F1 Silly Season News: McLaren

McLaren Media Service

With F1 on its summer break, we're taking a look at the 2015 driver market. Next up it's sleeping giants McLaren.

This is where the 2015 driver market gets interesting. Though they have struggled in recent years, McLaren remain one of the most prestigious teams in F1. And, with Ron Dennis back at the helm and Honda returning to the fold in 2015, they will be targeting wins and world titles in the coming seasons.

But revolution is not guaranteed on the driver front and their current lineup could be retained. Jenson Button has the vast experience that will smooth McLaren's adjustment to their new engine partner, and has prior connections to Honda having driven for their factory team between 2006 and 2008. In that respect, keeping him on for a sixth season makes sense.

However Button is undoubtedly nearing the end of his F1 career. He will turn 35 ahead of the 2015 season and is not considered to be in the same talent bracket as the likes of Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso. Ron Dennis certainly sees it this way and would love to poach a superstar driver from a rival team. That is why Jenson is yet to be handed a new contract.

His young team-mate Kevin Magnussen could also be kept on board. The Dane has enjoyed a solid rookie campaign, having begun in stunning style with second spot in Australia. Since then he's been less eye-catching, though he has put in a number of excellent qualifying performances and occasionally shone on Sunday afternoons.

But Magnussen's future  is also uncertain. McLaren gave him a shot this season with the strict proviso that he needed to show superstar quality. The team is hoping to unearth another Hamilton, and if Kevin doesn't show that sort of potential McLaren may cut their losses early - just as they did with Sergio Perez.

So who are the alternatives? In the superstar bracket, McLaren have been linked with moves for Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. The German is believed to have been made an offer to switch to Woking, though it is unclear whether this would be in 2015 or when his contract expires in 2016.

Alonso has been linked with a surprise return to the team for more than a year now, though it still seems unlikely. At 33 the Spaniard would be a short-term option, and McLaren does not offer him any more chance of a world title than Ferrari. So why switch?

Given that this is a long-term project, McLaren's best bet may be to hire a young driver who has already shown his potential in F1. Rumour has it that Valtteri Bottas is being targeted and Mika Hakkinen - who knows both parties well - recently acknowledged that there is interest from McLaren's side. Could we be about to see another Flying Finn join the team?

As an outside bet, reformed enfant terrible Romain Grosjean could get the call. The Frenchman is extremely highly rated by McLaren racing director Eric Boullier, who showed tremendous patience in him at Lotus - and received a handsome reward during the second half of last season. His current car is not up to scratch, but Grosjean comfortably has the beating of team-mate Pastor Maldonado. He lacks the big name McLaren are looking for, but many in the paddock believe Romain could out-perform Button in equal machinery.

The team could also elect to swap one youngster for another. Magnussen is being kept honest this year - as he was in 2013 - by fellow junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne (below). The Belgian is currently enjoying an excellent rookie season in GP2 and would leap at the chance to join McLaren in F1. If Magnussen doesn't hit his targets it would be easy to hand Vandoorne his break.

All of which leads to one certainty - that nothing is certain. McLaren have plenty of options and remain a big draw. The arrival of Honda will give them significant financial clout, so don't rule out a big-name driver being poached from elsewhere.

But they could just as easily retain their current lineup on one-year deals and assess the market again in 12 months, when the likes of Vettel and Hamilton could both be free agents. Right now the only man with any real insight into their 2015 lineup is Dennis - and no one in the paddock has a better poker face than wily old Ron.

VERDICT: Very uncertain at the moment with almost half the grid in the mix. Could be unchanged, could be an entirely new lineup.