Massa retires and Button’s going on sabbatical: F1 silly season is truly underway

The 2017 grid is starting to take shape

There was relative stability and little attrition in 2016 for F1, bar two in-season changes at Red Bull/Toro Rosso and Manor Racing.

In contrast, 2017 is set to deliver a shakeup of the midfield runners.

Earlier this week, Williams driver Felipe Massa announced he would be leaving the sport at the end of the year. Jenson Button will also be absent from the grid in 2017 as he makes way for McLaren protégé Stoffel Vandoorne. He and McLaren were quick to say this is not retirement for the Brit, and that he will continue to be an ambassador for the sport and could return to the cockpit in 2018- presumably if Fernando Alonso decides he’s had enough and retires himself at the end of 2017.

That now leaves at least one seat open at Williams, with Renault, Haas, Manor, Toro Rosso and Sauber yet to announce their full lineups for next year.

Formula One 2017: changing of the guard?

Next season will be a pivotal year for the future of the sport with the introduction of new technical regulations.

It will allow the teams and drivers to discover who has produced a competitive package before a number of seats become available at the current front runners in 2018 and 2019.

Perez is said to be the most important element of the current driver market, and his decision for 2017 will then allow the rest of the grid to fall into place.

Reports say he’s almost certain to stay at Force India and will announce the news at the Singapore GP. Any other move is likely to be a side- or backward-step for the Mexican.

Williams were reported to be interested in Perez thanks to the support from sponsors he brings to the sport. Felipe Nasr and Lance Stroll also bring strong financial backing with them and are thought to be in contention for a seat at the Grove-based team.

Mercedes have two of their young drivers currently on loan to Manor, and might consider moving them further up the grid into midfield teams to see how they cope before making a decision on their future post-2018. In this respect, Williams could be a great developing ground Pascal Wehrlein, and Renault have already hinted they are keen to have Esteban Ocon in the car next year.

Though Haas and Sauber have yet to announce their decision for next year, it is likely they will opt for consistency under the new regulations and try to retain their current drivers.

The young guns are coming…

It’s bittersweet that 2017 won’t feature stalwarts Massa and Button, and the paddock will be poorer for it.

However we will most certainly be witnessing the beginning of great rivalries that will dominate our sport once the likes of Alonso, Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel have left the sport.

Vandoorne, Wehrlein, and Ocon are the promising new stars of Formula One. Alongside Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, the future is looking bright for Formula One.

2017 Driver Lineup

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg
Red Bull Racing Daniel Ricciardo Max Verstappen
Ferrari Sebastian Vettel Kimi Raikkonen
Williams TBC/Valtteri Bottas* TBC
Force India Nico Hulkenberg Sergio Perez*
McLaren Fernando Alonso Stoffel Vandoorne
Toro Rosso Carlos Sainz TBC
Renault TBC TBC
Haas Romain Grosjean TBC
Sauber TBC TBC
Manor Racing TBC TBC

*TBC

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