TRACKING THE CHANGES: Formula 1 Silly Season
From one season to the next, Formula 1 is never short of changes as there are always drivers in new rides entering another year of competition.
The 2018 campaign will be no different, so let’s review where things stand as of January 25, 2018.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will be back at Mercedes once again. Actually, Bottas will be there for the next three years, after signing an extension in September 2017.
Another line-up that is filled with no surprise is the fact that both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will be back together at Ferrari.
Four-time champion – and 2017 title fighter – Sebastian Vettel agreed to a three-year contract to stay at the Scuderia until the end of 2020. Meanwhile, the length of the deal for Raikkonen did not specify anything beyond 2018.
Consistency in driver line-up carries over to Haas F1 team, who keeps both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen on board for the 2018 campaign.
Lance Stroll will return to Williams for a second season, but will have a new teammate in the form of Sergey Sirotkin.
The Russian is not a new name to F1 fans, having spent time as a test driver for Renault. The 22-year-old competed in GP2 in 2015, placing third in the year-end standings. He joined Renault Sport F1 in 2016, where he has spent the past two years.
Sauber switches to Alfa Romeo, virtue of a multi-year and commercial partnership. It marks the first time the Italian manufacture has been associated with an F1 team in 30 years. They will have Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ercisson behind the controls in 2018, with Antonio Giovinazzi serving as the reserve driver.
Leclerc won the 2016 GP3 Championship, prior to the GP2 title this year. He has seat time in F1, having tested with both Ferrari and Sauber, and enjoyed another four F1 practice outings with the latter. Meanwhile, the 2018 campaign will be Ericsson’s fourth with Sauber.
Despite a frustration season, Fernando Alonso isn’t bailing on McLaren yet, as he will be back with the team in 2018. This means the Spaniard will spend his fourth consecutive year with McLaren, fifth in total, since rejoining the team in 2015.
McLaren recognized the struggles endured by both Alonso and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, announcing a switch from Honda to Renault power for 2018.
Both Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon will return to Force India for another season together. It will take Perez into a fifth campaign with the Silverstone-based team, while marking the second year for Ocon.
Carlos Sainz Jr. has been loaned to Renault for 2018 to partner Nico Hulkenberg.
He continues to be associated with Red Bull but will get an experience of how a manufacturer works for the first time. Sainz has only driven for Toro Rosso to date, claiming a career-best sixth four times.
Max Verstappen signed a three-year extension with Red Bull, setting up his future for the next three years. The 20-year-old burst onto the scene last year with the Austrian-owned team, winning the Spanish Grand Prix to become the youngest winner in F1 series history. This past season, he got his second career victory in Malaysia
The game of seat roulette at Toro Rosso has finally come to a close, with Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley confirmed as the drivers for 2018.
Gasley, the 2016 GP2 Champion, has been part of the Red Bull fold since 2014, joining their Junior Team and testing for both Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso several times before his debut at Sepang. Meanwhile, it’s a reunion of sorts for Hartley as he previously pursued an F1 career, though was dropped by Red Bull year several years back before transitioning to sportscar competition.
Furthermore, Toro Rosso will move away from Renault power, signing a multi-year agreement with Honda.
After losing his ride with Torro Rosso following the United States Grand Prix in Austin last November, Daniil Kvyat will remain within the Formula 1 paddock as he has been signed as a development driver for Ferrari.
The 23-year-old made his F1 debut in 2014, before moving over to Red Bull the following season and scoring a podium finish. He remained with the team until a controversial incident at Russia, which resulted in being demoted to Torro Rosso, before losing his ride at year-end. In total, he was only able to score five points in 15 starts in 2017.
Nicholas Latifi is ready for the next step of his career, as he has signed with Force India as a reserve and test driver for the 2018 Formula 1 season. The 22-year-old has been impressive, scoring nine podium finishes in Formula 2 competition. He spent the past two years as a test driver for Renault F1.
Lando Norris will be the McLaren’s official test and reserve driver for 2018. The 2017 European F3 Champion has been part of the team’s Young Driver Programme since the start of 2017, making his test debut in August at the Hungaroring.
Just to review, Felipe Massa retired from Formula 1 competition for a second time.
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