2010 F1 driver market wide open

Toyota could promote Japanese star Kamui Kobayashi for 2010

Toyota could promote Japanese star Kamui Kobayashi for 2010

It may seem preposterously early to start thinking about the 2010 F1 season when this year’s championship hasn’t got started yet.

But with only three drivers’ seats confirmed for 2010, little change in the 2009 line-up, and many places in top teams potentially up for grabs for 2010, we could see some surprise announcements during 2009.

McLaren and Heikki Kovalainen

Lewis Hamilton is locked in at McLaren until 2012. But Heikki Kovalainen only got a one year extension on his contract last year and he will be looking to sign a new contract this year.

But might McLaren pick a different driver? When they were looking to replace Fernando Alonso at the end of 2007 they considered Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg among potential replacements.

Nico Rosberg

Speaking of Rosberg, his Williams contract comes to an end in this, his fourth season with the team. He’s been tipped as a front-runner of the future and has accumulated quite a lot of experience now.

He could be an attractive proposition for either of the German manufacturers, Mercedes and BMW. After a woeful 2008, Williams will need a better year to keep a hold on him.

The Ferrari-Fernando Alonso saga

Ferrari has Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen contracted until the end of 2010. But, in an unusual situation for Ferrari, neither driver has consistently had the upper hand over the other.

Last year it was rumoured that Raikkonen’s performance clauses were enough to guarantee him a contract extension. But if the Ferrari F60 is not competitive, and one of the drivers has a bad year, Alonso could get the chance to move to the Italian team. Sources in Italy claim a deal for 2011 has already been done.

With rumours surrounding the future of Renault’s F1 team, Alonso could look for a move somewhere else, such as BMW. It was amid doubt over Renault’s F1 future in 2005 that he signed for McLaren.


They are widely tipped to be championship contenders in 2009, but BMW’s Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld see their contracts expire this year.

If either driver gets comprehensively beaten by the other, they could end up squeezed out. Much has been written about Kubica’s dissatisfaction with the team’s efforts last year, but if Heidfeld suffers a repeat of his 2008 qualifying woes he could find his seat under pressure.

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel has enjoyed Red Bull backing for years (as you can see in this video of him racing in the World Series by Renault three years ago) and steps up to their front line team this year.

But what if one of the big teams come knocking? Vettel has admitted in the past he wants to drive for Ferrari, but if Mercedes decides it wants a German driver in its F1 programme they could hardly do better.

On the outside looking in

Who knows what will happen to Honda. If the former team doesn’t end up on the grid it will leave Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello looking for jobs, though the latter could end up forced into retirement.

Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi are among the young, recent ex-F1 drivers now employed as testers who might try to find a way back in.

Up-and-coming drivers who could get F1 seats in 2010 include Paul di Resta (2006 F3 Euroseries champion), Bruno Senna, Kamui Kobayashi (Toyota Development Driver), Romain Grosjean (2007 F1 Euroseries Champion, Renault Development Driver) and Nico H???lkenberg (2008 F2 Euroseries Champion, Williasm test driver).

What moves do you expect in the driver market for 2010? Who will find themselves on the sidelines – and who deserves a first (or second) chance?

Read more: F1 2010 Season

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49 comments on 2010 F1 driver market wide open

  1. Polak said on 4th February 2009, 4:57

    What happened to the Mexican billionaire buying Honda and hiring Bruno Senna? I thought that deal was going to be on and then all the news stopped and Honda is looking for a buyer.

    It would be great to see Little Senna on the grid this year and even better if he lived up to his uncle’s name.

    As for major shuffling in 2010 it could very well be just more extensions. Vettel is Red Bull family, Kubica seems to fit BMW, Ferraris have strong pilots, McLaren is well balanced and Alonso has nowhere to go.

    Alonso seems like a gamble to Ferrari. Kimi is WDC and Massa lost by one point. Thats a strong lineup and if they are content with their work it should be business as usual. Kimi would be a fool to retire in 09. He got badly beaten last year and has a lot to prove.

