F1 2014 Driver Lineup: Which Seats Are Confirmed and Which Are Still Open?
As the focus now switches to the 2014 Formula One season, there are some important storylines to be written.
Not only do we not know how the development of the new V6 engines is going to affect the order of the grid, but we still do not know which drivers are going to be there.
Here is a rundown of both the confirmed driver line-ups and those yet to be announced with predictions of who may go where.
Provisional: Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde
Possible: Esteban Gutierrez, Heikki Kovalainen and Giedo van der Garde
Neither Charles Pic nor Giedo van der Garde have had their places confirmed at Caterham for next season, but Pic recently admitted on Autosport before the final race of the season that he fears for his chances.
"For next year, the logic for me would be to stay in Caterham but it's not sure. I think there are still many seats available for next year, so we will see."
Van der Garde may be more secure due to the extra financial backing he brings and if Tony Fernandes can find some extra sponsorship backing for 2014 he may opt to go with the experience of proven race winner Heikki Kovalainen.
What appears certain is that one of Charles Pic or Giedo van der Garde will be jettisoned after Caterham team boss Cyril Abiteboul told Autosport they are seeking an experienced driver for 2014.
A combination of experience and younger blood is something that will make sense. As Caterham, we are committed to young people, to young talent. So I think that will stay. Experience is nice to have because it gives everyone confidence in terms of feedback and analysis, because next year we will be completely blind at the start.
That experienced driver could be either Kovalainen or Esteban Gutierrez, who Autosport understands visited Caterham's Leafield base recently.
Marussia—Jules Bianchi and TBC
Provisional: Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton
Likely: Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton
With Jules Bianchi already confirmed for another season for Marussia, there remains one seat up for grabs.
Bianchi enjoyed an impressive season with Marussia and was rewarded by being named Rookie of the Year at the prestigious Autosport Awards.
It has been a great season for me. I didn't expect to be on the grid in February, so the contract with Marussia was great and it's been nice ever since. Tenth was great for us, and now we look forward for next year. The team did a great job and straight away I felt good. Next year will be a great challenge but I think we can do good things.
Max Chilton was also in contention for the rookie award after finishing every race in the season and hopes he has done enough to retain his drive for next year.
Williams—Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas
Finn Valtteri Bottas has been rewarded for an impressive debut season that saw him qualify third on the grid in Canada and finish eighth in the U.S., whilst Williams went for the added experience of Felipe Massa for the second seat.
On paper it looks like a solid pairing that could get Williams back on track, especially with the new regulation changes for 2014.
One thing is for sure, Williams will be happy to see the back of Pastor Maldonado after he accused the team of sabotaging his car’s tyres in Austin.
Toro Rosso—Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat
One of the more recent teams to have confirmed their line-up for 2014, Red Bull Racing feeder team Toro Rosso decided to keep faith with Vergne after a solid season saw him finish only seven points behind the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo.
Less is known of young Russian Daniil Kvyat, although he did triumph in this year’s GP3 series. He fought off competition from Antonio Felix da Costa and Carlos Sainz Jr., both of whom are on the Red Bull junior programme.
Provisional: Esteban Gutierrez and TBC
Likely: Sergey Sirotkin and Adrian Sutil
With Nico Hulkenberg having returned to Force India, at least one seat at Sauber is up for grabs for 2014.
Young Russian Sergey Sirotkin has been provisionally pencilled in to drive for the team in 2014, but this all depends on whether he is granted a Superlicence as he has not had the necessary hours behind the seat of an F1 car under his belt.
Young Mexican Esteban Gutierrez has not been confirmed at the team in what has been a difficult year, although he did show what he is capable of with an impressive drive to seventh in Japan.
Sergio Perez has been linked to a return to his old team after McLaren announced they would be letting the Mexican team, but while Nico Hulkenberg was confirmed at Force India on December 3, Perez is still a contender for the second seat.
Force India—Nico Hulkenberg and TBC
Provisional: Nico Hulkenberg and TBC
Likely: Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez
Chances are we will see a completely new driver line-up at Force India for the 2014 season after BBC Sport today announced that Nico Hulkenberg will rejoin his former team on a "multi-year" deal.
Whilst Paul di Resta is also quoted on BBC Sport as saying he hopes to remain in the sport, it is unlikely it will be with Force India, as Sergio Perez is a strong favourite to join Hulkenberg there.
McLaren—Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen
McLaren sprung a huge surprise when the team announced it would be replacing Sergio Perez with Kevin Magnussen for the 2014 season.
Magnussen is something of an unknown quantity, although he did win the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and has been a part of the McLaren young driver programme.
Jenson Button remains the team’s senior driver and Magnussen will be looking for him to provide a guiding influence as he eases his way into the sport.
Lotus—Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado
Pastor Maldonado was the last driver to be confirmed at a team at the time of writing, as Lotus decided they couldn’t wait forever to see if their planned investment deal with Quantum Motorsports materialises.
Although Nico Hulkenberg was thought to be their first choice, Autosport revealed that Lotus are still hopeful of securing the Quantum investment deal.
That would give the team valuable extra funds for car development and with Romain Grosjean now recognised as a future race winner, the team appears to be in good shape.
Ferrari—Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen
Ferrari announced some time before the end of last season that Kimi Raikkonen would be returning to the Maranello outfit to partner Fernando Alonso in what looks like one of the strongest driver line-ups on the grid.
Good a driver though Felipe Massa was, he never really provided Alonso with a stiff challenge in a team that was moulded around the Spaniard.
Whilst it is possible Alonso may be unsettled by having a competitive teammate, as he was at McLaren, it is more likely that Raikkonen will spur him on to become an even better driver.
Mercedes—Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
Mercedes have rightly kept faith with a driver line-up that delivered three race victories in 2013, two of them to Nico Rosberg.
The pairing is one of the strongest on the grid and could be a force to be reckoned with, despite the loss of Ross Brawn, due to the facilities and money that Mercedes can throw at the R&D for the new 2014 engines.
Red Bull Racing—Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has a new teammate for the 2014 season in the form of Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
Whilst Vettel endured a prickly relationship with his former Aussie teammate Mark Webber, Ricciardo is unlikely to pose much of a threat either on the racetrack or off it.
At least not for the first season anyway.