Predicting Driver Moves, Switches and Rookies for 2015 F1 Grid Line-Up

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2014

Predicting Driver Moves, Switches and Rookies for 2015 F1 Grid Line-Up

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    Zsolt Czegledi/Associated Press

    Formula One's 2014 driver market is, rather disappointingly, likely to be among the most subdued in recent history.

    The grid's major stars are all under contract and seemingly content to hold station until the new turbocharged era has settled down, waiting to see where their team truly ranks in the competitive order before finding an escape route in time for 2016.

    Even those actively seeking a way out could find themselves chained to their current teams due to a shortage of opportunities elsewhere.

    Despite a lack of box-office moves on the horizon, however, this year's round of musical chairs promises to be compelling, with a number of drivers planning to make their grand prix debuts in 2015.

    One of those could signify a revolution within the sport, while others could witness the birth of future stars.

    We might see the return of some who previously thought their F1 careers were over, while those who are replaced will be forced to seek alternative employment to keep their careers alive.

    Here are some moves that could—we repeat, could—happen before the start of the 2015 Formula One campaign.

Carlos Sainz Jr. to Toro Rosso

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    Carlos Sainz Jr. is almost certain to be on the grid in 2015, with Toro Rosso the likely destination.

    The Spaniard, son of former World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz, is set to win the Formula Renault 3.5 title, a series won by Kevin Magnussen in 2013, with five victories in 11 races so far this season.

    Sainz Jr. was linked with a midseason move to Caterham last month, although the 19-year-old, according to ESPN F1, informed Spanish publication AS of his desire to complete the Formula Renault season.

    If Sainz Jr. remains unwilling to follow the route of Daniel Ricciardo—gaining Formula One experience with a team at the rear of the field for half a season before graduating to Toro Rosso the following year—it makes sense to take the gamble and throw him in at the deep end of Red Bull's sister team for 2015.

    Jean-Eric Vergne would be the one to make way. 

Jean-Eric Vergne to Caterham

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    Red Bull's young driver program is not renowned for its compassion, but it would seem particularly cruel if Jean-Eric Vergne were to tumble from Toro Rosso, and Formula One, without a trace at the end of the season.

    After all, little separated the Frenchman and Daniel Ricciardo during their time as Toro Rosso teammates over the course of 2012 and 2013, with the Australian's outstanding success at Red Bull this year perhaps forcing a re-evaluation of Vergne's potential.

    Vergne has enjoyed his best start to a campaign in 2014, although the fact that no driver has remained at Toro Rosso for any longer than three seasons suggests he will be replaced regardless.

    But provided his ego will take the hit, he could find refuge at Caterham, who have enjoyed a technical partnership with Red Bull since 2011.

    Vergne's excellent levels of car control would come in handy, especially in wet conditions, the only conditions in which Caterham, in their current state, are likely to score points. 

    And he would doubtlessly be an improvement on either member of the team's current line-up, Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson, although this is admittedly the longest shot featured on this list.

Simona de Silvestro to Sauber

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    Could 2015 see a woman start a Formula One race for the first time since 1976?

    Simona de Silvestro will certainly be hoping that is the case, with the Swiss targeting a seat with Sauber next season.

    The presence of Monisha Kaltenborn, who became the first woman to hold a team principal role in 2012, could work in the 25-year-old's favour as she attempts to secure a drive.

    De Silvestro's efforts to obtain a super license—taking a year out of racing for 2014—seem much more genuine than those of Sauber stablemate Sergey Sirotkin, the Russian teenager, a year ago, with the former IndyCar racer testing Sauber's 2012 car at Fiorano and Valencia.

    Her presence on the grid, as a female F1 driver, would signify increased levels of interest in Sauber, who have suffered a loss of identity in recent seasons as financial struggles have mounted.

    As well as creating more fuss around Sauber in the paddock, De Silvestro's on-track exploits would be more noteworthy than those of Adrian Sutil, whose nine lives would finally run out.

    De Silvestro would probably partner with Esteban Gutierrez, who despite offering little seems confident of retaining his seat ahead of next season's Mexican Grand Prix, according to James Galloway of Sky Sports.

Giedo van der Garde to Caterham

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    Giedo van der Garde, as Sauber's current reserve driver, will be targeting a race seat with the Swiss team for 2015—but a return to Caterham could now prove more likely.

    New team principal Christijan Albers is a compatriot of Van der Garde and would no doubt look favourably upon the driver's sponsorship funds, which Mike Wise of Sky Sports estimates at around €15 million.

    Van der Garde was unlucky not to remain with Caterham for a second season after a decent 2013 campaign, but the 29-year-old has remained match-fit with a number of practice and test outings for Sauber this year and therefore has experience with the new-spec Formula One cars, which would only increase the Dutchman's appeal.

    If Caterham live to see 2015, Van der Garde would be a more than adequate replacement for fellow pay driver Marcus Ericsson, who would struggle to remain in the sport.

Stoffel Vandoorne to Marussia

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    If Marussia are serious about making strides up the Formula One grid, the Banbury-based team must replace the steady Max Chilton with a more exciting talent.

    And there are few more exciting talents outside of F1 at the moment than Stoffel Vandoorne.

    The Belgian driver is so impressive, according to Andrew Benson of BBC Sport, that McLaren, who have supported his junior career, have considered promoting Vandoorne to a race seat as soon as next year.

    But with the team running out of viable options to replace Jenson Button and the prospect of dropping 21-year-old Kevin Magnussen after just one season utterly nonsensical, placing Vandoorne in a minor team seems a likely outcome.

    Magnussen, remember, was linked to a seat at Marussia by Sky Sports prior to becoming Sergio Perez's replacement at McLaren, who, crucially, have a technical bond with the backmarkers.

    Vandoorne, who currently sits third in the GP2 standings with two race wins to his name in his debut season, could take the career path that his fellow prodigy and 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 title rival ultimately swayed from.

    And if the 22-year-old does appear at Marussia, it would surely spell the end of Chilton's Formula One career for the foreseeable future at least.