Just ahead of the penultimate Grand Prix of the season, the legendary Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paolo, the majority of cockpits have been allocated. Some moves are surprising, some were expected.
Kevin Magnussen is going to join newcomer Haas F1 alongside Romain Grosjean, replacing Esteban Gutierrez. Gutierrez performance has been lackluster compared to his teammate’s, best demonstrated by a look at the driver standings: all of the teams 29 points have been scored by Grosjean. Sure, there was some bad luck involved for Gutierrez, but his overall pace wasn’t spectacular. And stint at Sauber, where he was badly beaten by the likes of Sutil and Hülkenberg in 2014 and 2013, doesn’t favor him either. Now it’s Magnussen’s third chance to convince a team of hiring him for more than a season after Renault and McLaren weren’t willing to.
His move away from Renault is good news for Jolyon Palmer. He will stay for another year and keep Hülkenberg company. While Palmer wasn’t too impressive at first (remember him crashing the car into the barriers in Monaco when he forgot that a crosswalk is slippery when wet?), his performance improved as the season continued and apparently was good enough for a second chance. The fact that his father, a former racing driver and now owner of several race tracks, is investing a few millions into his son’s careers probably also helped.
Esteban Ocon managed to get the most desirable drive that was still available: the young Frenchman is replacing Hülkenberg at Force India and will work alongside Sergio Perez in 2017. Ocon of course is a Mercedes protegee and signing him is likely to result in a rebate on the Mercedes powertrain that Force India is running. They could have also signed Wehrlein, but apparently Ocon impressed the engineers a lot more.
So where does this leave the other drivers? Manor could retain Wehrlein as all other Mercedes customer teams have signed drivers, while the second seat could go to anyone willing to pay enough cash. Sauber will have to chose if a third season with Ericsson and Nasr, who passionately hate each other, is the way to go - seeing how Ericsson’s patrons own the team and Nasr’s sponsorship package, it might be the best financial decision. Once these deals are done and signed, the silly season is over.