    • Is this not the same billionaire who just bailed out a well known US newspaper. Maybe that’s where his money has gone too…

    • JLS said on 23rd April 2009, 3:49

      I hope for Carlos Slim if he can work a deal with Lola
      and become Scuderia Slim-Lola. That will bring Bruno
      and a Mexican driver.

  2. Fides said on 4th February 2009, 6:02

    I dont think Senna will be on the grid 2010 or 2011 unless this Economic crisis is far gone. Heiki is the one that I will look closely because I don’t think (if he doesn’t perform well) deserves a seat on a F1 car.
    Rosberg as someone else wrote is surely moving somewhere out of Williams and Alonso is replacing Kimi when the latter retires. THose are my predictions.

    • Journeyer said on 4th February 2009, 6:22

      Ironically, shouldn’t Senna look better now than if there were no crisis? He’s a marketing man’s dream. And he’s pretty quick too.

    • Adrian said on 4th February 2009, 8:56

      Imagine if Senna went to McLaren…now THAT would be a marketing man’s dream!!

  3. Eastman said on 4th February 2009, 7:11

    I dunno Sutil or Fisi’s contract situations in 2010, but you have to think that Force India and Mallya will be figuring out how to get Chandhok or another Indian driver into his mobile pile.

    If his companies and F1 team survive to 2010 anyway.

  4. As a portuguese speaker i hope Bruno Senna gets in F1 if not this year then in 2010.
    Adrian,Journeyer i believe it would be even better for marketing if he went for Williams and started making good results, and who knows win races…it would be like ending the cycle..
    Not to mention it would be great for Williams financially

  5. Clare msj said on 4th February 2009, 9:41

    I hope Kovalainen does better against Hamilton this year, but although I like him I’d rather see one of the bona fide top-drawer drivers up against Hamilton. Vettel or Kubica, say…

    I agree – but I think the growing number 2 status of Hamiltons teammate might just put off some of the top guys. If I were Vettel or Kubica I wouldnt want to be at a team which is at risk of showing favour to my teammate, regardless of whether you are achieving equally or not. Alonso gave up after only one season and he is one of the best drivers on the current grid, if not the very best, and he wasnt at any point getting beaten by Hamilton – they were equal in terms of achievement all year. I thought Alonso was a little childish at times over the whole Mclaren business, but if he felt he wasnt getting equal treatment when he was the reigning World Champion, and still doing well, then what chance does anyone else stand? Its like being Schumachers teammate – Massa took that job on at just the right time, but Barrichello hasnt achieved half of what he could have achieved had he been left to take the results which he earned whilst at Ferrari and he isnt always seen as the high achieving driver he should possibly be.

    Vettel and Alonso at Ferrari… that won’t end well!

    Lol I forgot about the Alonso rumours for a second there – that would most certainly be an interesting pairing should that happen. Cant see Ferrari changing both drivers though, so maybe it will be one or the other.

  6. Steven Roy said on 5th February 2009, 2:17

    Look at Ron Dennis’s history. Regardless of how friendly he is with a driver if a faster or better one turns up he will switch. He switched from Lauda to Prost and Prost to Senna. If someone better than Hamilton goes to McLaren the team will switch behind the new guy. The thing is none of the highly touted guys is better than him.

    Alonso spent most of 2007 complaining about not getting number one treatment. He was complaining about getting equal treatment not about not getting it. He switched his argument to complaining about not getting equal treatment when Hamilton had a large championship point lead on him. He would have been crazy to say that the reason his team mate was beating him because he was only getting equal treatment.

    McLaren could have kept Alonso and got rid of Hamilton but no-one in their right mind would have done that. Hamilton despite being a rookie matched him all season and led him for most of it and in Hungary showed that despite his lack of experience he could play mind games at a level Alonso could not. Who would keep an established driver with a mental weakness who had tried to blackmail the team boss over a rookie who was just as fast, just as good and was capable of de-stabilising the experienced guy? McLaren made the right choice.

  7. Somers said on 5th February 2009, 8:06

    I think everyone is writing Renault off too early, I think they will have a decent season this year especially if Piquet comes good like I think he will (will never be in the same class as some of the other field but still a good driver i reckon) A good season for Renault could see them onto the grid in 2010. Robert and Fernando also always seem fairly chummy so why not a year at BMW for Fernando in the midst of a 2011 debut in the Ferrari ;)

  8. Steven Roy said on 5th February 2009, 18:04

    If BMW are remotely serious why would they take a driver on for a year?

