The team line-up for the 2010 season was expected to be right on track after Spanish double World Champion Fernando Alonso joined Ferrari but so far only 10 out of the possible 26 seats is yet to be confirmed. Though there was some uncertainty if Toyota and Renault would stay in F1, but Toyota has pulled out of the 2010 season while Renault is still expected to stay on despite the global economic turmoil which affected the automobile industry and not to mention the spygate scandal where some former senior members of the team was involved. They have confirmed Robert Kubica as one of their drivers and actively on the lookout for another driver to partner him but all said and done, they may still end up pulling out but they should stay as an engine supplier as their customer team Red Bull Racing gave Brawn GP a run for their money and fought till the Brazilian GP for both the titles.
Jenson Button after his title victory may still not sure if he will race next year as his contract talks with Brawn is stalled and he could be the key to the driver’s market puzzle. If talks with Brawn fail, he only has McLaren as his realistic option for defending the title he won this year. McLaren would not mind a pairing of the reigning World Champion with the 2008 Champion Lewis Hamilton as that would be a dream combination in the minds of all English racing fans and would be a sponsorship coup. Though Brawn has been talking about how sponsorship has been lined up for the next 3 years and there are rumours of Mercedes buying a stake in the team but Jenson Button is actually not too expensive for a World Champion and if Brawn is still not keen on spending too much cash Button can look at McLaren but then there are stumbling blocks to it too.
The last time McLaren was in such a comfortable position when it comes to have 2 very good drivers was in the 80’s when Prost and Senna were teammates but now McLaren have enough options to choose on who will partner Hamilton in its quest of reaching the top once again. Ferrari has a very enviable combination of Alonso and Massa, while Red Bull has the wonder kid Vettel partnered by the very able Mark Webber who is one of the most underestimated driver on the grid. They can go back to Kimi would will be the ideal foil to Hamilton and if Kimi is motivate, well McLaren can pose a very dangerous combination which can take on anyone on the grid while picking Rosberg too can be an ideal scenario for McLaren as not only would that please Mercedes but Hamilton and Rosberg go a long way and there would not be any friction in the team. One thing is certain, both Rosberg and Button would drive a Mercedes powered car next year. Other options include McLaren’s former protégé Nick Heidfeld who is actually talking to every other team apart from Ferrari and RBR. Many were surprised when Heidfeld was overlooked for Kimi but though this maybe too late in his career, he can be the ideal #2 driver for the team. If the team wants a long term #2 then Sutil will be a good choice but neither Sutil nor Heidfeld would be challenging for the titles as long as Hamilton is there.
Renault has confirmed Kubica and though there was talks on Heidfeld partnering Kubica but now the team is interested in securing the services of former Toyota driver Timo Glock and if the team does races next season, the combination of Kubica and Glock would be a power house mid-field line-up. Apart from Glock the team can go back to Heikki Kovalainen, who is on the hunt for a race seat for the next season while current driver Romain Grosjean’s chances of retaining his seat is slim but long term test driver Lucas Di Grassi has an outside chance.
Toro Rosso was expected to confirm both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari but so far only Buemi has been confirmed while Alguersuari may have some stiff competition from Red Bull backed drivers which also includes the highly rated Italian Mirko Bortolotti who broke the Fiorano lap record while testing with Ferrari and was touted as one of the potential replacements for Massa after his injury. The others includes New Zealander Brendon Hartley, who was a reserve driver for STR for some parts of the season and also Australian Daniel Ricciardo, the new British F3 champion. Among the 3, Bortolotti will be the one most likely to get the nod if Alguersuari does not make the cut as not only is STR powered by Ferrari but the team may also have long term plans for this Italian protégé.
Force India is expected to retain both Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi but former driver Giancarlo Fisichella also cannot be ruled out if Sutil ends up joining a higher profile team. Though Neel Jani and Karun Chandok may have an outside chance due to their Indian heritage.
Sauber the team to benefit most from Toyota’s withdrawal will be looking to retain current driver Nick Heidfeld if his move to McLaren fails to initialize while test driver Christian Klien may also be in the loop. If Heidfeld does drive for McLaren, then Italian Fisichella may also be in contention as the team has a Ferrari engine and Fisi is open to racing next season though he is a Ferrari test driver from 2010 onwards.
Among the new teams, Lotus F1 is surely going to make it to the grid and the mercurial Italian Jarno Trulli is being linked with the team. Among others who has been linked includes former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, Christian Klien and Japanese rookie Kamui Kobayashi, who impressed everyone with his drives in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Campos has brought the Senna name back to F1 by signing in Bruno Senna the nephew of legendary Ayrton Senna while Pedro de la Rosa was expected to take the other seat but talks have not been that fruitful and even Nelsinho Piquet may have a chance for a seat due to his good financial backings. No one has a clue on who will be signed for Manor GP and USF1, but we can rule out some famous American drivers like Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti for USF1, while experienced drivers like Anthony Davidson and Alexander Wurz will be on the radar for these teams.
Nothing is certain till the Bahrain GP of 2010 where we will actually know which teams makes it and which drivers manages to have a spot on the grid.