After key player Kimi Raikkonen signed a contract extension to keep him at Ferrari for 2016, the 2015 silly season was somewhat of a non-event, with the driver market remaining largely static. So far, this season has more than made up for last year’s deficit.
The rumour mill has been in overdrive over the past few months, with enormous speculation surrounding seats at Force India, Renault, Manor and Sauber. As always, a case of too many drivers vying for too few seats.
Kevin Magnussen is one of several key players, as is his current team Renault. Following a disappointing 2016 campaign – in which the French marque have seemingly been far from inspired by their incumbent drivers – Renault have signed Nico Hulkenberg on a three year deal starting next season.
Hulkenberg putting pen to paper at Enstone comes after the team had rolled the red carpet out to almost every hot prospect currently in the sport. Sergio Perez, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz Jr have all looked Renault-bound for at least one headline making moment.
This has, in turn, placed huge pressure on Kevin Magnussen and teammate Jolyon Palmer. However, one by one, the prospective replacements have fallen out of the running, eventually leading to what seems to have been a shoot-out between Renault’s current pairing. The winner, earning a spot alongside Hulkenberg in 2017.
Magnussen appeared to have won the race, with strong rumours suggesting that he was close to resigning emanating for the paddock prior to this weekend.
Adam Cooper of Motorsport.com has stirred the melting pot once again this morning, posting an article indicating that Magnussen has been offered a seat at Haas alongside Romain Grosjean.
The plot, therefore, thickens.
The beauty for K-Mag is that this now provides him with a bargaining chip in his negotiations with Renault. Cyril Abiteboul and Frederic Vasseur have to consider the prospect of losing Magnussen to Haas and in that scenario, who would swoop in to take his place.
Their options are being narrowed down. With Esteban Ocon having been decidedly underwhelming at Manor so far and considering Jolyon Palmer’s mediocre at best 2016, it is questionable whether there are now any preferable alternatives to Magnussen available to Renault.
K-Mag will hope the team realise this sooner rather than later and – if they haven’t already – place a contract offer on his desk. He would surely prefer to resign with a manufacturer team than take a punt on Haas, whose performances have been as erratic as Lewis Hamilton’s cap choices in 2016.
Speaking of erratic, this Magnussen story is indicative of silly season 2016. Last month, Magnussen seemed to be heading out of F1 and across the pond to the US and IndyCar. Now, he seems to have the high ground in negotiations for a 2017 F1 drive and will potentially end the month with not one, but two contract offers on the table.
It’s a funny business.