Recently, there has been much speculation over the future of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Jenson Button in the sport of Formula 1. Raikkonen and Button, both 36, are currently the oldest drivers in the sport, and there has been question over their future as an F1 driver.
Raikkonen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel is definitely staying for the 2017 season, but the Maranello-based team have to soon decide wether or not to keep the Finn.
However, one thing is clear. Like it or not, Raikkonen’s prime days in the sport are over- although he is a 2007 World Champion, we are not currently seeing the best performances of his sporting career.
Raikkonen is the last driver to win the title with Ferrari, and after re-joining the team in 2014, it is fair to say that is he not what he once was. In 2015, a series of bad luck and unfortunate events left us unaware of what Raikkonen could have achieved, and although we can see a clear improvement this season- is it enough to prove that he deserves another year at Ferrari?
So far, four drivers have been linked to Raikkonen’s possible replacement, Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Force India’s Sergio Perez, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz. However, Ricciardo and Sainz are now out of the question for replacing Raikkonen for next season as they have already had their contracts renewed by Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso. So that just leaves Grosjean and Perez, who could have a particularly exciting season if they get signed, especially Perez, who has had a strong season so far with Force India, getting podium finishes several times.
For McLaren, the choice this time is more straightforward. Button’s teammate Fernando Alonso has had his contract re-signed until the end of 2017, and his teammate for that season will be either his current one, Jenson Button, or reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne.
Vandoorne does have youth on his side and performed well as a replacement for Alonso in Bahrain due to Alonso’s injury; he out-qualified Button and scored a point in the race.
Like Raikkonen, Button is a former World Champion and firmly wants to stay in the sport, however we will not know until September, when McLaren have announced their decision.
Despite this, Vandoorne has been reportedly most likely to replace Button for 2017, which leaves Button with a choice. Does he retire, or does he return to Williams as a teammate to Valterri Bottas, where he began his Formula 1 career back in 2000?
“He is a great talent,” Clare Williams reported, “I’ve come out and I’ve said that, and we have to look at the options, and who the best talent is across a number of parameters for this team for next year. Wether we’re looking at him or not is something that remains confidential to us, but there are lots of other drivers out there available as well to us.”
Williams have reportedly expressed some interest in signing the Brit alongside Bottas, but wether or not this is an appealing choice for Button is a different question altogether. Following an improved power unit for this season for Red Bull, Williams have increasingly slipped behind, and if Honda can sort themselves out for 2017, Williams could slip behind McLaren as well.
This therefore means that the Williams seat could not necessarily be an improvement for Button, however he loves racing so much it is suspected that he might take the offer if it is there anyway. However, Williams could want instead to sign some youth. They want experience, and they already have that with Bottas, so they could look into a younger driver instead of Button.