2020 F1 driver line-up: latest news and rumoursby Motor Sport on 19th September 2019
The 2020 Formula 1 jigsaw is coming together. See our team-by-team guide for the latest driver line-up news and analysis
The pieces are falling into place, but there's still plenty of uncertainty over exactly which 20 drivers will be lining up on the grid at Melbourne next year, for the first race of the 2020 Formula 1 season.
Rumours and whisperings from the paddock indicate there could still be a shock on the cards but, as the season surges on, time is running out for drivers to secure their seat for another season.
Red Bull and Toro Rosso have only just reshuffled their current line-up and may leave it late to make the decision on next year. There are also question marks over Sebastian Vettel after a string of errors.
Here is a rundown of the latest news and rumours surrounding the remaining seats on the F1 grid, as well as the confirmed driver pairings for 2020.
Mercedes keeps its winning combination Photo: Motorsport Images
Valtteri Bottas will remain with the team in 2020 after Mercedes exercised a one-year extension clause in his contract to keep him alongside the reigning world champion.
Reserve driver Esteban Ocon had been linked with the seat but was announced as a Renault driver for 2020 hours after Bottas was confirmed at Mercedes.
Ferrari's line-up is strong. But is it secure? Photo: Motorsport Images
It takes only one driver change to set off a chain reaction and there are a number of potential triggers this season – not least Sebastian Vettel.
The German and Charles Leclerc are contracted to Ferrari for 2020, at least on paper, but Vettel’s recently patchy performances have led to him being linked with a potential return to Red Bull, for whom he won four straight titles between 2010 and 2013. Unlikely, perhaps, but the Austrian-owned team has a few gaps in its driver development chain at the moment.
Should Vettel make the unexpected move his seat could be filled by Daniel Ricciardo, whose Renault contract allegedly contains a break clause in the event that a Ferrari seat becomes available.
Who do Red Bull put alongside Max Verstappen? Photo: Motorsport Images
Growing momentum, a consistent, race-winning engine and a contract that runs to the end of 2020 seem certain to keep Max Verstappen at Red Bull next season.
Vettel’s situation notwithstanding, the identity of the Dutchman’s team-mate will only become clearer once rookie Alex Albon’s pace in a Red Bull has been assessed. If he can continue the good form that he showed with Toro Rosso, and improve on what the recently demoted Pierre Gasly was able to do in the first 12 races of this season, he’ll have a chance to influence his own future career direction.
If he can’t, might professional yo-yo Daniil Kvyat earn a second promotion to Red Bull’s senior team? Or could Vettel spring a surprise and oblige both of them to spend a further season with its official academy?
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris have been the breath of fresh air McLaren desperately needed Photo: Motorsport Images
McLaren’s ongoing rejuvenation, aided by 2019 recruits Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, meant the British team was swift to confirm that it would be retaining both of them.
Lying fourth in the championship for constructors championship currently, McLaren is on course for its best season since 2012 – and its announcement ended rumours that Fernando Alonso might be in line to rejoin.
Albon's Red Bull performance could determine who is at Toro Rosso next year Photo: Motorsport Images
Toro Rosso’s revolving-doors driver policy can be bewildering – particularly the case in recent times, when its own young driver scheme has failed to produce suitably qualified candidates.
Pierre Gasly’s return after his relegation from Red Bull offers him the chance to recapture the form he sometimes showed in 2018 – that stellar run to fourth in Bahrain, for instance – and give him the chance to rebuild his career in familiar surroundings.
True to form, though, there’s no certainty over who will fill either of the team’s seats in 2020.
Fist-bumping in 2018, Ricciardo and Ocon will be team-mates for 2020 Photo: Motorsport Images
2020 line-up confirmed: Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon has been confirmed as a Renault driver for 2020, replacing Nico Hülkenberg who was out of contract at the end of the year.
Ocon showed flashes of great speed during two seasons with Force India, even though team-mate Sergio Pérez outscored him. He has an impressive CV, though, having won the 2014 FIA F3 Championship as a rookie (beating Max Verstappen, among others) and following up by lifting the following season’s GP3 title.
The French manufacturer has endured a disappointing start to the season but Daniel Ricciardo didn’t expect to be fighting for wins when he signed – this year or even next — so he’s likely to remain until at least 2021, unless Ferrari comes calling.
Kimi Räikkönen's season has been superb but the second Alfa Romeo seat may be up for grabs Photo: Motorsport Images
Kimi Räikkönen is moving towards the halfway point of a two-year contract with the Swiss team, but Antonio Giovinazzi’s future looks a little less secure and could hinge upon what happens over the balance of the season. In the first 12 races, the Finnish veteran had outscored his 25-year-old team-mate by 31 points to one.
The second Alfa seat could become a natural fit for members of the Ferrari Driver Academy, which currently includes F2 racers Mick Schumacher, Giuliano Alesi and Callum Ilott, plus F3 front-runners Marcus Armstrong and Robert Schwarzmann (and, farther down the food chain, Emerson Fittipaldi’s grandson Enzo). Schumacher recently notched up his maiden F2 win, in the Budapest sprint race, but previous inconsistencies have left him outside the championship’s top 10 with just two rounds remaining.
Don't rule out Marcus Ericsson either. The Swede is currently Alfa's reserve driver and brings substantial funding to the team.
Racing Point's retain Perez and Stroll for 2020 Photo: Motorsport Images
2020 line-up confirmed: Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll
After a strong run of form between 2013 and 2017 when, as Force India, it punched above its weight by finishing in the top six every year in the world championship for constructors (peaking with two fourth places), the rebranded team has sailed under the radar in its first full season under new ownership. Lance Stroll has been soundly trounced by team-mate Sergio Perez in qualifying, but has made amends with some stronger race performances. In a team partly owned by his father, his future is as secure as anyone’s.
Perez brings useful sponsorship and it was no surprise when he announced that he has extended his current contract by three years, despite rumours of a potential switch to Haas.
Grosjean survives for 2020 Photo: Motorsport Images
2020 line-up confirmed: Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean
The propensity of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to collide with each other, in even the most promising situations, led many to think that there would be at least one vacant seat at Haas for 2020 — perhaps a refuge for Nico Hülkenberg, who is currently without a contract for next year.
Not so, however, as Haas has announced that it will stick with its current driver pairing for 2020, for the fourth consecutive season. The team said that the experience of the drivers, who have fought an inconsistent and frequently slow 2019 car, was a key factor in the decision.
Even so, with Grosjean having just eight points in the drivers' championship, compared with the 18 of Magnussen, the decision looks like a reprieve for the Frenchman
Read more: Grosjean confirmed at Haas for 2020
Photo: Motorsport Images
Mostly anchored to the back row of the grid, Williams has at least had a shining light in the form of George Russell. It’s always hard to assess a driver’s full potential in a car as uncompetitive as the Williams FW42, but Russell has performed consistently and with dignity in a difficult situation. The Mercedes junior driver is locked in at the team for the 2020 season and, with his parent team sticking with Hamilton and Bottas, he seems likely to see out his contract.
After eight seasons away from F1, following a rally accident that left him with life-threatening injuries, Robert Kubica has achieved one of the greatest sporting comebacks of the modern age. His results haven’t been quite as magical as that back story, however, and it's no surprise that he has announced that he will leave the team at the end of the season.
Reserve driver Nicholas Latifi looks a likely candidate to take his place, thanks to his presently strong F2 form, but there's likely to be plenty of other interest in a vacant F1 seat — even if the team is marooned at the back.
This article has been updated as driver news emerges, so the comments below may refer to an earlier version of this page