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2019 Driver Market: a pre-Germany guide

Formula 1’s infamous silly season of 2019 driver contracts has kicked into thundering gear in the last few weeks, so which drivers are going where?

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Three drivers who have rumors swirling about their futures; from left-to-right: Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc during the Thursday press conference for the British Grand Prix.

Multiple off-track discussions of 2019 Formula 1 driver contracts have arisen publicly over the last few weeks.

Multiple sources report discussions within Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren about 2019 contracts, with lasting ramifications from each and every one that comes to the public eye…

Charles Leclerc

The most notable story centres around reports that Charles Leclerc has signed a two-year contract to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, which was chiefly reported by BBCF1 in Austria.

The Sauber driver has impressed recently with four top ten finishes in the last five rounds.

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Charles Leclerc (right) celebrates with Sauber Team Principal Fredric Vasseur after recording a P6 finish in this year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

All of that is on top of a stunning P6 finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix earlier in the year.

On the Thursday before the French Grand Prix, a Motorsport.com article from Italian journalist Roberto Chinchero also said Ferrari is “leaning towards promoting Leclerc to a race seat.”

If all of these reports are true, this would see twenty-year-old Leclerc replace Kimi Raikkonen, who’s been with Ferrari since 2014.

The Finnish driver is one of the sport’s most experienced – 278 starts over 19 seasons – but his contract runs out at the end of 2018.

Raikkonen is currently the oldest driver on the grid at 38 years. He made his debut at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix when Leclerc was just four years old.

Neither Raikkonen nor Leclerc’s futures have been confirmed.

Kimi Raikkonen

With the Leclerc discussions featuring heavily, reports have come out about where the future of Kimi Raikkonen lies; the most notable one says it’s back at his old team, McLaren.

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Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen answers questions during a Thursday press session ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.

Sky Sports News was the first major outlet to report the Press Association’s original story, and it blew up over the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, with journalists constantly pestering the Finn for any word about his future.

“I have zero interest to get involved in all the nonsense in my view,” Raikkonen said on Thursday at the Red Bull Ring.

It’s understood that Raikkonen is on McLaren’s list of drivers who could replace Fernando Alonso if he makes the move to Indycar for 2019 to win motorsport’s Triple Crown.

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Fernando Alonso, pictured here at the Austrian Grand Prix, may switch to Indycar for 2019 in a bid to win the Indy 500.

“I don’t know if I will continue in Formula 1,” Alonso recently told Spanish Radio station Cadena Cope.

Raikkonen previously drove for McLaren between 2002 and 2006 and his current contract at Ferrari expires at the end of the season.

Lewis Hamilton

The Daily Telegraph reported before the Austrian Grand Prix that Lewis Hamilton would sign a two-year contract at Mercedes worth 50 million USD before the British Grand Prix.

However, with the British Grand Prix almost two weeks ago, no announcement has been made.

With a two-year length, Hamilton would stay in Formula 1 until 2020, when the current Concorde Agreement expires.

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Lewis Hamilton during the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix, a race he would later retire from due to a fuel pressure issue.

This would allow the Briton to choose whether he stays in the sport as Liberty Media begin to apply their vision in 2021.

Hamilton has expressed doubts in the past about continuing in Formula 1 and former driver David Coulthard predicted he’d quit the sport when his current contract ran out at the end of 2018.

If a new contract is confirmed, it would all-but secure the driver line up at Mercedes as Toto Wolff has expressed a desire to retain Valtteri Bottas. 

An announcement of Hamilton’s new contract should be imminent if the reports are true.

Daniel Ricciardo

Motorsport.com understands Daniel Ricciardo will sign an extension of his current contract at Red Bull and remain with the team in 2019.

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Daniel Ricciardo, pictured here on Thursday in Britain, is reportedly going to remain at Red Bull because he couldn’t secure a seat anywhere else.

With the reports surrounding Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton, Ricciardo appears unable to jump ship to a manufacturer team for 2019, forcing him to stay at Red Bull.

Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport said ahead of the German Grand Prix that Daniel Ricciardo is demanding $66 million USD for a new two-year contract at Mercedes or Ferrari.

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko also pointed out in Austria that both Mercedes and Ferrari have clearly defined team leaders with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

“Daniel is in a situation where he has no sporting alternative to us,” Marko said.

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Red Bull’s Helmut Marko, pictured here, believes Daniel Ricciardo has nowhere else to go but Red Bull.

Daniel Ricciardo said in Austria “the time is not far away” for his contract to be decided.

German magazine Sport Bild reported before the French Grand Prix that Ricciardo had been offered a $50 million USD contract at McLaren, which would’ve seen him replace Fernando Alonso.

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner told German press that Ricciardo has until August to re-sign with his current team.

This is how the 2019 grid would look if all the reports are indeed correct:

Mercedes

  1. Lewis Hamilton
  2. Valtteri Bottas

Ferrari

  1. Sebastian Vettel
  2. Charles Leclerc

Red Bull

  1. Daniel Ricciardo
  2. Max Verstappen

McLaren

  1. Kimi Raikkonen
  2. Stoffel Vandoorne

Steven Walton is an 18-year-old Journalism Student at the Ara Institute of Canterbury. He previously attended St Andrew's College in Christchurch, where he excelled at History and Classical Studies. Steven is the Editor-in-Chief at Green Flag F1 and spends most of his days living, breathing, and immersing in the Formula 1 world.

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