If you thought the series of driver changes in the middle of this ongoing Formula One season was something, it's nothing compared to the grand game of musical chairs expected to ensue as the season draws to a close. With BMW closing up shop, several new teams joining the grid and at least a couple of former world champions switching teams for next year's championship, we're shaping up for the biggest jumble the F1 circus has seen in years. Follow the jump to see how it's unfolding so far.
[Image: Clive Mason/Getty]
- As in previous years, several teams have been waiting to finalize their rosters pending the decision of one vital puzzle piece: Fernando Alonso. Now that the two-time world champion has confirmed his move from Renault to Ferrari, you can expect things to begin moving.
- The first confirmed move following Alonso's is that of Robert Kubica, the promising Polish driver who was left without a seat when BMW announced its withdrawal from the sport. Kubica will be moving in to Alonso's seat at Renault, a team now under new management following the exile of its top two officials.
- No announcement has been made so far as to who will drive alongside Kubica at Renault next year. Nelson Piquet Jr. has left the team and his rookie replacement, Romain Grosjean, has failed to deliver in his stead. The prevalent speculation places Kubica's BMW team-mate Nick Heidfeld, together again at Renault, however, Toyota's Timo Glock and Force India's Adrian Sutil are also reportedly in the running for the vacant Renault seat.
- The next big question is over where Kimi Raikkonen will go. With Felipe Massa expected to recover and return to the grid for next season alongside Alonso, Raikkonen is left with a contract but no race seat. Previous reports suggested the Finnish driver could port over to Ferrari's sister-company Abarth to headline its rally program, leaving Formula One altogether. Newer reports, however, have placed him back at McLaren, at Red Bull or at Toyota, however, Kimi has stated he'd only be interested in driving for a team with a winning car. Santander, tipped to shift its sponsorship from McLaren to Ferrari, is reportedly willing to bankroll the transfer of Kimi's contract with Ferrari.
- Lewis Hamilton is confirmed to remain at McLaren next season. However his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen has not, so far, had his contract renewed. While McLaren could be waiting to see if they can get their hands back on Raikkonen, the team's management has indicated they could very well retain Kovalainen for another year.
- The only other team to confirm its drivers for next season is Red Bull, which will hold on to Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel and in the process could emerge (in stark contrast to last year) as the only team to keep the same drivers for 2010. If Raikkonen is up for grabs, however, Webber could find himself on the market as well.
- Despite their winning combination, neither Jenson Button nor Rubens Barrichello have been confirmed for next season at Brawn GP. Button's negotiations reportedly come down to money, but he's expected to stay with the team, reports suggest that Barrichello could swap places with Nico Rosberg, placing the young German at Brawn and the old Brazilian at Williams.
- For its part, Williams is tipped to be canceling its engine deal with Toyota in favor of either Cosworth or Renault, and could seek out a young driver from the GP2 ranks to drive for the team next season.
- Scuderia Toro Rosso is expected to confirm both Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastian Buemi for next season, but has so far made no announcement.
- Toyota remains a big question mark, with various reports speculating on alternative career moves for both Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock.
- Force India, which currently fields Tonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil, may wait for the dust to settle before confirming its drivers for next season. Reports suggest that Giancarlo Fisichella, who left the team to fill in for Felipe Massa at Ferrari and is contracted to remain in Maranello as a reserve driver, may be allowed to race for another team once Ferrari's back on track.
- The biggest piece to the puzzle, however, is where the four new teams scheduled to join the field next year will get their drivers. Campos Meta, Manor, Lotus and USF1 are all going to need talent, which is good news for free agents, aspiring drivers from the feeder series and retired veterans who may find their experience in demand.