Unlike last season this year we have already had some mid-season drivers changes. Jaime Alguersuari has replaced Sebastien Bourdais in Toro Rosso, Nelson Piquet was dropped by Renault and Luca Badoer is about to step in to Ferrari F60 for injured Felipe Massa. Unlike last year we can also expect some serious shuffle to come before the 2010 season begins. BMW is on their way out, 3 (or 4) new teams are on the way in, several contracts are up for renewal (or else). Let’s have a first look how the things are (or may be) shaping up:
Ferrari keeps holding the official line that both their current drivers have valid contracts for 2010. At the same time many seem to be convinced that Fernando Alonso will drive for Ferrari next year. It is hard to imagine Ferrari dropping Felipe Massa while it is not so difficult to imagine Kimi Raikkonen doing rally …
2010 line up prediction – Massa, Alonso or Massa, Raikkonen
Lewis Hamilton will go nowhere but the same may not apply to Heikki Kovalainen. His may turn out to be the most desired seat on the market. I would expect Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica, Nick Heidfeld and perhaps also Adrian Sutil all considering or being considered for the potential McLaren vacancy.
2010 line up prediction – Hamilton and Kovalainen/Rosberg/Kubica/Heidfeld/Sutil
Everybody expects Jenson Button to stay but I wonder if he would prefer to take his time and see how will the team handle the current performance slump. He probably would not be eager to move towards the back of the grid again. Rubens Barrichello secured his drive with Brawn at the very last moment resulting in the 4th year of Button-Barrichello partnership. If Button stays the team may go for young driver next year, perhaps the one who only just missed out on the seat this season. The situation would be more interesting if Button decides to move somewhere else. Would they keep Barrichello and his experience ? If yes would they still consider Bruno Senna (another Brazilian) for the second seat ?
2010 line up prediction – Button and … Senna ?
Not much speculation here anymore, both drivers have their contracts, in Webber’s case a fresh one.
2010 line up – Vettel, Webber – confirmed
If Alonso really leaves the team Renault will be left with no experienced driver. Flavio may go to fish to the BMW waters with both Heidfeld and Kubica available. At the end Alonso is expected to move to Ferrari anyway, if not in 2010 then in 2011 latest … In the meantime Romain Grosjean is expected to replace Nelson Piquet from the next race (Valencia or Spa).
2010 line up prediction – Alonso and Kubica/Heidfeld/Grosjean or Grosjean and Kubica/Heidfeld
There hasn’t been much talk about Toyota drivers. This may be one of the few teams that will enter 2010 season with unchanged line up.
2010 line up prediction – Glock, Trulli
This is interesting. The team does not hide the desire to keep Nico Rosberg. They gave him a good car this year but the car is still short of being a race winning machine. Prospect of race wins may convince Rosberg to move to McLaren despite the risky prospect of being Lewis Hamilton’s team mate. Williams do have a replacement ready, the GP2 championship leader Nico Hulkenberg. But that would mean lining up a rookie next to Kazuki Nakajima… They could also do a straight swap and bring Kovalainen to Williams but then what to do with Hulkenberg … Nakajima is probably safe as long as the car is powered by Toyota engines.
2010 line up prediction – Rosberg/Nakajima/Hulkenberg/Kovalainen – make your pick ….
The team seems to be happy with Sebastien Buemi at the moment and they will probably keep him next season. Jaime Alguersuari was quite impressive on his debut in Hungary and if he continues in similar fashion for the rest of the season he may well return to the car in 2010. His main competitor will probably be Brendon Hartley who will no doubt get a chance to rake up some testing mileage during the winter. There also has been some talk about Sebastien Loeb taking over from Alguersuari for final races of 2009 season. That may be just a publicty stunt or it may not. Loeb did pretty well in the F1 car last year – see video here.
2010 line up prediction – Buemi, Alguersuari/Hartley, Loeb ?
There has been talk that Vitantonio Liuzzi has 2010 race drive with Force India guaranteed. If that is the case one of the current drivers would have to make room for him. Few would expect Force India to drop Sutil and keep Fisichella but there is also the possibility of Sutil leaving for a better team. There probably isn’t much chance for Karun Chandhok getting the seat.
2010 line up prediction – Sutil,Liuzzi or Fisichella, Liuzzi
Now the new teams (if they make it to the grid):
Original idea was to give both seats to American drivers. It however emerged that the team now plans to employ at least one experienced F1 driver and there aren’t that many in the US at the moment. The hottest candidates appear to be Alex Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa. Earlier also Jacques Villeneuve’s name came up but it is hard to say if there was more to it than his recent presence in F1 paddock. Jonathan Summerton is the driver most often mentioned with the second race seat reserved for American driver. Graham Rahal and Kyle Bush have also been connected with possible US F1 drive. Danica Patrick and A.J. Allmendiger have already distanced themselves from move to F1.
2010 line up prediction – Summerton, Wurz/de la Rosa
The list of names linked with a Campos seat is also quite long and includes several Spanish drivers – Pedro de la Rosa, Marc Gene, Javier Villa. Former F1 driver and 2008 GP2 champion Giorgio Pantano has proclaimed his interest in Campos F1 seat. Hard to make a pick here …
2010 line up prediction – no idea
The most famous name linked with move to Manor has so far been Richard Branson but that would not be as racing driver. Unlike in cases of US F1 and Campos there is bit of radio silence when it comes to potential drivers picks for Manor F1. Adam Carroll and Max Chilton are very much the only names that came up. As a new team they could use some proven test driver with a bit of racing experience, someone like Anthony Davidson for example.
2010 line up prediction – no idea
There are 2 more potential race seats with the team number 13 that should fill the gap left by BMWs withdrawal from F1.
And for the record there are also few recent F1 drivers that I haven’t listed in connection with any 2010 F1 team – Nelson Piquet, Sebastien Bourdais, Takuma Sato, Christian Klien. They may also want to grab one of the of the spare or newly available seats.
Some iteresting times ahead …
If you have your own tips or predictions for 2010 F1 line up, feel free to leave them in the comments. I also created a 2010 F1 Drivers over at the Forum (still in the testing mode).