Button, Grosjean next to move in F1 2016’s driver market

© Getty Images

Earlier this month, I penned a column explaining how the annual ‘silly season’ for the 2016 Formula 1 driver market had been far from silly. In fact, it was very unsilly. Rather mundane.

My closing points were to a) keep an eye on Jenson Button, for his future was the next big movement in the market for 2016, and b) follow the decision that Haas F1 Team made ahead of its maiden season in the sport.

And the coming week could see both of those stories come to fruition. The 2016 market is finally beginning to near completion.

Let’s start with Haas. In this case, it isn’t so much Haas’ decision, but instead that of Romain Grosjean, who appears set to call time on his long-running association with Enstone, Lotus and Renault.

In Paddock Pass for the Singapore Grand Prix, NBCSN’s Will Buxton spoke to Grosjean about a possible move away for 2016. The Frenchman confirmed that he knew his plans, to which Will asked whether we could safely assume that the team is based in Oxfordshire, England.

“I think so, yeah,” Grosjean replied.

Will then pointed out that he must surely know that Lotus is based in Oxfordshire, given that he has enjoyed ties with the team (and its predecessor Renault) since 2009.

If he only thinks the team is going to be in Oxfordshire, that suggests he’s moving elsewhere. Haas will also be based in the county, having taken over Marussia’s old base in Banbury.

“No, I’m kidding,” Grosjean said less than convincingly. “As I say, my decision is clear and everything is clear in my head. I probably know more than you do about everything. I know the truth. I think you don’t have long to wait.”

Perhaps it’s reading too much into things, but a geographical bamboozler may have given us a big hint that Grosjean will be racing for Haas F1 Team in 2016.

And it makes a great amount of sense. Lotus in 2016, whether it is bought out by Renault or not, will be something of a shell operation. The team will either be broke as it is now, or be adapting to life as Renault. The first time ‘Renault F1 Team’ truly returns will be 2017.

Grosjean is a driver who has turned from a crash kid into one of F1’s most underrated drivers. He has proven himself worthy of a seat further up the grid, and is known to have had contact with Ferrari over the past couple of years about a role.

Haas is enjoying a very close technical partnership with Ferrari for its debut season. It will essentially be a Ferrari B-team. Therefore, it is the perfect place for Grosjean to prove his pace further and get used to working with Maranello ahead of a possible move there in 2017 as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement.

Ferrari has effective control of the market for 2017. Its decision to give Raikkonen another year was met with confusion from many corners given his struggles in 2015, but the Finn plays a big part in the ‘grand plan’ at Maranello for now. He works well with Sebastian Vettel, and, as we saw in Singapore, can follow him home to the podium.

Grosjean is the best option out there for 2017. Valtteri Bottas had been linked with a seat for next year, but his inability to beat Felipe Massa – a driver Ferrari tried to get rid of for 2013 before eventually dropping for 2014 – speaks volumes. Nico Hulkenberg continues to knock around in the midfield, and otherwise, there are few notable candidates.

Moving to Haas gives Grosjean the shot to join Ferrari in 2017, and offers the team much-needed experience for its first year in the sport. It would be a big coup for Gene Haas, but one that looks increasingly likely.

Jenson Button’s future has always been in his hands this year. McLaren has an option on his services for 2016, and racing director Eric Boullier has said that it “intends” to take the Briton up on this.

However, Button has never made clear he wants to stick around. In fact, his recent interviews have depicted a man very content with his future, knowing full well what lies ahead: retirement from F1.

A report from The Daily Telegraph claims that Button is set to announce this week that he will be leaving the sport at the end of the season ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, bringing the curtain down on a glittering career that has seen him go from top to bottom and back… and back again.

For Button, retiring on his terms is fitting. He won’t have been forced out or dropped as was nearly the case at the end of last year. He can walk away with his head held high.

McLaren-Honda hasn’t given him the final shot at the top he craved, but his heyday years from 2009-2012 will forever be remembered fondly. When he was given the right car, Button proved himself to be worthy of the world champion moniker.

This then leaves McLaren with a two-man shortlist for 2016: Kevin Magnussen or Stoffel Vandoorne. Magnussen raced with the team in 2014 before being dropped to make way for Fernando Alonso, and remains an integral part of the operation at Woking. However, Vandoorne’s total obliteration of the field in GP2 this year may be too impressive to ignore.

Either way, the 2016 driver market is beginning to come together.

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws

The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)