F1's Latest Rumours, Talk: Kevin Magnussen to Haas, Paddy Lowe to Ferrari, More

Oliver HardenFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2016

F1's Latest Rumours, Talk: Kevin Magnussen to Haas, Paddy Lowe to Ferrari, More

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    So what would you do if you were Kevin Magnussen?

    Would you commit your Formula One future to Renault, a team who will have a more competitive car next season but have spent much of 2016 trying to get rid of you? 

    Or would you take a chance on Haas, who have offered you the security of a multi-year contract and an opportunity to grow and finally realise your true potential?

    That is the dilemma facing the Danish driver as this year's edition of silly season edges toward its conclusion, with Magnussen having several options to remain in F1 in 2017.

    The driver market is beginning to intensify, but the biggest move of all may occur on the engineer market.

    Rumours linking technical boss Paddy Lowe, one of the men behind Mercedes' success in recent years, to Ferrari were denied around the time of September's Singapore Grand Prix.

    But more than a month later, those stories still haven't gone away, with Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff issuing what is known in the industry as a "non-denial denial" when questioned about Lowe's future over the Mexican GP weekend.

    Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly has emerged as a leading candidate to join Manor for next season after missing out on a Toro Rosso seat, while Carlos Sainz Jr. has outlined why 2017 will be a significant year in terms of his F1 future.

    Closing our latest roundup is Jolyon Palmer, who is confident he will be on the grid next year even if he is dropped by Renault at the end of 2016.

Kevin Magnussen to Replace Esteban Gutierrez at Haas in 2017?

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    Magnussen is considering an offer to replace Esteban Gutierrez at Haas for next season, it emerged over the Mexican GP weekend.

    Behind the wheel of an uncompetitive, underdeveloped and underpowered car, Magnussen has generally struggled upon his return to F1 this season but has scored all but one of Renault's eight points in 2016.

    After the team failed to lure Valtteri Bottas from Williams, Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble and Roberto Chinchero reported the Dane is in a straight fight with Esteban Ocon to partner new signing Nico Hulkenberg for 2017, but a final decision is still yet to be made.

    Magnussen has frequently expressed his frustration with Renault's dithering in recent months, and Haas have taken advantage of the 24-year-old's uncertainty by offering him another option.

    As reported by Motorsport.com's Adam Cooper, Magnussen is seriously considering a "firm two-year offer" from Haas that would not require him to bring any sponsorship funding to the team.

    Magnussen is hugely admired at the American outfit, with team owner Gene Haas telling the official F1 website he would have signed the Dane had he been unable to lure Romain Grosjean from Renault—then competing under the name of Lotus—for 2016.

    Cooper noted Haas' attempt to sign Magnussen may be blocked by technical partners Ferrari, who are determined to have a Ferrari-backed driver in a Haas seat and are "pushing hard" for Gutierrez to be retained despite his failure to score a point this season.

    However, "sources close to" Gutierrez say he is free to switch to another team, with the Mexican talking openly about his future at his home race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

    After Haas suggested they are prepared to wait until the end of 2016 to finalise their driver lineup, per Autosport (h/t Eurosport), Gutierrez revealed he is now "strongly" considering other options, with vacancies at Renault, Force India, Manor and Sauber.

    Gutierrez added he intended to resolve his future within a fortnight, with a decision expected around the time of the next race in Brazil.

    An outside bet for a 2017 Haas seat is Antonio Giovinazzi, who is in line to win the prestigious GP2 championship in his first season.

    During Sky Sports' television coverage of the Mexican GP, F1 reporter Ted Kravitz revealed Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has been "looking very closely" at the 22-year-old Italian, who tested Ferrari's F1 simulator in September.

    Per Autosport (h/t Eurosport), Steiner has confirmed Magnussen is among the "two or three" drivers Haas are negotiating with over a 2017 seat.

Mercedes Fail to Deny Latest 'Paddy Lowe to Ferrari' Rumours

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    Mercedes have failed to deny speculation that Lowe could leave the team for Ferrari at the end of 2016.

    Alongside Wolff, non-executive chairman Niki Lauda and engine guru Andy Cowell, Lowe has been one of the main figures behind Mercedes' success since 2014, with the Silver Arrows recently securing a third consecutive constructors' world championship.

    It emerged over the Singapore GP weekend that Lowe—formerly of Williams and McLaren—was attracting interest from Ferrari, but the 54-year-old told Germany's Autobild (h/t Motorsport.com's Noble) he had not spoken to Ferrari and, in any case, had no interest in a move away from Mercedes.

    With Lowe's contractual situation unclear, those rumours have refused to go away despite team principal Maurizio Arrivabene's insistence that Ferrari have no intention of recruiting following a mid-season reshuffle that saw technical boss James Allison replaced by Mattia Binotto, per F1i.com's Chris Medland.

    When asked about the lingering rumours over the Mexican GP weekend, Wolff insisted the speculation over Lowe's future is just that, telling Sky Sports' television coverage of qualifying:

    I think we are in the silly season again now when it comes to senior personnel. Paddy's a very recognised, top guy and, whether teams might be interested, it's clear. And you add to that the noise, tabloids, the way these things are being put into the media—so I'm not surprised by hearing anything anymore.

    Asked directly if he was worried Lowe may leave the team, he said: "No, you must never be concerned. This is an organisation with many people so I'm fine."

    After qualifying, Sky Sports' Kravitz suggested there is some substance behind the rumours linking Lowe to Ferrari, referring to Wolff's comments as a classic "non-denial denial."

    He added Lowe turned Ferrari down earlier this year as he felt the team were unstable and the job of turning around their fortunes was just too big.

    But with Mercedes reaching the peak of their dominance ahead of next year's regulation changes, when Red Bull are expected to be the team to beat, a fresh start and a new challenge at Ferrari may appeal to Lowe.

