Williams has a quandary to solve with their 2018 driver pairing. Do they stick with stability, or opt for a new lead driver?
Williams’ Martini sponsorship deal means that the team needs at least one of their drivers to be over the age of 25. As Lance Stroll is only 18 years old, and the money he brings to the team looks set to secure his seat for at least another season, the other vacancy requires a driver over the age of 25, ruling out talented younger drivers such as Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat.
Badger’s Nicky Haldenby looks at the potential candidates for the seat.
The obvious choice is the un-retired Brazilian who continues to be a reliable driver for the team. However, his performance compared to Valtteri Bottas last year was, in some respects, woeful; he was out-qualified 17 times.
A firm fan favourite, Felipe is competent, but, given that Lance Stroll is now being out-qualified regularly by Massa, should Williams be looking for an even stronger lead driver?
Massa has recently confirmed that he’ll be driving in Formula E when his F1 career eventually comes to a close, but will that be at the end of this season?
Paul Di Resta
Former Force India driver and current Williams reserve driver Paul di Resta has emerged as one of the favourites to replace Massa in 2018 should the Brazilian leave the team.
He was plunged into Massa’s seat when Felipe fell ill ahead of qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix and performed impressively well under pressure. His time in qualifying – in a car which he’d never driven before – was just shy of three seconds off the pole time and was good enough to out-perform one of the Saubers.
Williams could take di Resta on as a full-time driver for 2018, but his lack of experience in F1’s hybrid era may be a cause for concern.
Claire Williams has admitted that Fernando would be a good fit for the team. But with the McLaren driver’s determination to be winning in 2018, and with one eye wandering towards motor racing’s Triple Crown, it’s questionable whether Williams is the right fit for the Spaniard at this point in his career.
Now that McLaren’s switch to Renault engines for 2018 has been confirmed, a move to Williams would be, at best, a sideways step for Fernando.
Palmer’s father’s helicopter was spotted at Williams’ Grove HQ last week, and while he was only there for a Grand Prix Trust lunch, it’s not entirely out of the question that he popped into Sir Frank’s office to negotiate.
Palmer’s inexperience may work against him in his quest to stay in F1 next year, though his recent strong form in Singapore shows that he can score points when the car underneath him is performing well. Two young pay drivers are unlikely to be a route that Williams will be wishing to take, however.
Perhaps Williams would do well to look outside of the current grid. Rumours suggest negotiations are ongoing between Kubica and the British team, with seemingly no vacancy available to him at Renault.
Questions still remain whether Kubica’s return to the sport would be viable. However, from a marketing perspective, it would be a great move for Williams to give F1 fans the comeback they want to see.
The young German driver looks set to lose his Sauber seat to Charles Leclerc in 2018. Ferrari’s apparent desire to turn Sauber into a Ferrari B-team works against Wehrlein, a Mercedes junior. Many feel that it would be unfair for Pascal to lose his place in F1 given his strong showings against team-mate Marcus Ericsson over the past two seasons.
Williams, a Mercedes-powered team, would be a logical and deserved step up the grid for Wehrlein. Wehrlein is under 25 so does not fit Williams’ sponsor’s criteria, however, there is speculation that Martini would be happy for these criteria to be fulfilled by the team’s third driver instead.
If Paul di Resta stays on as the team’s reserve, the door could be opened for Wehrlein to stay in F1 with a midfield team.
Maybe Williams will shock us all and choose a different driver completely – how about former Williams recruits Nico Rosberg or Jenson Button rejoining the team?
Or how about 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve making a sensational comeback with the team he won the championship with? Unlikely, given he’s allegedly currently banned from entering their motorhome.
Who do you think will make up Williams’ 2018 line-up?
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