[Editor’s note: the following has been updated in light of reigning F1 champ Nico Rosberg’s Dec. 2nd retirement. Updates are in square brackets or
All the recent announcements and signings for the 2017 Formula 1 roster have caused quite a stir — Haas did not renew Esteban Gutiérrez’s contract and instead picked up Kevin Magnussen; Felipe Massa’s retirement opened the door for 18-year old Lance Stroll; and Esteban Ocon of Manor Racing was picked up by Renault.
Mercedes AMG Petronas also managed to lock in their power duo, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who are currently preparing for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The team was able to sign both drivers until 2018. [Nico Rosberg won his first ever F1 World Championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and announced his retirement afterwards. That leaves the door open for a new teammate for Lewis Hamilton, and it’s a decision that needs to be made sooner than later.]
With most of the transfer issues resolved, only two teams have not declared their 2017 list — Manor Racing MRT and Sauber-Ferrari.
Sauber is still in talks with their 2016 drivers, Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, and have not openly considered any replacements. Ericsson has toyed with the idea of switching teams throughout the year, but as his options dwindle, it seems likely that he’ll stay at Sauber for 2017.
Felipe Nasr is where the complications are for Sauber. Though the driver is more than happy to stay, the team is having difficulties negotiating with his sponsors. This is frustrating for all involved, but it’s likely to go the team’s way in the end.
One option Nasr is considering is Manor Racing MRT, which is looking for two drivers for 2017. Also in the mix for Manor are current driver Pascal Wehrlein, reserve driver Rio Haryanto, and Haas-reject Esteban Gutierrez.
Haryanto, who was scheduled to drive for Manor in 2016 but ultimately lost out due to a lack of funds, has managed to pick up some high profile investors for 2017. Esteban Gutiérrez was let go by Haas and is desperately looking for a team, and Nasr is open to joining Manor, but it seems more likely that he will stay with Sauber.
We should expect the teams to be finalized some time after the 2016 season. The Sauber team isn’t expected to change. Ericsson is almost definitely going to sign and Nasr just needs to resolve his sponsorship issues. But Manor Racing is very much up in the air. Current driver Pascal Wehrlein will probably be signed; who he will race alongside is still up for grabs.
None of the unsigned drivers stand much of a chance of taking home the Drivers Championship next season, regardless of where they land.
Rosberg, Hamilton, and the Mercedes-Petronas team were indomitable last year and remain the heavy favorites for 2017. [Hamilton is still a heavy favorite, and depending who fills Rosberg’s vacancy, the team could still have a chance at finishing on the top two steps of the podium.] Mercedes has to be thrilled about having its two stud drivers back for next season, but will the drivers, themselves, be happy with the current arrangement? Hamilton and Rosberg were friends in their younger days but are developing a fierce rivalry as the sport’s top contenders, and it’s difficult for the team to balance resources between the two. Just last year, Mercedes moved some of Hamilton’s mechanics to Rosberg’s garage after Rosberg took control of the title race. I wouldn’t be surprised if both drivers are yearning for a situation where they are the undisputed number one driver on their respective teams. So how long they remain Mercedes teammates after 2018 (when both of their current contracts expire) is up in the air. [It’s no secret there was a fierce rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg. That will be missed, but Hamilton will now have the chance to be the team’s undisputed number one driver, which should take pressure off the team.]
and Nico, the other top challengers are all staying put for 2017. That includes Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. There’s little to suggest that the pair will come any closer to the title than last year, though. (Ricciardo finished third in the standings, 121 points back of the champion Rosberg and 109 back of second-place Hamilton.)
Of all the drivers who switched teams, Hulkenberg has the best chance to finish near the top of the standings. But he’s still a massive 150/1 longshot to claim the title, and Magnussen could have a decent year with his new Haas team.
Let’s take a look at a slate of props for the upcoming F1 season.
Odds on Formula 1 2017 Odds:
Odds to drive for Manor Racing MRT
Pascal Wehrlein: 1/4
Rio Haryanto: 1/1
Felipe Nasr: 4/1
Esteban Gutiérrez: 4/1
Odds to drive for Sauber-Ferrari
Marcus Ericsson: 1/9
Felipe Nasr: 3/7
Esteban Gutiérrez: 5/1
Odds to win the 2017 Drivers Championship
Nico Rosberg: 7/4
Odds to drive for Mercedes-Petronas after 2018
Nico Rosberg: 1/3
Photo credit: “Formula 1 (titl shift)” by Jose Maria Miñarro, CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Flickr.