The F1 field is now well formed for 2010 but there is still one gaping hole amongst the leading teams - so what is Renault looking for in its second driver, why is it taking so long and who might end up there?
The team currently known as Renault is very different to the one with which most people associate the name. Flamboyant Flavio Briatore, with his wild but successful management style, is now long gone. So too is the metronomic engineer Pat Symonds, whose feet-on-the-ground approach made him appear constantly calm and who always purveyed an absolute confidence in his and his team's abilities. Whatever your opinion of the controversial actions that forced their departures in 'crashgate', the team will miss their respective talents.
Since their departure, the team has been taking a long hard look at itself. Renault might have pulled out altogether if it weren't for a deal with Luxembourg-based investment group Genii Capital, who came in and took 75 per cent of the team's shares. That's a lot of shares and a lot less commitment from Renault, perhaps even a phased departure from F1 (having signed the 2012 Concorde agreement and not wanted to get embroiled in the politics of how to get out of it). The fact that Genii has then bid for Saab SAS in partnership with Bernie Ecclestone adds more to the intrigue.
So from a simple operation run as the racing outlet for Renault cars and focused on performing to the best of its abilities for the good of the brand, the F1 team has become a more complicated conglomerate that has investment at the forefront of its mind.
One of the first moves made by Genii was to install Eric Bouillier, the CEO of Genii's driver management firm Gravity Sport Management and previously boss of the DAMS GP2 team and France in A1GP, as its team leader. And his first self-admitted job has been to refocus the team and try to raise its moral.
But what does all this team restructuring have to do with driver selection? When the takeover was announced, new lead driver Robert Kubica was extremely cagey about it. His manager refused to commit, saying "the cards have changed" and adding that he had to look into his contract before deciding "whether to leave or stay."
Three weeks later, when Bouillier was positioned at the head of the team, Kubica committed himself for 2010 and Bouillier talked of a team comeback, a positive future and a confidence that 2010 would be a good year. To make that happen, he said, the chosen second driver would "have to be able to score points and challenge" Kubica.
Kubica's former BMW-Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld's name immediately came to mind, but since then, nothing has happened. And it now appears that may have been because Renault, a team still regarded as a front-runner, needs to look for a pay driver.
Bouillier has stated that the team has two experienced drivers and two rookie drivers on their lead list for the second seat. But he has also openly stated that they are actively seeking sponsors.
In terms of available experienced drivers, Heidfeld is the best but he is unlikely to have funding and Renault have openly pondered whether it would be good or bad to pair him with Kubica again. Fisichella is tied to Ferrari so unlikely to be fed to another manufacturer while last year's Renault driver Romain Grosjean seems out of favour and Christian Klien is the only other name that has come up. With a driver of Kubica's quality already in the car, none of the names other than Heidfeld jump out as sensible solutions.
It is interesting to note, however, that while some things change others stay the same. Briatore was both Renault boss and manager of Fernando Alonso, a driver who played a big part in the team's recent history. Bouillier, effectively, is now in the same role, with Genii managing a group of drivers through the Gravity stable.
Bouillier has said he will not have any preference for those drivers when it comes to the second seat, but it is likely the company will be eagerly seeking sponsors from the regions where their talent pool lies. Unfortunately, however, their talent pool is relatively young, and China's Ho-Pin Tung is probably the only one on their books with relevant experience and nationality to work as a pay driver.
If they can't convince a Chinese sponsor onboard, it seems they will be seeking another driver to bring a sponsor with them into their fold. So if Heidfeld does end up taking the seat, it will probably be because Genii failed to find any extra funding - which could be good for Heidfeld, but not so good for the future...