Unlike most professional sports, Formula One does not have a free agent period or transfer window—a defined period where athletes can sign with a new team.
This means that as soon as a driver is confirmed for a season with a particular team, the speculation can (and usually does) begin as to where he will be the following year.
Another unique aspect of F1 is the very limited number of race seats. Currently, there are only 22 places on the grid, so a driver moving from one team to another often starts the dominos falling and ends up affecting a number of teams and drivers.
So, in the time-honoured tradition of F1 driver carousel speculation, we are going to rank each driver who will start the 2014 Australian Grand Prix based on the likelihood that they will be in the same seat in Melbourne in 2015.
A number of criteria were considered in the following ranking, although not all of them apply to each driver:
- Does the driver have a contract with his current team in place beyond 2014?
- How comfortable does the driver appear to be with his current team?
- Have there been credible rumours linking the driver with another team?
- Does the team have a viable replacement lined up who could fill the driver's seat in 2015?
- How much funding does the driver bring with him?
That being said, this is by no means a scientific enterprise. The percentages for each driver represent a best-guess for how likely each is to switch teams before the 2015 season.
There are also many intangibles that also must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
For example, in Lewis Hamilton's case you might ask "Does the Mercedes motorhome kitchen staff provide doggie treats?" Whereas, one criterion for determining whether Fernando Alonso remains at Ferrari for 2015 might be "Can he handle being beaten by a teammate who was still sleeping off a hangover 20 minutes before the start of the formation lap?"
With that in mind, here are the drivers, ranked from least- to most-likely, to leave their current teams before the 2015 season begins.