Every team in Formula 1 is entering 2024 with the same two drivers that raced for their program at the end of the 2023 season. That is an unusual amount of stability, but it was seen at the time as calm before a storm as most of the grid's contracts were set to expire ahead of the 2025 season. In the past weeks, two major announcements at the top of the market greatly the likelihood of that silly season chaos next year.
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and McLaren driver Lando Norris, both effective lead drivers at legendary programs, have extended with their teams well past the 2025 season. Norris, who was technically signed through the end of the 2025 season already, has extended with McLaren by signing what the brand calls "an extended multi-year contract." The length of Leclerc's extension has also not been announced, but Ferrari claims that the deal will take him "beyond the 2024 season" with the team and Leclerc saying he will stay with the team "for several more seasons to come."
Coupled with existing deals for George Russell, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, and 2023 rookie Oscar Piastri, the two extensions mean that no team on the grid can sign away any of the six most sought-after drivers on the grid for any open seat in that 2025 season. Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull, and Ferrari all know who will be leading at least their next two shots at the championship.
Some important questions still remain. Red Bull and Ferrari can let current drivers Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz Jr. walk, opening up second seats near the top of the grid for a 2025 free-agent driver like Alex Albon or what would by then be a 43-year-old Fernando Alonso. Ambitious mid-field teams like Aston Martin, Alpine, and a Sauber program just two seasons away from becoming Audi's factory operation now have a much smaller pool of talent to pick from, and all will have to compete with the second seats at Ferrari and Red Bull in their battle to secure a potential top driver. Williams, uniquely, has to worry not only about securing its next driver but about the possibility that the highly-regarded Albon will leave for a better opportunity at a more proven team.
The last two Formula 2 champions, Felipe Drugovich and Theo Pourchaire, have never raced in Formula 1 and could also factor into future driving decisions. Respective Red Bull and Ferrari junior team standouts Liam Lawson and Oliver Bearman are not F2 champions, but both are highly regarded as prospects and could leapfrog both current F1 drivers and champions like Drugovich and Pourchaire in securing F1 rides in 2025.
At the top, Formula 1's four biggest teams now have their most important plans for the future in place. Everyone else is fighting to figure out what comes next.
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