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Formula 1 Canadian GP

How the F1 transfer market is turning out for under-threat midfield drivers

Formula 1’s games of musical chairs is in full swing, but soon the music is going to stop and some drivers are going to be left stood up without a seat.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24, leads Valtteri Bottas, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44, and Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44

The brutal realism of not having a drive in 2025 is beginning to sink in, with Andrea Kimi Antonelli and Oliver Bearman both poised to make the step up from Formula 2.

Triggered by Lewis Hamilton’s switch to Ferrari and Lando Norris’ new long-term deal with McLaren both happening at the turn of the year, the driver market for 2025 is quickly falling into place.

As it stands, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, Logan Sargeant, Esteban Ocon and Zhou Guanyu have yet to agree terms for next year.

The money was on Sainz making a switch to join Audi's plans for its integration into F1 while Williams has also emerged as a potential destination for his services.

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Gasly is likely to extend terms with Alpine, especially after it parted ways with Ocon, who in turn has been linked with Haas.

Bottas meanwhile, is poised for a return to Williams, meaning that potentially two of Sargeant, Magnussen and Zhou will not return for 2025.

At 31, Magnussen is no stranger to the contractual nuances of F1, having been shown the door at McLaren, Renault and Haas before returning to the latter team in 2022.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24 Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber C44 and Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24 Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber C44 and Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

As such he is philosophical about his future in F1, and has made it clear to Haas that he wishes to remain with the team.

Magnussen said: “The team knows me very well, I'm a known quantity to the team. So I don't think there's anything for me to prove. 

“It's a very open driver market this time around and we'll see how it pans out. I've made it clear that I would love to continue here, and the team is in a good position and I'd love to be part of it. 

“I don't know how long it's going to take until we know how it's going to go, but until then, you just keep driving.”

Zhou has seen his chances of showing his potential limited by failing to be in a position to fight for points, whereas his team-mate Bottas achieved 10 wins during his time at Mercedes

Consequently, Zhou knows he is under pressure to attract attention from other teams.

“I don't know in one lap or in the race graph or the way you communicate with the teams - so of course it would be nice if we could fight more closely, top 10,” he said.

“But I think still the chance is quite high and I still have plenty of races to – hopefully together with the team we can bring some good results.”

Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Regarding his own future, he added: “I'm open, let's say, all the teams we're talking to [and having] discussions about my future.

“Nothing's been confirmed but I feel like there should be a spot for me in the future on the grid, but I just don't know where.”

Despite it looking increasingly likely he will sign for Williams, Bottas admits the speed at which the driver market is evolving is a concern and could prompt him into taking decisive action sooner rather than later.

“I think I need to do my choice quickly,” he said.

“Nothing obviously has been confirmed or signed yet from my side, so no really big news since last week, but still working with all the options that there is and need to make a move soon, that's basically where I'm at.

“I'm confident I'm going to get a seat, but obviously in this sport nothing is confirmed.

“It's never 100% sure until you are signed, but at least how I see the situation at the moment I'm not worrying. But yeah, it should be an interesting week or two ahead for sure.”

One driver who should be worrying is Sargeant, who looks increasingly likely to be given the axe by Williams.

Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46

Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Asked ahead of the Canadian GP about his future, he claimed he was “close to being about to perform at the level” he needs to.

Only it could all be too late, and more concerning was whether he’d considered a Plan B if his time in F1 comes to an end. “No,” he said. 

But perhaps it is time he should.

Watch: The Future of Formula One - First Look at The 2026 F1 Regulations

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