The Formula 1 driver market is still fairly open ahead of the 2014 season. Only McLaren and Mercedes has both drivers under contract for next season, meaning that several teams have vacancies. Politics has led to several rumours sparking throughout the four week summer break, so ahead of this weekend’s return to action at the Belgian Grand Prix, here’s a look at the current situation.
Red Bull Racing
Reigning world champion Vettel will remain with Red Bull until at least 2015 after signing a one year contract extension earlier this season. The identity of his team-mate remains unconfirmed, although team principal Christian Horner hinted that a decision could be announced in Belgium or Italy. Mark Webber’s replacement is highly likely to be Daniel Ricciardo, with German media reporting that a deal has been done. Kimi Raikkonen remains in the running.
Mercedes AMG Petronas
Lewis Hamilton/Nico Rosberg
Mercedes will continue with Hamilton and Rosberg for a second successive season. Hamilton joined the team at the start of 2013 and has adapted well to his new surroundings. 2014 will be Rosberg’s fifth season with the Silver Arrows and the German has won three races during that period.
In spite of the rumours circulating throughout the Hungarian Grand Prix, Alonso has a contract with Ferrari until the end of 2016. It’s not impossible for Alonso to leave, but it’s highly likely that the Spaniard will stay with the team. Felipe Massa’s position at Ferrari is not secure. Finnish media has claimed that a deal between Raikkonen has been done, while Nico Hulkenberg and Jules Bianchi remain in the running.
Lotus F1 Team
The team is undoubtedly eager to retain Raikkonen for a third season and their prospects will hinge on whether the Finn wants to stay at Lotus. Romain Grosjean is likely to remain as long as he avoids getting into incidents. Should Raikkonen depart, Hulkenberg is expected to fill the void.
Sahara Force India
Paul di Resta/TBC
Di Resta is under contract for next season, although deputy team principal Bob Fernley says Force India would not stand in his way if a top team came calling. Adrian Sutil may remain for another season, with Britain’s James Calado in negotiations for a reserve role.
Jenson Button/Sergio Perez
2014 will be the final year of Button’s current contract as McLaren head into the last of their 20 years with Mercedes. Sergio Perez’s multi-year deal means his position at the team is secure. A new title partner, to replace outgoing sponsors Vodafone, will be announced on December 2nd.
Scuderia Toro Rosso
Team principal Franz Tost has said that Jean-Eric Vergne will stay for 2014, although the final decision will rest with the ruthless Helmut Marko. If Ricciardo goes, then Portuguese hotshot Antonio Felix da Costa will be promoted. If Ricciardo stays, then the second seat is between Vergne and da Costa.
Sauber F1 Team
Russian 17 year old Sergey Sitorkin is set to be prepared for a race seat, meaning that the team will evaluate whether he is ready for 2014. Hulkenberg is likely to remain if there is no other offer, while Esteban Gutierrez’s position could hinge on his financial package. Highly talented reserve driver Robin Frijns is unlikely to get a shot.
Williams F1 Team
PDVSA’s contract with Williams continues, and the lack of other talented Venezuelan racers means Pastor Maldonado is set for a fourth season at the team. Valtteri Bottas is unlikely to be ousted from the team after an impressive start to his career. A reserve role at the team is up for grabs and could be filled by young Mercedes racers, Daniel Juncadella or Robert Wickens.
Marussia F1 Team
Jules Bianchi has reiterated his want to remain with Marussia and the signs are that their partnership will continue. No driver has stayed in the second seat for more than a season and Max Chilton’s tenure at the team will depend on his sponsorship package. McLaren is keen to get current Formula Renault 3.5 Series leader Kevin Magnussen on the grid and Marussia appears the most viable option. One seat, if not two, could go to the highest bidder.
Caterham F1 Team
Frenchman Charles Pic has a long term contract with Caterham, having joined the team from rivals Marussia at the start of the season. Giedo van der Garde has shown flashes of promise and Caterham is happy with his progress. Former driver Heikki Kovalainen and American Alexander Rossi are outside contenders.