The team lineup for the 2010 season was expected to be right on track after Spanish double World Champion Fernando Alonso joined Ferrari. However, only 10 of the 26 possible seats are yet to be confirmed.
Toyota has pulled out of the 2010 season while Renault is still expected to stay on despite the global economic turmoil, not to mention the spygate scandal where some former senior members of the team were involved.
They have confirmed Robert Kubica as one of their drivers and are actively on the lookout for another driver to partner him, but they may still end up pulling out.
They should stay as an engine supplier as their customer team Red Bull Racing gave Brawn GP a run for their money and fought the Brazilian GP for both the titles.
After his title victory Jenson Button is still not sure if he will race next year as his contract talks with Brawn have stalled, and he could be the key to the driver’s market puzzle. If talks with Brawn fail, he has only McLaren as a realistic option for defending his title.
McLaren would not mind a pairing of the reigning World Champion with the 2008 Champion Lewis Hamilton as that would be a dream combination in the minds of all English racing fans, as well as a sponsorship coup.
Brawn has said that sponsorship is lined up for the next three years, and with rumours of Mercedes buying a stake in the team, Jenson Button may be cheap for a World Champion.
If Brawn is still not keen on spending too much cash, Button can look at McLaren, but there may be some roadblocks along the way.
The last time McLaren was in such a comfortable position with two very good drivers was in the ‘80s when Prost and Senna were teammates. Now McLaren have enough options to choose who will partner Hamilton in its quest of reaching the top once again.
Ferrari has a very enviable combination of Alonso and Massa, while Red Bull has the wonder kid Vettel partnered by the very able Mark Webber—one of the most underestimated drivers on the grid.
McLaren can pose a very dangerous combination if they go back to Kimi, who would be the ideal foil to Hamilton. Picking Rosberg too can be an ideal scenario as that would not only please Mercedes, but Hamilton and Rosberg's relationship would quell any friction in the team.
One thing is certain, both Rosberg and Button would drive a Mercedes-powered car next year.
Other options include McLaren’s former protégé Nick Heidfeld who is actually talking to every other team, apart from Ferrari and RBR.
Many were surprised when Heidfeld was overlooked for Kimi, but this late in his career, he can be the ideal No. 2 driver for a team. If the team wants a long-term No. 2 then Sutil will be a good choice, but neither Sutil nor Heidfeld would be challenging for the titles as long as Hamilton is there.
Renault has confirmed Kubica and though there were talks of Heidfeld partnering Kubica, now the team is interested in former Toyota driver Timo Glock. If the team does race next season, the combination of Kubica and Glock would be a power house mid-field lineup.
Apart from Glock the team can go back to Heikki Kovalainen, who is on the hunt for a race seat for the next season, and current driver Romain Grosjean’s chances of retaining his seat are slim.
Long-term test driver Lucas Di Grassi also has an outside chance.
Toro Rosso was expected to confirm both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, but so far only Buemi has been confirmed. Alguersuari may have some stiff competition from Red Bull-backed drivers, including highly rated Italian Mirko Bortolotti, who broke the Fiorano lap record while testing with Ferrari.
Bortolotti was touted as one of the potential replacements for Massa after his injury.
The others include New Zealander Brendon Hartley, a reserve driver for STR, and Australian Daniel Ricciardo, the new British F3 champion.
Among the three, Bortolotti will be the one most likely to get the nod if Alguersuari does not make the cut, as not only does Ferrari power STR, but the team may also have long term plans for the Italian protégé.
Force India is expected to retain both Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi, but former driver Giancarlo Fisichella cannot be ruled out if Sutil ends up joining a higher profile team. Neel Jani and Karun Chandok may also have a chance due to their Indian heritage.
Sauber is the team to benefit most from Toyota’s withdrawal and will be looking to retain current driver Nick Heidfeld if his move to McLaren fails. Test driver Christian Klien may also be in the loop.
If Heidfeld does drive for McLaren, then Italian Fisichella may also be in contention as the team has a Ferrari engine and Fisi is open to racing next season, even though he is a Ferrari test driver from 2010 onwards.
Among the new teams, Lotus F1 is surely going to make it to the grid, and the mercurial Italian Jarno Trulli is being linked with the team.
Others who have been linked include former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, Christian Klien, and Japanese rookie Kamui Kobayashi, who impressed everyone with his drives in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Campos has brought the Senna name back to F1 by signing in Bruno Senna, the nephew of legendary Ayrton Senna. Pedro de la Rosa was expected to take the other seat, but talks have not been fruitful and even Nelsinho Piquet may have a chance for a seat due to his good financial backings.
No one has a clue about who will be signed for Manor GP and USF1. We can rule out some famous American drivers like Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti for USF1, while experienced drivers like Anthony Davidson and Alexander Wurz will be on the radar for these teams.
Nothing is certain until the Bahrain GP of 2010 where we will actually know which teams make it and which drivers manage to have a spot on the grid.