With 4 races in the next 5 weeks before the teams shut down for the summer break, the pressure is on for several drivers to secure their seat for next year.
Just where people will be driving next year was the main topic of conversation in today’s drivers press conference. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo confirmed he was signed up with the team through to the end of 2018 and Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez stated rather cryptically that he knew where he was for next season but refused to say any more. Felipe Nasr said he was still fully committed to the Sauber team in the here and now but didn’t mention 2017.
The main focus however was on Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari seat. On the eve of his 99th race start with the team – the fourth most in Ferrari history – his continued presence with the Scuderia was in question.
“ I have a contract for this year and I don’t know what will happen next year.” Said the enigmatic Finn. “There is lots of talk every year so it’s nothing new. […] Outsiders have very little understanding of what is happening. If I was making all the decision it would be easy to know what happens for next year.”
With the main candidates for his seat – Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Force India’s Sergio Perez – not made available for the press conference today there was no opportunity to bounce questions between the prospective rivals. However away from the drivers press conference Perez said he was extremely proud just to be linked with a team like Ferrari.
“Always when you do well in a race in Formula 1 you’re linked straight away to Ferrari!” he told reporters ahead of the Austrian GP. “It’s the biggest team in Formula 1 so if you’re linked to Ferrari it means you’re doing well – and it’s the same for all the other drivers.
“As a racing driver it makes you feel proud, especially how my career has been in the past years. To finally realise that I’m back there again, although they’re only rumours.
“I know I’m doing a good job and performing well and working well with the team. That’s good for everyone.”
Force India reportedly have a deal in place for 2017 with Perez, just how water-tight that deal is could well be tested over the next few weeks if Perez continues to impress.