That leaves only one top seat for 2007 left to be claimed – at McLaren alongside Fernando Alonso. With that in mind, let’s see how the teams and drivers for next year line up.
1. Giancarlo Fisichella
2. Heikki Kovalainen
T. Ricardo Zonta, Nelson Piquet Jnr
Renault are all set – but do the reigning champions have a weak hand in Fisichella, who was trounced by Fernando Alonso for two years, and Kovalainen, who has been out of a race seat for twelve months?
1. Fernando Alonso
2. Lewis Hamilton / Pedro de la Rosa / Gary Paffett
T. Two of either Lewis Hamilton / Pedro de la Rosa / Gary Paffett
GP2 champion Hamilton will test for the team at Jerez, but de la Rosa has impressed since standing in for Montoya. This seems to leave Gary Paffett out in the cold but the two of the drivers that don’t get the gig will surely be retained as test drivers.
It’s a shame, though, that Paffett hasn’t had a crack at a race drive this year, as both de la Rosa and (former test drive) Wurz did during Montoya’s lay-off in 2005.
1. Kimi Raikkonen
2. Felipe Massa
T. Marc Gene, Luca Badoer
Michael Schumacher leaves the team after eleven glorious season. Raikkonen has gargantuan shoes to fill. How ‘Team Schumacher’ cope without their talisman (and, for that matter, Ross Brawn) will be fascinating.
1. Ralf Schumacher
2. Jarno Trulli
T. Franck Montagny
Happily, the Super Aguri refugee Franck ‘not Japanese enough’ Montagny has scored a test role with the arch-rivals of Honda’s B-team. The same uninspiring driver line-up remains for a third season, however.
1. Jenson Button
2. Rubens Barrichello
T. Anthony Davidson
Consistency is the name of the game at Honda too, but how many seasons does Barrichello have left in him? Perhaps not too many if Button continues to show him the way.
1. Nick Heidfeld
2. Robert Kubica
T. Sebastian Vettel
Kubica is already giving Heidfeld a hard time having scored his first podium at his third attempt. In Vettel, too, the Munich team appear to have another star in the making.
1. David Coulthard
2. Mark Webber
T. Robert Doornbos/Michael Ammermuller
Having firmed up their race driver plans for 2006, Red Bull are left to distribute their glut of drivers between testing roles in their two teams. GP2 race winner Ammermuller is in action at Jerez this week, while Doornbos subs for the ousted Christian Klien until the year is out.
1. Vitantonio Liuzzi
2. Scott Speed
T. Neel Jani
1. Alex Wurz
2. Nico Rosberg
T. Narain Karthikeyan
1. Christian Klien
2. Christijan Albers
T. Tiago Monteiro/Giorgio Mondini
Klien is strongly tipped to join the rebranded Midland outfit for next year. That the Dutch owners would keep a hold of Albers seems a safe bet. That would leave Monteiro no place to go but Valencia and Jerez as a test driver every now and then, unless current Friday driver Mondini gets there first.
1. Takuma Sato
2. Sakon Yamamoto
Any driver wanting one of the few places left in F1 for next season better dust off a copy of their family tree and see if they can find any Japanese ancestry in there. Sato has no options further up the field. Yamamoto will probably keep a hold of his seat unless the sponsors’ demands for an all-Japanese line up diminishes.