The current situation on the drivers' market - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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The current situation on the drivers' market

The current situation on the drivers' market
Sat 22 Sep, 02:49 PM

The uncertainty surrounding Fernando Alonso's future whereabouts has practically frozen the drivers' market as team principals wait to see the opportunities that might – or might not – appear.

It appears inevitable that the Spaniard will prefer to leave McLaren after a tumultuous single year of service, but the same question appears again and again: where to?

Reanult openly hopes to welcome back its double World Champion, but other teams are also watching developments very closely. When a talented driver such as Alonso becomes available, it would be hard to imagine that organizations such as BMW and Toyota (or even Red Bull and Honda on the longer term), will not try to attract his attention.

While we wait for the situation to unfold, we present a picture of the current drivers' market.


Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa will remain co-workers at Ferrari next season unless a major surprise is announced, which does not seem likely. Both drivers have delivered good results and have performed as highly as expected. The red team has no reason to part with either the Finn nor the Brazilian as both have shown their worth.

McLaren Mercedes:

Lewis Hamilton will without any doubt be a McLaren driver in 2008, but chances are great that his teammate will no longer be Fernando Alonso. To replace him, the team might elect to bring in Nico Rosberg, whose talent has been demonstrated more than once at the wheel of a Williams. Of course, Sir Frank Williams would prefer to hang on to Rosberg, but a nice monetary compensation might be acceptable. All it takes is an agreement.

As for Alonso, unless bridges can be rebuilt according to McLaren's house rules, it is difficult to see how his relationship with the team can continue beyond the end of the season.

BMW Sauber:

Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica both have valid contracts for 2008; in theory nothing should change in the German-Swiss camp. But, lest we forget, Fernando Alonso might soon be free of any McLaren obligations and BMW cannot let such an opportunity pass without at least giving it good consideration.

This must also be added to the equation: Kubica and Alonso are good friends, and Heidfeld is a former Mercedes driver. Could that lead to a straight Alonso/Heidfeld exchange between McLaren and BMW? Many things are possible in Formula One...


Heikki Kovalainen has better chances of holding on to his appointment than does Giancarlo Fisichella. The veteran Italian has probably not performed enough to convince his bosses of holding onto him next year, although he should logically have been the leader showing the way to rookie teammate Kovalainen.

His seat might be given to test driver Nelson Piquet if Fernando Alonso decides against a return to Renault. Team Principal Flavio Briatore wants Alonso back, but tension between him and his favorite driver – albeit of a much lesser extent than the present situation at McLaren – led to the Spaniard's change of teams in the first place. Alonso might prefer trying somewhere else instead of rehashing the past.

Meanwhile, the promising Piquet has already mentioned that one year as a test driver is enough. If Renault does not grant him a racing seat, they risk losing him to another team.

Briatore declared in Belgium last week that he would have a better idea regarding his 2008 drivers sometime around the Japanese Grand Prix, which takes place next weekend. Logic dictates that negotiations are on.

Williams Toyota:

Alex Wurz is still without a firm contract for 2008, and nothing guarantees it will be for a race seat. The Austrian driver, despite running a few good races, has often showed lacking pace during the all-important qualifying sessions. The Williams team might prefer calling in current test driver Kazuki Nakajima.

As for Nico Rosberg, his talent is obvious, and Sir Frank Williams has let it be known that he has a contract for 2008. If McLaren do come knocking on his door, Williams might let Rosberg go nevertheless, since another option might appear: if Alonso returns to Renault, thereby blocking Nelson Piquet's chances at a racing job there, setting up with Williams may prove mutually interesting.


Toyota's confidence in Jarno Trulli is well-known and his contract covers next season. In regards to the other car, it is quite improbable that the Cologne-based team will wish to retain Ralf Schumacher's services. The German has not been performing well this season, which has created a large ratio gap between his results and his salary, one of the largest among F1 drivers.

The Toyota team has remained politely supportive by indicating that Schumacher is still an option for 2008, but a more likely scenario would be the signing of Adrian Sutil, who has done well behind the wheel of an anemic Spyker.


No changes should take place at Honda next season, at least on the driver front. Both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello will continue with the Japanese team despite much chagrin concerning their 2007 ambitions, but a hiring phase at Honda might bring better achievements. Theoretically, things could only get better... right?

Red Bull Renault:

David Coulthard and Mark Webber will be part of the adventure again next season. Before thinking of changing its driver line-up, what Red Bull needs mostly is a reliable car. The Scotsman and the Australian will take care of the rest.

Toro Rosso Ferrari:

Team co-owner Gerhard Berger has been cleaning house lately. Scott Speed was let go several weeks ago, and Sebastian Vettel left his test-driving duties at BMW to join Toro Rosso as a racer in Speed's place. Vettel will begin his first complete F1 season next year.

Tonio Liuzzi is still around for the time being, but his contract has not been renewed. Triple Champ Car Champion Sébastien Bourdais will leave the American series and finally launch a late-beginner F1 career with Toro Rosso in 2008. The anticipation regarding Bourdais' performances is high, and Gerhard Berger is hoping the team will quickly benefit from the Frenchman's experience.

Spyker Ferrari:

Jordan was sold to Midland in 2004, Midland was sold to Spyker in 2006, and now Spyker will be sold to Dutchman Michiel Mol and Indian Vijay Mallya very soon. The sale has been agreed to in principle, but the team's next name remains unknown for now.

Roldan Rodriguez has been welcomed aboard with a brand new contract that will bring him all the way to... the end of winter testing. It would be reasonable to believe that he will stay on for the 2008 season.

Adrian Sutil remains under contract for next year, but he has been approached by three other teams who have manifested interest in the German driver. Two of those interested parties are rumoured to be Toyota and Williams, but if Sutil changes teams, he will need the consent of Team Principal Colin Kolles.

In the case of Toyota, buying out Sutil's contract could easily be set off by the savings made on Ralf Schumacher's salary, and the team formerly known as Spyker could make good use of the extra income of not only selling Sutil's contract, but signing on a sponsor-backed driver.

Super Aguri Honda:

As is the case with Spyker, Super Aguri is also working on a tight budget. There are persistent rumours of a new investor coming aboard, with indications of a possible announcement at the Japanese Grand Prix.

If Honda decides to continue supplying engines to the team, there can be no doubt regarding Takuma Sato's presence on the grids in 2008. As for Anthony Davidson, he has done well this year for his first complete season, but that might not be enough if Super Aguri feels the need to find a driver with his own sponsorship budget.

In most cases where there are question marks, many of the teams' decision-makers are waiting to see where Fernando Alonso will set his sights. The situation is complicated by the fact that a few top teams will have a free seat in 2009; it is therefore a possibility that Alonso might sign a one-year deal with that in mind.

Whatever decision the World Champion takes, the confirmation of his 2008 destination will set off a cascade of driver appointments.

However, as the 2007 season nears its conclusion, a delay in confirming Alonso's future destination might lead to missed opportunities for teams or drivers who prefer working on sure deals rather than risky guesses.
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