It is now fairly clear that almost all the F1 drives for next year are gone, unless the two small teams can be revived and that is looking less and less likely. Every day lost now is vital because the fewer days you have to develop the car, the slower it will be. If teams are not working on their new cars, they are falling further and further behind.
Most of the expected announcements will come in Abu Dhabi next week. There are said to be two question marks: Jenson Button at McLaren and Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso.
If Button stays then Kevin Magnussen will go and vice versa. So that is pretty much settled one way or the other. The question to be answered is what is best for the team in the long-term. One man is 34, the other is 22. If one works on logic alone, one has to say that the answer is self-evident.
At Toro Rosso there is a discussion about Jean-Eric Vergne. Any normal racing team would keep a driver of his calibre and experience (remember, he is just 24). However, Scuderia Toro Rosso is not a normal team. It is designed to bring on youngsters to feed Red Bull Racing. It’s only other purpose is to give Red Bull more political power (and more paddock space) in F1. The decision makers at Red Bull, therefore, are not making decisions based on what is best for the team, but rather for the overall programme and so logic goes out of the window. Max Verstappen was not part of any Red Bull programme before he signed for Toro Rosso and that thrown a spanner in the works. Who knows what the final decision will be? Vergne would be a good man to help bring Verstappen on and adding another youngster would simply make the task harder for the team, but that is a decision that must come from the rarified atmosphere up in the mountains of Austria.
Thus, one can say the following:
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg
Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat
Williams: Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel*, Kimi Raikkonen
McLaren: Fernando Alonso*, Kevin Magnussen*
Force India: Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez*
Toro Rosso: Jean-Eric Vergne*, Max Verstappen
Lotus: Romain Grosjean*, Pastor Maldonado
Sauber: Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr
* To be confirmed
This means that there is another gridful of pretenders that have nowhere to go and with sports car racing pretty much sewn-up already, we are likely to see some of them fluttering down into IndyCar and DTM.