Formula 1’s driver market was historically quiet across the 2023-24 offseason with no changes between the end of last season and the start of this one.
But the 2024-25 silly season has already exploded, amid the seismic news of Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari move, and long-term deals for Charles Leclerc at Ferrari and Lando Norris at McLaren.
Autoweek looks at where that leaves us and some of the major questions heading into what looks to be a silliest of silly season ahead of the 2025 campaign:
Who Will Be Verstappen's Teammate at Red Bull?
The prime Formula 1 seat? You get an opportunity in a race-winning car at a title-winning operation.
The downside is your teammate is Max Verstappen. The three-time champion's pairings with Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon didn't last, and Sergio Perez's fortunes collapsed in 2023 after a promising start to the year.
Qualifying proved a key weakness for Perez, who often started races in a different zip code to last year’s runaway champion. He struggled to find the pace from the RB19 that Verstappen unlocked with ease.
Contracts within the Red Bull empire have often been flimsy and interchangeable, but on paper, Perez’s two-year deal expires at the end of the season. There are compelling reasons to retain Perez, given prized asset Verstappen is untroubled alongside him. But if 2023’s form is replicated, it is difficult to envisage Perez’s Red Bull stint extending into a fifth season—especially if Red Bull’s rivals close the gap.
The ever-popular Daniel Ricciardo is always a possibility, but he’d need strong and consistent results at sister team RB for this to be a consideration.
Albon, too, would surely be a contender for the Red Bull seat.
Whatever decision is made for the Red Bull Racing second seat will likely have an influence on the rebranded RB (former AlphaTauri), which currently fields Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda.
Liam Lawson, who is a reserve to both Red Bull teams, is a contender for an RB seat 2025.
Who Gets the Mercedes Seat?
Mercedes was not expecting to be a factor in this year’s silly season after signing Lewis Hamilton and George Russell through 2025 last August. But the Briton held a break clause and has activated it to join Ferrari, thus opening a spot on the grid alongside Russell.
A spare Mercedes seat is not quite the golden vacancy as it would have been in the mid-2010s but it is still a highly attractive opening. It is an important choice for the team as it looks to the future.
There are plenty of options. A splashy choice would be Fernando Alonso, still a sharp operator in his early 40s, and a move to Mercedes would surely provide the two-time champion on last shot at title No. 3. There are others who would be a safe pair of hands, with Carlos Sainz a free agent after his Ferrari departure, a victim of circumstance and timing.
Long-term, Mercedes has the exciting Andrea Kimi Antonelli in its development lineup. Antonelli, 17, will debut in Formula 2 this year, and Mercedes is hugely encouraged by his long-term potential.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team will take its time—after all, it was not anticipating to be part of the market—as it assesses the landscape.
What Happens to Albon?
Alex Albon has already emerged as a key domino in the silly season despite holding a Williams contract through 2025.
The struggles of Perez at Red Bull have cast a slightly different light on Albon’s perceived struggles at Red Bull—where he was vastly inexperienced—and Albon is now a far more confident, knowledgeable and assured character versus where he was in 2019-20. His performances for Williams across the past two years have elevated his reputation, and he single-handedly dragged the team to seventh in the F1 Constructors' Championship in 2024.
At Williams’ season launch, Albon spoke of his desire to rise up the grid with Williams, of competing for podiums and wins long-term, but would not definitively say that he will be in Williams blue in 2025.
Team boss James Vowles emphasized Albon’s contract runs for the next two years though outlined that any decision he takes will always be for the best of the team. The message was thus effectively, they are committed to each other, but if a compelling offer comes in—and if appropriate financial compensation can be arranged—then it is entirely feasible that Albon could race elsewhere in 2025.
Any Options at Alpine?
Just over a year since losing Alonso and Oscar Piastri, Alpine is in a curious position whereby it has two decent drivers who are unlikely to secure employment in better surroundings.
Esteban Ocon is now firmly entrenched at Alpine, having joined in 2020, but his three-year deal expires after 2024. Pierre Gasly improved during the closing stages of the 2023 campaign, having made internal changes to get more comfortable, and his multi-year contract will also be up.
It is a solid but unspectacular lineup for a solid but unspectacular team that has stagnated.
Who Leads Audi’s F1 Project?
It is almost halfway into the gestation period between Audi’s announcement of its Formula 1 entry and the actual debut in 2026.
The team currently existing as Stake (it’s Sauber, really) is entering year three of a lineup of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, a pairing that is just, well, fine.
Bottas has race-winning experience and is undoubtedly nearer the end than the start of his Formula 1 voyage, while Zhou is sufficiently competent, but not a champion-in-waiting. Choosing the lead driver for its Formula 1 project will be a key part of the puzzle for Audi, and getting that figure in place for 2025 will allow a year of getting up to speed in those surroundings, while removing another complication from a likely transitional winter of 2025-26.
Bottas has voiced his enthusiasm to be that figure but it is unclear whether senior management would be so keen, with Sauber understood to have already explored alternatives.
Speaking at Sauber’s launch, Bottas said: “Obviously, my priority and biggest commitment is the Audi project, which is my target. But if that wouldn’t happen, then there’s no team that I wouldn’t go (to), let’s say, perhaps, I know my priorities and I’ve got my list.”
Leading a new project could be an attractive proposition for a driver—Carlos Sainz, maybe—albeit with the caveat that Audi is unlikely to be competitive from the outset.
Will Haas Keep Veteran Pairing?
In 2021 Haas went for two rookies (Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin). In 2022, it reverted (slightly forced after Mazepin's exit) to a sophomore and a veteran (Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen), and in 2023 opted for two old hands who in 2024 are now a year wiser.
Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg have 366 Grands Prix between them and have had similar winless Grand Prix careers.
Both were promising young guns who never fulfilled their potential. What Haas might opt for in 2025 is a two-part question.
Firstly there is the team’s direction. Does it want to enter 2025 with two experienced drivers or does it opt for a refresh, whoever that may be, akin to its mid-2020 decision to turn to youth?
Then there’s the drivers’ perspective. If Haas continues to struggle amid the tail-end group, then do Hulkenberg and Magnussen have the desire to stick around? You wouldn’t blame either if they sought alternative employment, either in Formula 1 or elsewhere.
If Haas does opt for a change, then Ferrari junior Ollie Bearman, still only 18, received acclaim for his performance and level-headedness during practice runs and a test for the team in 2023. He’s already won four races in Formula 2 and is staying for another season in the secondary category, while also being handed reserve driver duties at Ferrari. He will also act as Haas’ reserve driver and participate in six practice sessions. A title charge in Formula 2 in 2024, and a continuation of his learning curve with Haas, would make a compelling argument for Bearman in 2025.
Drivers currently contracted for 2025:
Red Bull: Max Verstappen
Mercedes: George Russell
Ferrari: Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton
McLaren: Lando Norris, Oscar Piastri
Williams: Alex Albon