Singapore GP answered a lot of questions as to the make-up of F1 in 2018, but not all.
The Honda / McLaren split was officially announced, with the Woking team swopping engines with Toro Rosso. Renault was able to extract Carlos Sainz from Toro Rosso as part of the deal, though officially the move is being characterised by Red Bull as a loan, Sainz will be at Renault for the next three years. That move officially ended Jolyon Palmer’s tenure at the team. The Honda / McLaren / Renault / Toro Rosso announcements and the first lap of the race overshadowed Force India’s announcement that Sergio Perez had signed a new one-year contract with the team. With McLaren now officially being supplied by Renault for the next three years, it’s almost a certainty that Alonso extends his contract with the team. Toro Rosso will move Gasly into Sainz’s seat. With the exception of Sauber and Williams, 2018 is set for both drivers and engines.
The only questions concerning Sauber are whether Ferrari gets their way and put both their junior drivers, Leclerc and Giovinazzi, into the team, or the team’s owners hang tough with Ericsson. Regardless of what happens, it’s almost a certainty that Pascal Wehrlein is out. And that leaves us with Williams.
Williams, a team that has won nine constructors F1 world championships and sits second overall behind Ferrari, and who at one time had the pick of the best drivers available in F1, now finds itself in the unenviable position of trawling for low-ranking pay drivers for both of their seats. While the team currently sits fifth in the constructor’s world championship, that fact masks how bad they really are, they have only scored half the points of their natural rival – Force India and are only a handful of points ahead of Renault and Toro Rosso, teams burdened with an underpowered and unreliable power unit. Williams, who looked marginally competitive at the beginning of the season, now find getting into Q2 a struggle. A Lowe point for the team? We now look at the choices the team has for its second seat
The team always has the option of doing nothing. Massa can be re-signed. Though it’s abundantly clear that Massa is well past his best before date. He should be thumping Stroll – yet he sits just three points ahead of his rookie teammate. But he is Brazilian and that brings us to Felipe Nasr, a driver lurking in the weeds.
Nasr has been touted by some simply because he is Brazilian and 25. Both Liberty Media and Ecclestone worry about the viability of the Brazilian GP without a local driver. He does meet Martini’s age requirement, but unless Liberty Media or Ecclestone or some unknown sponsor is willing to cough up millions to save the Brazilian GP his chances are effectively zero.
Williams as a Mercedes customer, could have some pressure exerted on them by Toto to sign Pascal Wehrlein, but that would likely cost the team its Martini sponsorship, valued at around $10M- $15M, as Wehrlein is under 25 years old. That cost, plus the other benefits that Williams would demand, are likely too high for Mercedes to bear, especially for a driver that they appear to have given up on in F1 and seem to be positioning for Formula E. Continue THE JUDGE13>