari: Vettel, Raikkonen
    Red Bull: Ricciardo, Verstappen
    Force India: Perez, Ocon
    Williams: Massa, Stroll
    Haas: Grosjean, Giovinazzi
    Renault: Hulkenberg, Kubica
    Toro Rosso: Kvyat, Sainz
    McLaren: Vandoorne, Magnussen
    Sauber: Ericsson, Wehrlein



    Mercedes: Hamilton, Bottas
    Ferrari: Vettel, Grosjean
    Red Bull: Ricciardo, Verstappen
    Force One: Perez, Ocon
    Williams: Massa, Stroll
    Haas: Magnussen, Giovinazzi
    Renault: Hulkenberg, Kubica
    Toro Rosso: Sainz, Gasly
    McLaren: Vandoorne, Wehrlein
    Sauber: Ericsson, The Clerk


    Kavin Kannan

    I think it will be quite a boring silly season from now on, not much change.

    Mercedes: Hamilton and Bottas
    Ferrari: Vettel and Raikkonen (Sadly yet another year, apparently heard Perez is out of the running and Grosjean is staying at Haas, only option is Leclerc)
    Red Bull: Verstappen and Raikkonen
    Force India: Ocon and Auer (DTM contender who has a test with FI, main sponsor is BWT, who are set to buy out a major share at FI)
    Renault: Perez and Hulkenberg (Best option for Perez, good replacement for Palmer)
    Williams: Massa and Stroll
    Haas: Magnussen and Grosjean (Both confirmed yesterday)
    Toro Rosso: Sainz and Kvyat (Hope Kvyat goes but unlikely)
    McLaren: Alonso and Vandoorne (Stay with Honda, Alonso has no other options)
    Sauber: Ericsson and Wehrlein (Matsushita not enough superlicense points, no other seats for Wehrlein)


    Ben Needham

    Thought I’d revisit this with the news of Sauber becoming a Ferrari ‘B’ team and Raikkonen likely being retained… maybe not a “silly” a “silly season” as I’d first thought…

    Raikkonen is the cork in the bottle. If a Ferrari became available, there would be a flurry of movement in the seats below. If he stays put, then I think the second Renault then becomes the key seat.

    If they put Kubica in, then little changes… if not, then Perez, Sainz or maybe even Alonso would probably be next in line. Will Massa stay for another year?



    Not sure why they want to keep Kimi again next year- although it seems likley again- did Vettel sign a “me + 1” contract with them?

    Robert Kubica is testing right now, so things may get sillier in the morning- I hope he goes well (I haven’t checked testing progress so far).

    And if we are being REALLY silly I just heard The Hulk and K-Mag will become team-mates next year in the new rumoured team called ‘Rainbow F1’ :) – I cant imagine what their sponsored product could be for the life of me LOL !!

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