Go to any restaurant in Los Angeles and you're likely to find a few waiters looking for an opportunity to make it in Hollywood. Head to a major racetrack in Europe - and many other parts of the world - and you'll find dozens of aspiring drivers hoping for a shot at F1. But whereas Formula 3 used to be the one way in, various single-seat racing series have popped up in the last few years, giving more drivers the opportunity to compete, to win, and to ultimately demonstrate their aptitude behind the wheel.
Recent cases like Lewis Hamilton's notwithstanding, most drivers enter the circus with a test seat, maybe for a team further down the field in the hope of moving their way up to a competitive race seat. Since taking over Sauber, BMW's Formula One team has been performing admirably, and though its talented race drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, who both made their way up the ranks themselves, are staying in their seats for next season, BMW's test driver Timo Glock, fresh from his title win on the GP2 circuit, is all but signed to move to a race seat for Toyota (or possibly Williams, which gets its engines from the Japanese giant). So team principal Mario Theisen has drawn up a short list to make the leap up from the bush leagues. While it may not be as exciting as speculating on McLaren's replacement for Alonso or where he'll go next season, these selections tend to be fairly secretive - that's why we speculate - but for this seat we've got a rare glimpse into the process.
Aside from title winner Glock, GP2 gave good exposure to several other competitive drivers this season, and Theisen is considering several, including Adam Carroll, won two GP2 races this season, 2007 British F3 champ Marko Asmer, and 2006 German Formula BMW champion Christian Vietoris. Joining them on the shortlist is Nico Hulkenberg, who is managed by Schumacher's agent Wili Weber - which already tells you he's a hot shoe - and has worked his way up through A1GP where he took the title for Team Germany this year. BMW Sauber is a team known to have an eye for talent, so whoever they pick, pay attention, because you're likely to see him dicing it up for podiums and championship points in a few years from now.