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Formula 1

How the 2025 driver market is shaping up - Part 1

In Part 1, RacingNews365 takes a look at how the five top teams are faring in the driver market for 2025 - with seats still up for grabs.

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Lewis Hamilton's bombshell announcement in February that he was signing for Ferrari for 2025 triggered the starting gun on silly season - a year early.

His signing meant Carlos Sainz was out at Maranello, freeing up one prized Mercedes seat, and given the internal team tensions at Red Bull and Toto Wolff obligingly keeping the 'Max Verstappen to Mercedes' rumours ticking over, there have been doubts about Verstappen's own long-term future at the team.

So, RacingNews365 has decided to evaluate just where each of the 10 teams now stand with their driver line-ups ahead of 2025, starting today with Part 1 of Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin.

Red Bull - Max Verstappen? and TBA

Verstappen's contract expires at the end of the 2028 season and he looks a sure bet to win both world titles up for grabs before the rules reset comes in for 2026.

Although the tensions at Red Bull appeared to boil over across the first two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, there has been a calming since Australia and the idea of Verstappen, the driven, robotic, machine that he is leaving a world championship on the table for someone else to steal in 2025 is unthinkable.

He needs Red Bull just as much as Red Bull need him, so unless there is a massive falling out that cannot be reconciled between him and the team, or he decides to retire early and does a 'four titles and done a la Alain Prost', there is the smallest chance possible he leaves for 2025.

The big question though, who will be his sidekick for 2025 in the second seat?

Incumbent Sergio Perez has enjoyed a strong start to the season and is doing exactly what Red Bull needs from him in finishing second to Verstappen - or to put it another way, win when something happens to the team leader.

He could not do that in Australia, carrying floor damage, but does expect his future to be resolved "within a month."

Other contenders include the unemployed Sainz and RB pair Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo, although it is unlikely either of the latter two grab the seat.

Mercedes - George Russell and TBA

Wolff's plan has come to fruition.

George Russell was ear-marked as the future of Mercedes when in Formula 2 and during his Williams apprenticeship with the idea being that he would join Mercedes, learn alongside Hamilton and be groomed to become team leader.

As such, such a scenario of needing to replace Hamilton was always going to happen one day, but him jumping to Ferrari was probably not what Wolff expected.

Now he is faced with who to partner Russell - and the overwhelming favourite must be F2 protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Antonelli has been dubbed as 'the next Verstappen' and having lost out to Red Bull for the original one in 2014, Wolff is determined not to let another prized young driver slip through his fingers.

Antonelli will be a Mercedes driver in F1 at one point, so why go through the bother of signing a Sainz for a year just to dump him again for the young Italian?

2025 will also be a free hit for teams in designing their cars due to the high amount of carry-over between the 2024 machines and their cousins, and so with Mercedes uncompetitive, relatively speaking, it makes perfect sense for Antonelli to slot in for '25 ahead of a full attack with the new rules for '26.

Sebastian Vettel is not a serious contender for the seat, with his recent media blitz being more about flogging the energy drink he is an investor in.

Ferrari - Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc

Team boss Frederic Vasseur has already finalized his lineup for 2025, more than a year before the start of the 2025 season.

That means he can effectively smile and wave at the driver market and prepare Ferrari for its assault on the 2026 regulations.

It mirrors Hamilton's move from McLaren to Mercedes for 2013, in that he joined the new team a year ahead of a major rules reset to bed in and get to grips before a title challenge.

Incoming team-mate Charles Leclerc is also at Ferrari for the long-haul, meaning the only real major concern for Vasseur is who will be his 'number 1 driver.'

McLaren - Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri

The same goes for McLaren as Ferrari.

Both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri are locked in for the long-term and look, on paper at least, the second strongest line-up behind Ferrari's Leclerc and Hamilton.

Norris has been linked with a Red Bull switch in the past, but he is determined to win with McLaren as Piastri's deal takes him to the end of 2026.

Aston Martin - Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll

The big question around Aston Martin was whether Fernando Alonso would stay, retire or go elsewhere for 2025 - and Thursday we got our answer.

He is staying until 2026 - and that means a reunion with Honda - in what is a big coup and vote of confidence in the Aston project from the demanding Alonso.

That decision snookered Sainz's hopes of joining Aston, given Lance Stroll is going nowhere, and leaves the soon-to-be former Ferrari driver's best hopes a Stake - Audi building project.

For Stroll, he needs to improve his performances in what is now his eighth season in F1. Aston can be sure that Alonso will drag every point that is in the car, but Stroll's slump in mid-2023 arguably cost the team fourth in the Constructors' as he took just 12 points from 10 races between Canada and Qatar.

The upwardly mobile Aston is angling for Verstappen and even reportedly Adrian Newey for 2026, but the threat of losing his seat might just be enough to motivate Stroll to unlock a more consistent performance level - something he has shown he is capable of.

On Sunday, part two will follow where RacingNews365 looks at the other five teams on the grid.

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