F1 2015’s silly season is proving to be a let down, but who could yet spice it up?


Maybe we’ve been spoiled in recent years.

Maybe we’ve become accustomed to at least one World Champion jumping ship to a rival team in all of the past three seasons.

But whichever way you look at it, Formula 1’s silly season in 2015 has been a complete letdown.

For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon that is silly season, it can be defined as “the period in which every available driver on the F1 grid (or outside of the sport) is linked with every available seat”.

It lasts until the grid is completed and every team has set its line-up in stone, and ordinarily unfolds like a set of dominoes falling. One driver moves, another takes his place, thus freeing up a seat, and so on.

It happened in 2012 when Lewis Hamilton chose to leave McLaren. It happened in 2013 when Mark Webber announced he would be retiring (although ultimately moving into the FIA World Endurance Championship with Porsche for 2014), and when Ferrari dropped Felipe Massa to re-sign Kimi Raikkonen.

It happened in 2014 when Sebastian Vettel announced he would be leaving Red Bull, moving to Ferrari in place of Fernando Alonso, who returned to McLaren after seven years away.

And so we come to 2015. It was a silly season with much promise that largely revolved around Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen.

In the middle of July, reports in the Italian press claimed that Ferrari had struck an agreement with Williams to sign Valtteri Bottas for 2016 as Raikkonen’s replacement, sending the rumor mill into overdrive.

Williams appeared to have a number of options if they needed a replacement. Nico Hulkenberg from Force India? Jenson Button from McLaren? Romain Grosjean from Lotus? Felipe Nasr from Sauber? GP2 driver Alex Lynn? The possibilities were endless.

Ultimately, Ferrari stuck with Raikkonen for 2016 in spite of his so-so form this season. On his day, the Finn remains a fearsome competitor, and – perhaps more importantly – retaining him gives the Italian marque effective control of the 2017 driver market.

Nevertheless, there was still the possibility for change on the grid. Hulkenberg had been linked with every seat going, including one at the new Haas F1 Team (talks were held), only to confirm earlier this week that he had signed a new two-year deal with Force India. Sergio Perez revealed today that he is also likely to stay on for 2016, with a new contract set to be announced soon.

It’s only September, and silly season is already fizzling out. Ferrari, Williams and Sauber have officially confirmed their line-ups for 2016. Mercedes won’t make any changes and doesn’t need to make an official announcement. Force India looks set to be the same again. Red Bull is unlikely to make a change, as is Toro Rosso.

So can anyone spice up silly season in the coming months?

The situation at Lotus is certainly worth monitoring. The team is struggling financially, but is close to being rescued by French manufacturer Renault, which is keen to return to F1 with a works operation for the first time since 2010.

Given Romain Grosjean’s good form and links with Renault, the Frenchman would unquestionably be retained. The same cannot be said of Pastor Maldonado, though, whose backing from Venezuelan oil giant PDVSA is unlikely to be as valuable to Renault as it is to Lotus.

Should Renault opt to drop him, there are a number of options, but most of them are outside of F1. If a top-line driver is desired, the team could follow Ferrari’s example and stick with their current driver before taking advantage of the open market for 2017 when most of the grid is available.

Manor is in a class of its own for silly season. Basically, whichever driver is willing to stump up the most cash will get the nod. That said, both Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi have been quietly impressive at the back this season, so there’s no reason why they would not be kept on.

Haas’ number one target was Hulkenberg, suggesting that ‘plan a’ was for him to partner Esteban Gutierrez, who is understood to be closing in on one of the seats. As such, we can safely assume that there is just one drive on offer there now, for which Jean-Eric Vergne is the favorite.

If Haas is keen on an American, then Alexander Rossi appears to be the leading candidate after a strong season in GP2. IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden’s name keeps being banded about, but due to the new FIA superlicence rules is unlikely to stand much chance.

That only leaves McLaren. McLaren is the team that now is the main focus of silly season.

Or, more precisely, Jenson Button is now the main focus of silly season.

Button came close to exiting McLaren at the end of last year when the team signed Fernando Alonso from Ferrari. The Spaniard’s arrival left the team with two options: ditch Button or ditch Kevin Magnussen. Button was saved (only just), leaving Magnussen to take up a reserve role with the team for 2015.

Button signed a one-plus-one year contract with McLaren, giving the team an option on his services for 2016. As a result, we’re in the same position again. This time around though, there are three drivers in the running.

