When the music stops, there are always a few Formula One drivers left without seats. That's not because the field is getting smaller, it's because there are always more drivers looking for rides than there are rides to go around. And that's certainly the case this season. With only one race seat still yet to be confirmed at the perennial backmarker Hispania Racing Team (HRT), several drivers were dumped by the teams they drove for last season.
That includes Rubens Barrichello (axed by Williams in favor of Bruno Senna), Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi (both canned by Toro Rosso), Tonio Liuzzi (from HRT), Adrian Sutil (from Force India) and Vitaly Petrov (dismissed by Lotus-Renault in favor of Kimi Raikkonen).
So where will they all end up? Barrichello and Sutil are left scratching their heads, while Alguersuari and Buemi are lining up roles as official test drivers for major teams. But Petrov is reportedly looking at another avenue that is neither with a current team nor altogether outside of F1.
An official announcement has not been made, but all signs point towards Petrov serving as official test driver for Pirelli. The Italian rubber company needs an F1 driver with recent experience and proven talent to test the tires it furnishes for the entire grid at each grand prix, and that driver looks to be Petrov.
The question is, what will he be driving as Pirelli's test pilot? Last year, the company used the 2009 Toyota TF109, but that's now three years old – a relic by F1 standards. Picking up one of last year's cars from a team still competing in the series could constitute an unfair advantage, particularly given the constrictions on testing these days, so Pirelli is reportedly working with all the teams to try and find a consensus solution, but if none is found, it may have to cut a deal with one of the teams in order to continue its development work on next year's tire compounds.