It seems every year silly season begins earlier and earlier and I remember a few months ago a friend and fellow Formula One fan joked to me that the way things were progressing, silly season would start in January in the forthcoming seasons.
I laughed it off and merely took it as a joke, but reflecting on those comments, my friend was absolutely right. The 2017 season hasn't even got underway, we're still a month away from entering the enlivening pre-season test, and yet we are already talking about the 2018 line ups.
I was as shocked as anyone when I was scouting for news and suddenly saw the perturbed headline that world champion Nico Rosberg had retired from Formula One. It took me a few moments to remember that I needed to create an article about it, and another few moments before I realized my jaw was still hanging wide open!
After writing the article, it then dawned on me that we would have a new driver at Mercedes for 2017 which quite excited me. All the flashy names danced around my head as I imagined my personal perfect scenario, but yet as the story progressed the hype faded slightly as the unpredictability of who will take the seat faded away.
Valtteri Bottas gets his opportunity, but for how long?
I'm quite happy for Valtteri obtaining the seat as he deserves a shot at a top team, but I was even more interested in how long Mercedes would make him pen a deal for. When it emerged that the agreement was for a single year with the option of an add on, I was not at all surprised.
Mercedes obviously admire Valtteri, otherwise he would not have been chosen, but the Finn does not quite possess the resumé that Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso does, with both drives out of contract at the end of 2017.
Toto Wolff himself has stated that the team are to keep their options open for 2018, and you can't really blame them for that. There is no harm in the method. It will put Bottas under pressure knowing that he only has half a year or so to impress in a Silver Arrow. A world championship may not be the minimum that's expected of him but he will definitely be anticipated to challenge Lewis Hamilton.
Rest assured that during the early part of the 2017 F1 season there will be many discussion about Mercedes' 2018 line up. A lot of people would love to see a Hamilton/Vettel or Hamilton/Alonso pairing to really shake up the title fight and excitement.
Who could come into play in 2018?
McLaren have already said they will start negotiating with Fernando early in the 2017 season, but surely he will be eyeing the opportunity at a Mercedes seat. Ferrari also spoke about wanting a calmer Sebastian Vettel before they start talking about a new deal for him. Both drivers seem happy with the current projects they're embedded in, but after the recent success Mercedes have endured, they will surely be a legitimate consideration for a transfer.
Then who's to say that Hamilton won't stay at the team after 2017? Perhaps that's a story for another day. It really all depends on which teams will be the most competitive for next season, as both Vettel and Alonso would not abandon their current teams if they were championship contenders or they could see the path to title contention. And don't forget Bottas who, if he performs exceptionally will be retained.