Monday, September 28, 2009

2010 Driver Market is still bizarro-land!

Usually by this time of the year, we will more or less know which driver will be racing for which team for the next season. But then this season is no ordinary season as one controversy has led to another. Everything something gets resolved, something bigger pops up and more or less things have been focused on what is happening at the paddock rather than the racing which is happening. We have the possibility of 14 teams taking part in the 2010 season and so we have 28 seats to fill. Although among the 4 new teams, we are not still too sure on how many will actually lands up but USF1 who a few months back was a certainty to start the first race is the least doubtful among the new teams.

We have to assume that we do have 28 seats available but the worst case scenario for F1 will be both Toyota and Renault pulling off while 2 out of the 4 new teams failing to turn up will make the grid once again with only 10 teams. Hope for the sake of F1 and also the drivers that does not happen. Red Bull is the only team on the grid which has confirmed both its driver with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel leading its championship charge for 2010. The engine market is also very crazy and as many as 4 teams yet to confirm their engine suppliers and 3 out of the 4 is looking for a deal with Mercedes Benz but Mercedes can only supply 2 other team that too their works team McLaren will have to allow them to do it. Red Bull’s Mercedes team was more or less a certainty till news of Mercedes plans of making Brawn their works team threw a spanner in Red Bull’s plans. Also their current supplier Renault after the race fixing scandal is not too sure if they would continue for the 2010 season. Red Bull is in a bad state and worse come scenario they may have to run once again with Ferrari engines which is much better than the Cosworth option available.

Ferrari is in a very good position when it comes to drivers but then it has too many options under its books that it is now becoming a headache to choose their lead pair. If not for Massa’s accident, Alonso and Massa would have started for them for 2010 but now with Massa’s fitness still not a certainty, the team is playing the wait and watch game. Though it is not officially confirmed if Alonso will join the team for the next season, it is more or less certain that Kimi may not drive for the team but the only issue is that Kimi has a very expensive contract with Ferrari. Ferrari also has Fisi in-case there is an emergency but then don’t forget there is always the German Kaiser lurking behind who may yet make a F1 comeback. McLaren is the only other team which has a confirmed driver in Lewis Hamilton and he is sort of bound to the team for the next few years.

It is not the first time that Alonso has held the key to the driver’s market while Rosberg is once again the most wanted driver on the gird while Kubica ever since the BMW pull-out is a hot property while the likes of Button, Barrichello and Heidfeld also available makes the market very interesting. The last time I looked at the driver’s market which was in July, BMW was still in F1 while there was no scandal with the Renault team. Now things have been turned upside down and we also have Lotus returning to F1.

Fernando Alonso: He is very much a hot property and though his deal for Ferrari for 2010 remains an open secret, it is more or less certain and Alonso will most likely race for the Italian team during the next season. Although the Italian team’s pursuit of Vettel for 2011 and his decision to turn them down to race for Red Bull does seem strange but I do assume Alonso will be racing for the Ferrari with Massa who was the only confirmed Ferrari driver for 2010 so far.

Nico Rosberg – Two seasons back, everyone was talking about how Rosberg would go to McLaren and once again this talk is back but the difference now is that Mercedes wants a German driver and Rosberg with both German and Finnish credentials would be a perfect fit plus he is good friends of Hamilton but with rumours of Mercedes interested in making Brawn its works team post 2012 ha strongly linked Rosberg to Brawn which provides both its drivers equal opportunities unlike McLaren which has clearly favoured Hamilton over his partners.

Robert Kubica – He has lot of options but he is looking only for a 1 year contract as he is looking for a Ferrari seat for the 2011 season while he has been a Renault Young Driver, the team is looking for a longer contract than what he is asking for while Williams could be a good place for him but with the Renault & Williams engine deal which can complicate things but Kubica will end up in either Renault or Williams.

Jenson Button – He is most likely to win the 2009 championship and though he took a pay cut to race for the team this season, but an awesome performance this year has made him a hot property once again and though he has rejected Toyota’s deal, he could either stay in Brawn or even more to McLaren. Only money remains an issue but with Mercedes and its long term plan for Brawn, he could very well stay with the team for the next few years.

Rubens Barrichello – The Brazilian is in a very dicey situation as he does not have an option apart from Brawn plus his age is a factor which is working against him, but unless he wins the title, he may not be retained by Brawn while Williams can be a long shot for him. He does have options with the new teams but then I am not too sure if he is motivated enough of running in the back once again.

Nick Heidfeld - He was on his way out of BMW even before they planned to pull off F1 but he has a few options and if he does get lucky he could even land up a drive with McLaren. There was talk of him going to Brawn before the Mercedes talks were there but if Rosberg does go to McLaren, the Heidfeld paring with Button will be solid and he can be a steady side-kick to Button. But he is most likely to end up with Williams and if it does fails, he always has an option with Sauber if their position on the 2010 grid is confirmed.
Kimi Räikkönen – One of the most shocking options on the grid, many though he will retire from F1 and would join the FIAT rallying team but he has said that he wanted to race next year and though he does have a contract with Ferrari he has plenty of top quality options. Brawn, McLaren, Williams and even Renault are all options but don’t be too shocked if Kimi makes a shocking comeback to McLaren.

This is a possible line-up for 2010:

Brawn: Jenson Button/ Nico Rosberg
Red Bull: Sebastian Vettel/ Mark Webber
Ferrari: Fernando Alonso/ Felipe Massa
McLaren: Lewis Hamilton/ Kimi Räikkönen
Williams: Nico Hulkenberg/ Nick Heidfeld
Toyota: Timo Glock/ Heikki Kovalainen
Renault: Romain Grosjean/ Robert Kubica
Toro Rosso: Sebastien Buemi/ Jaime Alguersuari
Force India: Adrian Sutil/Vitantonio Liuzzi
Sauber: Giancarlo Fisichella/ Christian Klien
Campos: Pedro de la Rosa/Vitaly Petrov
Manor: Anthony Davidson/ Lucas Di Grassi
USF1: Jonathan Summerton/ Alexander Wurz
Lotus F1: Bruno Senna/ Jarno Trulli

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