The 2009 season is over, but surprisingly less than half of the field is confirmed for next season. Fernando Alonsoís long-rumoured, and finally confirmed move to Ferrari, held up the traditional summer announcements, while the addition of new teams and the uncertainty over the future of Sauber makes for an interesting off-season. We take a look at the driver market on a team by team basis.
Despite taking championship honours at its very first attempt, the team has yet to confirm its driver line-up for next season. We know that Rubens Barrichello has left the team and will race for Williams Cosworth, while 2009 champion Jenson Button is expected to shortly conclude a deal to remain with the team. Nico Rosberg is expected to join Button at the team next year, with the blessing of Mercedes who will almost certainly take equity in the team.
Lewis Hamilton is set firm for next year while 2009 team-mate Heikki Kovalainen is expected to move on. Kimi Raikkonen is favourite to conclude a deal to race alongside Hamilton, but should he and the team be unable to reach an agreement, a number of drivers including Adrian Sutil, Nick Heidfeld as well as Kovalainen and possibly Timo Glock remain in contention.
The Italian team has paid off Kimi Raikkonen and signed Fernando Alonso to partner Felipe Massa next season. Giancarlo Fisichella has agreed to take the test and reserve role, so barring any unforeseen problems, the Ferrari line-up is now all set. The only twist is Fisichella who suggested he might be allowed to race for one of the new teams, parallel to his Ferrari duties.
Doubts will remain regarding the future of the Toyota team ahead of the Japanese parent company signing off the finances for next season. Kamui Kobayashi shined in two grand prix starts for the team and is expected to race next season, while Kovalainen has been linked to the second seat.
Sauber Qadbak Ferrari
The future of the team, founded by Peter Sauber and run as BMW Sauber in recent seasons, remains unclear. Qadbak has purchased the team, but as it stands, they cannot compete as 14 teams in Formula One are not permitted. Should Sauber be granted a grid position for next season (whether by unanimous agreement from the other teams or by the withdrawal of a team), Nick Heidfeld is expected to be retained.
It is all change for Williams next year with test and reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg promoted to a race seat after claiming GP2 honours in 2009. He is joined by F1 veteran Rubens Barrichello while the team will switch from Toyota to Cosworth engines.
After a difficult season on and off the track, 2010 is a rebuilding year for Renault. With Fernando Alonso moving to Ferrari, Robert Kubica is confirmed with the team, while Timo Glock has been linked to the second seat. The future of Romain Grosjean remains unclear but should the team fail to secure the services of Glock, he could still retain the seat.
Force India Mercedes
Adrian Sutil will probably remain with the team next year, while Tonio Liuzzi had already been expected to race. However, Liuzzi returned to the team at Monza and subsequently failed to match the pace of Sutil in the final five races of the season and may well be placed on the sidelines again in favour of a well funded rookie.
Toro Rosso Ferrari
The Red Bull-owned team has not confirmed its driver line-up for next season, but having invested heavily in Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari this year, it is expected that the team will field an unchanged line-up next season.
Campos Meta Cosworth
Bruno Senna has been confirmed with the new Spanish-owned team for next season, while Pedro de la Rosa has been linked with the team but may ultimately opt to remain as a McLaren Mercedes test and reserve driver. Bernie Ecclestone is keen to see Nelson Piquet race again, but so far the subject is just rumour.
With its Malaysian backing, the team is eyeing one experienced F1 veteran as well as a Malaysian driver for its debut season. Jarno Trulli is not expected to remain with Toyota and has been rumoured as a possible Lotus driver, while Fairuz Fauzy has been making noises that he is ready to step up to F1 with the team.
A number of drivers have been linked to the British team including Adam Carroll and Anthony Davidson, but the driver situation remains fluid for this new team.
The team had hoped to run one F1 veteran alongside a rising US star. Many names have been linked with the drive but none have gained any momentum. High profile names such as Danica Patrick and Kyle Busch can now be eliminated.