Launch of F1 Silly Season… towards 2025

By | December 21, 2023

It says a lot about this year’s driver market that the most interesting aspect of it was the movement between performance coaches and those who support the drivers themselves.

Max Verstappen’s trainer Bradley Scanes left his role, causing Carlos Sainz’s performance coach Rupert Manwaring to move to work with the three-time world champion. And Yuki Tsunoda also needs a new partner after Michael Italiano left for a big opportunity in cricket.

When Logan Sargeant was finally confirmed at Williams for the second year in a row, the least active driver market in history was complete, as not a single seat changed between the end of the 2023 season and the start of 2024.

And it’s not like there were huge moves midway through the year either, with only Daniel Ricciardo’s return to AlphaTauri instead of Nyck de Vries preventing identical lineups in the first race of the season that had just moved on to the next. to ride.

But you’ve probably heard the saying, “The calm before the storm,” and that’s exactly where the driver market is right now.

The end of 2024 presents a huge amount of possibilities, and many of them play a role in keeping other opportunities open.

Even with some high-profile contract extensions announced in the last 12 months, three-quarters of the grid have deals that expire at the end of next season.

The easiest way to get this going is to outline who the drivers are who are currently under contract for more than next year (even if there may be options involved that could negate that if necessary).

Unsurprisingly, Max Verstappen has the longest deal at Red Bull, running until 2028, while it is Oscar Piastri who is the safest behind him with a deal announced until the end of 2026.

For the remaining three drivers – Piastri’s team-mate Lando Norris and Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell – 2025 is the end point of their current agreements, giving them the potential opportunity to make a move in time for the new regulations coming into the year be introduced thereon.

So the most sought-after name that could be available at the end of 2024 is Charles Leclerc, as both Ferrari drivers have yet to agree to new deals.

Team boss Fred Vasseur had stated that he wanted to settle the two drivers’ respective futures before the end of the year to have clarity heading into ’24, but that is a target he admits has been missed, with the revised target of the start of the new season is stated.

And it’s not surprising to see why. Given that there are so many drivers available at the end of next year – but also three big names currently on the market at the end of next season – there are options not only for the Ferrari drivers, but also for the team. Vasseur needs to keep the situation at Maranello positive, but it would be remiss of him to ignore the potential candidates who could become available in the coming years.

This then plays a role in the type of contract that is discussed. It’s not hard to imagine Ferrari wanting to lock up Leclerc for the longer term given the way he has been brought through the ranks, but Sainz could get a deal that includes an option at the end of 2025 in case of significant movement.

Flip that to the drivers’ perspective, and Sainz will likely want a firmer commitment, but both he and Leclerc will also be keeping an eye on the 2026 regulations.

F1 stars must make career moves based on current form and trends… which could be risky if they find themselves in a new regulation cycle. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

It is always so difficult to judge which teams will do well when there is a major change in both aerodynamics and power unit technology, and the decision to prevent teams from working on the new cars years in advance only shortens the time to get such an impression. . So having a contract that expires a year after the introduction of the new regulations – and which will therefore have created a fully competitive picture – could be the smartest choice.

That applies to all drivers of course, not just the Ferrari pair, but with so many available at the end of next year, there will probably be one or two who will be willing to make a longer-term commitment if given the chance, or to make a shorter deal if it gives them a more competitive seat than they currently have.

The way this year went, there were few contracts to resolve and therefore few possible moves could happen. That left drivers and teams sticking with what they had, as alternative options were scarce.

That won’t be the case 12 months from now and even those with longer deals are aware of it. McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown believes Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari will all assess options, including showing interest in Norris.

“I would say next priority – a lot of priorities – but we certainly still have some time for Lando; but he is a driver that everyone wants in the pit lane,” says Brown. “How long will Lewis go? What will Mercedes do? How long does Sergio have? [Perez] to go? So I definitely think the three other big teams probably won’t have a view on their driver line-ups after ’25, and I think Lando, given the performance he’s had, would be at the top of everyone’s list.”

While Norris will certainly be a target for many teams unless he signs a new deal, the number of others available means teams will be working on a Plan A through Plan F.

There is certainly a lot of room for the majority of drivers to stay exactly where they are at the end of next season, but until someone gets the ball rolling and solidifies their current position or commits to moving elsewhere, teams are unlikely to do that. want to fully commit themselves and take themselves out of the picture.

And it could be 2025 when most seats become available, but as Brown adds, teams will want to get their business done “sooner rather than later” given the permutations: “I think the market is already moving!”

The story originally appeared on Racer

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