Shortly after the Austrian Grand Prix it was reported by the highly respected F1 journalist and all round top guy Joe Saward that he beleived Pascal Wehrlein was on Force India’s list of potential drivers for the 2017.
Just a few days later, it was announced by Force India boss Vijay Mallya that Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenburg would be remaining with the team for the 2017 season. Yet as a seasoned Vijay watcher I should have known not to trust all the words to come out of his mouth.
It appears that Sergio Perez is in demand for 2017 and is looking at all his options, believed to be Renault and Williams for next season. Perez has shown he can eek performances out of midfield cars and put them consistently in the points. He has a budget of around 15 million Euro’s in Mexican sponsorship and his performances this year makes him a very attractive proposition.
Newer fans to F1 may ask why Perez would swap a solid podium challenging team in the shape of Force India for a team who occasionally finishes behind the Manor car.
Perhaps in 2017 the Force India may still be faster than the Renault however now that the team is now a full time works team we do not expect that situation to remain the same for much longer. Any driver who wants to win races, needs to be in a works car. That is also why Valterri Bottas is also being linked heavily with the French team.
Depending on if he moves and which team he moves too, Pascal Wehrlein will remain a very interested spectator in these developments. Both Force India and Williams are customers of Mercedes. Any loss of Mexican based money at Force India can be recouped in some form of discount from Mercedes who can move Wehrlein up the grid to continue his development.
Just last week we wrote a blog pouring cold water on a story from a UK tabloid that Jordan King already had a contract in place with Manor for a race seat in 2017. It was far too early for the team to be making that decision as so much can change between now and January when the team typically make their driver announcements. A lot has changed in the past week and it looks possible the team may require two new drivers for 2017 not just one.
It was expected that another Mercedes backed driver Esteban Ocon would graduate from his role as reserve driver at Renault to a full time seat but it looks like they may opt to go for drivers with more experience. If that is the case, we fully expect to see Ocon at Manor for 2017 and quite possibly sooner. Remember where you heard that first!
We do believe that King has more than a good shot of landing the second seat at Manor next season. However, with Renault looking like they will ditch Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer for next season, two new drivers with F1 experience and a budget to boot have came onto the market. We understand that Magnussen held talks with the team prior to replacing Pastor Maldonado at Renault this year and he would be an excellent addition to the team.
We have enjoyed watching Pascal’s debut season in F1 with Manor. Whilst there still remains a few question marks regarding his qualifying form, he been presented with once chance to score points this season and knocked it out of the park. That’s all we can ask for and if the team do score that all important 10th position in the constructors championship then we have more than benefited from his contribution to the team. We’d fully understand if Pascal felt the need to move on and would wish him all the best.