F1’s midfield set for potential musical chairs carousel in 2017

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The week in-between the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday and the next race, the Brazilian Grand Prix on November 13, figures to be as good a time for at least one or potentially more dominos to fall in the Formula 1 silly season.

The following seats remain unconfirmed for 2017:

  • Force India 2
  • Haas 2
  • Renault 2
  • Manor 1 and 2
  • Sauber 1 and 2

Williams is due to confirm new signing Lance Stroll alongside Valtteri Bottas officially later this week. Stroll will thus be the first Canadian in the sport since Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 World Champion who last raced in 2006.

The drivers then that remain as-yet unsigned for 2017 who’ve raced full-time in 2016 are:

  • Esteban Gutierrez, Haas
  • Kevin Magnussen, Renault
  • Jolyon Palmer, Renault
  • Pascal Wehrlein, Manor
  • Esteban Ocon, Manor
  • Marcus Ericsson, Sauber
  • Felipe Nasr, Sauber

Motorsport.com reported Magnussen had been offered a two-year deal from Haas. Palmer, meanwhile, has been among the five linked to the vacant Force India seat along with both Manor drivers – owing to their Mercedes connections – and both Sauber drivers.

Force India management has said a decision will come once Vijay Mallya sorts through the candidates this week. Sergio Perez said in Austin this was the “best available” seat on the grid and on current team performance levels, he’s not wrong.

Gutierrez has been coy about where in the future he’ll be if not at Haas, but the Mexican seems confident he’ll be on the grid next year. As he told NBCSN on Sunday in Mexico City, “I am confident I will be back. We’re pushing all the way and we’ll find out more in the next two weeks.”

The Manor teammates are in a head-to-head battle, theoretically, for one seat at Force India. A week ago, it looked as though the Renault teammates were actually in a head-to-head battle for the second seat at Renault, before the Magnussen report arose.

Nasr’s future will likely be a topic of speculation at Brazil, given it’s his home race, he has funding available via Banco de Brasil and with Felipe Massa’s impending retirement, he’d be in line as the only Brazilian left on the grid next season. Yet of late, he’s rarely been as on form as Ericsson.

The usually overlooked Swede has instead been on a good run of form in recent races in qualifying, and was perhaps unlucky to come up with only P11 in Mexico, one spot away from what would have been a crucial first point of the season.

This then doesn’t factor in any potential wild card drivers who could enter the frame later on. Either of Pierre Gasly, who’s been passed over by Toro Rosso, or GP2 Series points leader Antonio Giovinazzi has the talent to be considered for a drive. Giovinazzi also has an LMP1 test to look forward to later this month.

The third-through-fifth-placed drivers, Raffaele Marciello, Sergey Sirotkin and Jordan King are high on GP2 experience as well, and King is positioned nicely at Manor should one or two of that team’s seats open up, as they figure to.

The Force India and Haas second seats appear to be the first two dominos to fall. If a Mercedes-backed driver is signed to Force India and Magnussen takes the reported offer from Haas, then that leaves the rest of the drivers fighting over the remaining vacancies.

It all seems like it’s about to get busy here and with two races to go in 2016, those not yet signed for next year will be keen to deliver important drives.