McLaren the team to watch on driver front for 2015 lineup and beyond

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McLaren’s racing director Eric Boullier said Wednesday all options are on the table in terms of the team’s driver lineup for next year. Which is a nice way of saying, “We’re not not satisfied with our current pair, but we need to see how the driver market evolves.”

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Boullier didn’t commit one way or another to either its current lineup of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen.

“We are lucky to have two drivers who want to commit to us for the future. We have some contractual options we can pick up, so we are not in a rush to decide our future driver line-up,” he said, via the official Formula One website. “We are evaluating and assessing every strategy for the future.”

They may not be in a rush, but they do need to be thinking about maneuvering with the traditional start of F1’s silly season occurring next month in July.

There’s three more Grands Prix – the British, German and Hungarian rounds – in the month of July before the annual summer break.

It is in those three weekends that a clearer picture of McLaren’s 2015 lineup could emerge, depending on their current drivers’ performance output and whether anyone else’s dissatisfaction with their current lot would see them want to move to McLaren.

It’s a fluid situation and one where NBC Sports Group’s F1 insider and pit reporter Will Buxton attempts to analyze the situation on his own blog site.

Of Sebastian Vettel, whose reign of dominance at Red Bull has ended with the new regulations and a car he feels less at ease with, the move to McLaren could be tempting. Less so, according to Buxton, would be a return for Fernando Alonso to the team … not because of his troubled 2007 campaign there, but more because he’s still committed to continuing the drive of pushing Ferrari forward, and Ferrari at Le Mans could well be an attractive prospect down the road.

Of Button, though, Buxton thinks he may be on the way out:

As for Jenson Button, to be honest I’m just not sure he’s enjoying it anymore. This will be one of the hardest seasons Jenson has ever had to endure. The car is not as competitive as he would like, and whereas in years gone-by he and his beloved Dad would shrug their shoulders and look to the future, dear Papa Smurf is sadly no longer here to be the voice of solace and reason. Part of me thinks the joy is quickly fading for Jenson, and if he walks away at the end of the season I would not be at all surprised. Even with Honda coming back, I just don’t know if Jenson will.

Magnussen, who was only brought in at the start of this year, needs time to develop and grow within the team – the same time not afforded to his predecessor Sergio Perez last year. Whether Magnussen would continue with Button or a more lucrative, attractive free agent remains to be seen.

Button, at 34, is the second oldest and most experienced driver on the grid. He’s not quite in a Mark Webber “leave before you’re pushed” situation, but he may get there soon enough.

This seems to be the team to watch this year, because at the moment, the likelihood is greater of an open seat here than at Red Bull or Ferrari. Stay tuned.

Formula One: Recapping the past week’s news

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While the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is still two months away from beginning its 2018 season, this past week did bring about news items that filled out the 2018 grid and shed some light on individual team and car launches as the season-opening Australian Grand Prix draws closer.

Below is a recap of F1 news from this past week:

Williams Signs Sirotkin for 2018 Drive, Names Kubica as Reserve Driver

The saga of the second seat at Williams Martini Racing was finally resolved early on in the week, with former Renault Sport F1 Team test driver Sergey Sirotkin officially confirmed as a teammate to the incumbent Lance Stroll in 2018.

The announcement concluded months of speculation that saw multiple drivers test for the team in an auditioning capacity. Most notably, Robert Kubica looked to be a main contender for the seat before Sirotkin emerged as the favorite.

However, Kubica, who has not raced in Formula 1 since a devastating rally accident in 2011 left him with brutal injuries to his right arm, was named as a reserve and development driver for the team.

This announcement also completes the 2018 Formula 1 driver lineup, with all 11 teams having their seats now filled. Among those who were left without F1 drives are Paul Di Resta, who drove for Williams at the Hungarian Grand Prix in relief of Felipe Massa and even tested with them during the Winter months, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who filled in for Pascal Wehrlein at the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.

Former Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also without a race seat for 2018, but did sign on with Scuderia Ferrari as a development driver.

Mercedes, McLaren Reveal Dates for Their 2018 Car Launches

While most teams have not yet released dates for when their 2018 cars will be publicly launched, three notables have.

Mercedes AMG Petronas will introduce its 2018 challenger on February 22nd, the same day Ferrari is doing so, while McLaren will unveil its car one day later on the 23rd.

Testing will commence on February 26th at Circuit de Catalunya.

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