2007: Who goes where part 4

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Silverstone, 2006With most of the drivers in place for next year, let’s take a look at how the 2007 F1 season is shaping up.

There are still two places left to fill: The question fo who will drive the second McLaren will be answered before Christmas according to Martin Whitmarsh, and there’s some speculation that it could even be Mika Hakkinen. The last remaining seat is at Spyker alongside Christijan Albers.

F1 2007 Teams and drivers

Lewis Hamilton, F1, Valencia, 2004McLaren-Mercedes

1. Fernando Alonso
2. Lewis Hamilton / Pedro de la Rosa / Gary Paffett / Mika Hakkinen
T. Two of either Lewis Hamilton / Pedro de la Rosa / Gary Paffett / Mika Hakkinen

Realistically the battle to be Fernando Alonso’s team mate appears to have boiled down to super sub Pedro de la Rosa versus GP2 wunderkind Lewis Hamilton.

Gary Paffett has been told he is free to look for a seat somewhere else (which basically means, “you are surplus to requirements). And Mika Hakkinen’s recent run in McLaren’s F1 simulator has set tongues wagging – but has it only been the tongues of those struggling to sell F1 mags during the off-season?

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, Sepang, 2006 (3)Renault

3. Giancarlo Fisichella
4. Heikki Kovalainen
T. Ricardo Zonta, Nelson Piquet Jnr

The pundits are predicting that Finn Heikki Kovalainen will swiftly gain the upper hand on Giancarlo Fisichella – it’s not as if Fernando Alonso’s double championship-winning race team have suddenly gravitated to Fisichella’s side of the pits.

In fact strategy guru Pat Symonds will be taking a step back from the sharp end of race management next season, which makes you wonder how competitive they’ll be at all.

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren-Mercedes, Interlagos, 2006, 2Ferrari

5. Kimi Raikkonen
6. Felipe Massa
T. Marc Gene, Luca Badoer

The soldiers of team Michael Schumacher have walked out along with the departure of the seven-time champion. Kimi Raikkonen will have to do without, among many others, Jean Todt and Ross Brawn next year.

Their unrivalled knowledge of the Bridgestone product is the ace up their sleeve, but the exodus of technical staff will surely have an effect as well.

Jenson Button, Honda, Interlagos, 2006Honda

7. Jenson Button
8. Rubens Barrichello
T. Christian Klien

Honda are the foremost team to have conssitency in the race driver line up, and welcome Red Bull refugee Christian Klien to the fold behind the scenes. Buoyed by their long-awaited Hungaroring success, and with a proven engine at their disposal, 2007 could be a strong year for the Brackley team.

Robert Kubica, BMW, Monza, 2006 (2)BMW

9. Nick Heidfeld
10. Robert Kubica
T. Sebastian Vettel

Surely the most improved team of 2006 and the most exciting prospect for 2007 with the enormously talented Robert Kubica on board. Now free of the distraction of the FIA / GPMA battle, and settled into the Hinwii operation formerly of the Sauber team, all that is stacked against them for 2007 is their lack of Bridgestone tyre experience.

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota, Interlagos, 2006, 2Toyota

11. Ralf Schumacher
12. Jarno Trulli
T. Franck Montagny

Toyota will be hoping that their painful year with Bridgestone in 2006 will pay dividends in 2007, and that their new car will not suffer too greatly from the loss of technical director Mike Gascoyne earlier this year. The driver line-up is as consistent as it is unconvincing.

David Coulthard, Red Bull Racing-Ferrari, Sepang, 2006 (2)Red Bull-Renault

14. David Coulthard
15. Mark Webber
T. Robert Doornbos/Michael Ammermuller

Red Bull forsook development of their 2006 car to focus on their 2007 Adrian Newey-designed challenger – and boy, did David Coulthard let the world know about it.

The late confirmation of their switch to Renault power questions the wisdom of that decision. But with a world championship-winning designer and engine, plus the talented Mark Webber and sacks of Red Bull cash, this outfit will surely deliver soon.

Nico Rosberg, Williams-Cosworth, Bahrain, 2006Williams-Toyota

16. Alex Wurz
17. Nico Rosberg
T. Narain Karthikeyan, Kazuki Nakajima

Surely 2007 can’t be any worse for Williams than the nightmare of 2006? They’ve ditched Cosworth to team up with Toyota and their minimum requirement of next season will be to out-perform the ‘factory’ Toyota team.

But do their two paying test drivers give them the back-up they need to root out the myriad reliability failures that blighted last season?

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso-Cosworth, pre-season, 2006Toro Rosso-Ferrari

18. Vitantonio Liuzzi
19. Scott Speed
T. Neel Jani

‘Red Bull jnr’ get a power boost for next season with the arrival of Ferrari engines. It will also be a crucial year for their two young charges who need to prove they’ve earned a place in the sport.

Christijan Albers, MidlandF1-Toyota, Monte-Carlo, 2006Spyker-Ferrari

20. Christijan Albers
21. Tiago Monteiro / Giorgio Mondini / Gary Paffett / Jos Verstappen
T. Adrian Sutil / Tiago Monteiro / Giorgio Mondini / Gary Paffett / Jos Verstappen

How odd it will seem to have three Ferrari-powered teams in F1 next year. Albers looks set to front the Dutch challenge and everyone and his dog is in the running for the second seat.

Although neither Midland/Spyker nor Super Aguri scored any points in 2006 the former ranked higher in the championship table because they scored the most higher finishing positions (Monteiro’s ninth in Hungary versus Takuma Sato’s tenth in Brazil) and so will have the lower car numbers in 2007.

Anthony Davidson, Honda, Magny-Cours, 2006Super Aguri-Honda

22. Takuma Sato
23. Anthony Davidson
T. TBC

With Lewis Hamilton tipped for the second McLaren seat there could be as many as four British drivers in F1 in 2007 now that Anthony Davidson has finally got a full-time F1 race seat. Ironically, he teams up with his old F3 team mate Takuma Sato, who simply must keep his nose clean next year.

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