Magnussen may have spent a year in the background for McLaren, but he is still highly rated by the management at Woking. The Dane impressed in his debut F1 season under difficult circumstances, and remains a serious contender for the seat.

The third driver involved is Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren’s other bright young protege. After being told to remain in GP2 for 2015 and win it “as a boss” by racing director Eric Boullier, Vandoorne is on course to do exactly that. He leads by over 100 points, and should wrap the title up in Russia next month.

So who do McLaren plum for? Button, the experienced head? Magnussen, the driver who deserves a second chance? Or Vandoorne, the driver banging hard on F1’s door?

Whoever the team picks, it will have ramifications on the rest of the grid. Both Magnussen and Vandoorne want to be in F1 next year. McLaren may try and slot either into a seat elsewhere on the grid, but the early announcements have made that an impossibility. Could Manor be an option?

Should Vandoorne get the nod, then Magnussen will be left with a tough decision to make: sit it out and wait for Alonso to move on, or cut ties with McLaren after being leapfrogged in the junior pecking order. He could be a contender for the Haas seat in the event of the latter.

For Button, it is hard to see a future in F1 for him should McLaren choose to drop him. As Mark Webber told MotorSportsTalk last week, the FIA World Endurance Championship is a very lucrative option, and a factory drive would be attainable for Button.

Silly season has been a let down in 2015. Perhaps it is therefore fitting that McLaren is now the team to watch in the driver market.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series triples to 34 races in 2023

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023
Xtreme Outlaw Series

After hosting 10 rounds in 2022, the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series 2023 schedule will more than triple to 34 races. The 2022 season featured seven different winners in the first seven races, a female racer in Jade Avedisian as the only repeat winner and Zach Daum as the champion.

“Dirt Midget racing is a growing entity in American motorsports, and the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota is proud to drive further into the growth of the division with both a diverse and lucrative schedule for 2023,” newly appointed Series Director Tyler Bachman said in a press release. “From the kickoff at our first indoor event, to each of the new tracks we’re set to visit next year, it’s a lineup we know both our teams and fans will enjoy.”

The championship purse fund has also more than double with an increase of $42,000 to $80,000 in 2023. The champion will win $25,000. Last year, Daum pocketed $10,000.

In addition, the series will offer tow money to the top 12 in points. Six drivers attempted to qualify for all 10 races in 2022 with 89 drivers attending.

The series will begin on March 10 at Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin, Ill. and end the same place it did in 2022 at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma City on October 15.

During the season, they will visit 21 tracks in 10 states.

Some highlights of the season include the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series pairing up with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars in 2023 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. in April for the Outlaw Showdown and again in August for the Ironman 55 weekend, as well as the creation of a five-day Midget Speedweek.

The Midget Speedweek will immediately follow the Ironman 55 with a swing through Pennsylvania and New York.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023 Schedule

Friday, March 10 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Saturday, March 11 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Friday, March 31 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.

Saturday, April 1 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.
Friday, April 14 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Saturday, April 15 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.

Friday, May 5 | Humboldt Speedway | Humboldt, Kan.
Saturday, May 6 | 81 Speedway | Park City, Kan.
Tuesday, May 23 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.
Wednesday, May 24 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.

Thursday, June 1 | Tri-City Speedway | Pontoon Beach, Ill.
Friday, June 2 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.
Saturday, June 3 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.

Friday, July 21 | TBA
Saturday, July 22 | Southern Illinois Raceway | Marion, Ill.
Friday, July 28 | TBA
Saturday, July 29 | Atomic Speedway | Chillicothe, Ohio
Sunday, July 30 | Brushcreek Motorsports Complex | Peebles, Ohio

Friday, August 4 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Sat, August 5 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Tuesday, August 8 | Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway | Newmanstown, Pa.
Wednesday, August 9 | Action Track USA | Kutztown, Pa.
Thursday, August 10 | Linda’s Speedway | Jonestown, Pa.
Friday, August 11 | TBA
Saturday, August 12 | Bridgeport Motorsports Park | Swedesboro, N.J.
Friday, August 25 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa
Saturday, August 26 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa

Friday, September 1 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Saturday, September 2 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Friday, September 15 | Jacksonville Speedway | Jacksonville, Ill.
Saturday, September 16 | Red Hill Raceway | Sumner, Ill.

Friday, October 13 | Port City Raceway | Tulsa, Okla.
Saturday, October 14 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.
Sunday, October 15 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.

* Co-sanctioned with POWRi