Pierre Gasly to Partner Pascal Wehrlein at Manor in 2017?

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    Gasly is reportedly in contention to race for Manor in 2017 after Toro Rosso decided to keep Daniil Kvyat for another season.

    Having established himself as one of the leading drivers in the GP2 feeder series in 2016, the Frenchman had been widely expected to replace the underperforming Kvyat, who earlier this year became the first driver to be demoted from Red Bull to B team Toro Rosso.

    However, Toro Rosso announced Kvyat would be retained alongside Sainz over the United States GP weekend, forcing Gasly—who admitted he was "really disappointed" by the decision, per Autosport (h/t Eurosport)—to assess other options.

    According to a print edition of Autosport magazine, Gasly has emerged as a leading candidate to join Manor for 2017, with Red Bull advisor Dr. Helmut Marko understood to be holding negotiations with Manor owner Stephen Fitzpatrick over a potential loan deal.

    Should an agreement be reached with the backmarkers, Gasly would almost certainly replace Ocon, who is set to leave for either Renault or Force India for 2017, with Mercedes "happy" for Pascal Wehrlein to remain with Manor for a second season.

    Over the Mexican GP weekend, racing director Dave Ryan told an FIA press conference how Manor have been "very, very happy" with the performances of Wehrlein and Ocon across this season but admitted the team's 2017 driver plans are far from certain.

    His comments came after reserve driver Rio Haryanto, who represented Manor in the first 12 races of 2016, told Motorsport.com's Valentin Khorouzhiy and Erwin Jaeggi he has a 50-50 chance of returning to a full-time seat next season.

    Red Bull have a history when it comes to loaning their young drivers to other teams, with Sebastian Vettel starting his F1 career with BMW Sauber and Daniel Ricciardo making his debut with the now-defunct Hispania outfit in mid-2011.

Carlos Sainz Jr. Treating 2017 as a Springboard for Front-Running Seat in 2018

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    Sainz feels it will be crucial to enjoy "a good year" in 2017 if he is to realise his ambition of switching to a leading team for 2018.

    The Spaniard has established himself as one of the most exciting talents on the grid since arriving in F1 at the beginning of 2015, but with Ricciardo and Max Verstappen well-established at Red Bull, he is unlikely to graduate from B team Toro Rosso in the near future.

    Sainz signed a contract extension to remain with Toro Rosso ahead of July's Austrian GP, yet he has frequently expressed his desire to join a front-running outfit in 2018.

    And he believes a strong season in 2017—when major regulation changes will make the cars several seconds per lap quicker and more physically demanding to drive—will be key to his hopes.

    He told Sky Sports' television coverage of the Mexican GP:

    I've signed my contract with Toro Rosso. We came to that decision three or four months ago, when we decided altogether that the best for me and my career was to do another year in Toro Rosso and see what options we have for 2018.

    My first priority is obviously to step up to the senior team, to the Red Bull team, and I'm sure if they don't have a place up there they will have a solution for me. ...

    That's why I'm going to try my best to have a good year in 2017 because I'm sure that, if I do a good year, opportunities will come.

    It will be a massive winter trying to prepare myself. It will also my top fitness level because, next year, the cars will be really physical. A lot of attention and trying to understand the new cars, trying to perform a good year and then see what options I have available for 2018. ...

    I'm sure that if I do a good year and Red Bull cannot give me that top seat, they will be wise enough and good enough to me to find a solution for my future and to allow me to fight for a world championship.

    If that is in a Ferrari or in a Renault or in a Mercedes, I don't care, but I'm sure they will be wise enough because I've already let go a very nice contract that I had from Renault to sign. We've already said no to that.

    That was a nice two- or three-year contract, stability in Formula One and a long-term future.

    We've let it go so hopefully [Red Bull] know my commitment is strong to them and they pay it back next year with some good things.

    In June, four-time world champion Alain Prost suggested Sainz is a future Ferrari driver, telling Minute-Auto.fr (h/t GrandPrix247.com) how the Spaniard would be an ideal team-mate to Vettel.

Jolyon Palmer 'Pretty Confident' of Being on 2017 Grid

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    Palmer believes he will remain on the F1 grid in 2017 even if Renault decide to release him at the end of this season.

    The British driver has generally struggled in his debut campaign in 2016 and currently sits 17th in the drivers' standings having scored just one point in 19 races.

    With Renault openly flirting with other drivers to partner Hulkenberg for next season, Palmer recently accused the team of showing him and team-mate Magnussen a lack of respect, suggesting their current drivers haven't received the credit they deserve in 2016, per the Telegraph's Daniel Johnson.

    Palmer has revealed he is still hopeful of securing a contract extension with Renault but is confident he will have other opportunities to remain in F1 in 2017 even if he is dropped.

    According to Motorsport.com's Khorounzhiy and Noble, he said:

    I have other options as well, I'm not only focused on Renault.

    Renault's the main target and I think probably a decision is not that far away, but you never know. I think I'd be foolish not to be looking elsewhere as well.

    I think I have a reasonable chance to be here [at Renault]...I'm pretty confident of being on the grid next year—hopefully it's going to be here and I can show what I can do.

    If not, then I'm pretty confident of being on the grid elsewhere.

    Per the same source, Palmer admitted he would consider signing for another team without waiting for a decision on Renault's 2017 lineup if the offer was attractive enough.

    Although Ocon has been strongly linked with the vacancy, Palmer suggested the fight to partner Hulkenberg is "mainly" between him and Magnussen.

    As reported by Johnson in a separate Telegraph article, Palmer is in contention to replace Hulkenberg at Force India, with the 25-year-old requiring a sponsorship budget in the region of £8 million if he is to remain in F1 next season.