    If Kubica is remotely serious why would he risk his chance of winning the championship by having Alonso as his team mate?

    Mario Theissen runs a quiet understated team. Why would he risk running a driver who caused chaos the last time he ran in a team like that and tried to blackmail the team principal.

    I can see what is in it for Alonso but not for anyone else.

  9. Paige said on 6th February 2009, 1:40

    I think it’s pretty clear that Mercedes wants a German driver at McLaren. I think Heikki has the pace to be a legitimate WDC contender, but if he doesn’t really come out and show his stuff this season, he’ll be out. I’d look for one of the young German drivers- Rosberg, Sutil, or Vettel- to get that other seat. I would look to Rosberg or Sutil, as they both happen to be good friends with Lewis and Vettel seems to be gunning for a Ferrari seat.

    I don’t expect a change in Ferrari’s driver lineup for 2010 unless Raikkonen retires as rumored he desires to soon. The two drivers seem to get along well, and Ferrari has gotten two straight WMCs and two straight WDC-contending seasons (with one WDC) out of the pair.

    Among the other major teams, I expect to see some shakeups with BMW and Renault, if not for 2010 then certainly for 2011. Kubica has openly admitted he’s got eyes for a Ferrari seat, and the Alonso-to-Ferrari rumors won’t die. I think Heidfeld is a great driver, but I get the impression he is under distinct pressure to perform this season, which I expect him to. If he doesn’t, he could be gone. Piquet has to show strong improvement this season if he wants to keep that Renault seat.

    Williams is another team where I can see some serious shakeups. Rosberg will almost certainly leave after his contract is up this season and go to another team unless they somehow come out with a spectacular 2009-spec car. I also can most certainly see Kaz moving on to the Toyota team if he improves again this year, as he is Toyota’s man and they seem keen on getting a Japanese driver into the car. Hulkenberg seems a lock for a Williams race seat very soon. If the Honda sale doesn’t go through, then dare I speculate that Button-to-Williams may finally happen?

  10. Gaascoin said on 6th February 2009, 9:54

    Even if im a Big Toyota F1 fan i dont see them succeeding this year. the unfortunate end for toyota is that they will make an utter joke of themselves as they leave f1.

    they have isses in two departments

    1. technincal – tyre temperature, suspension, aero and racepace

    2. People (the big one) – apart from jarno there’s no one at Toyota that know anything about winning. it’s about time that they considered people like Gascoyne back in and provided that Honda dont make it to the grid, to employ the services of Jensen Button and Ross Brawn. these are the only people that are available at them moment to help make Toyota do a big turn around. Kamui has ages to go and unless Toyota get serious with F1, they will be at it again – fighting for 4th 5th or 6th in the WCC.

  11. Ginger Gitt said on 23rd February 2009, 1:16

    Mercedes want a German driver for national pride alone, and there’s plenty to choose from. Vettel is very promising, but will his desire for a Ferrari drive stop him going to Mclaren? Rosberg has shown more loyalty for Williams than most modern drivers would, so I can’t see him hurrying away from them too quickly. Hulkenberg set the A1 world alight in 2008 and I’m surprised his name wasn’t being banded around for a test during the close season this year. Sutil though could be in the best position for the role with the Mclaren – Force India connection working in his favour. On an outside chance, Timo Glock isn’t too shabby a driver either and has done a good job with some poor equipment un until now.

  12. kiran said on 5th April 2009, 17:16

    why everyone isnt intrested in toyota? for the last few years they have been working so hard towards the first victory. they already got two podium finishes..who thought that brawn team could be in poles? toyota will have the market if they are continously scoring points in this season…

  13. Bob said on 28th May 2009, 9:30

    Team changes for 2010.
    Brawn GP- Button and Vettel.
    Ferrari- Massa and Alonso.
    McLaren- Hamilton and Rosberg.
    Williams- Kovalainen and Nakajima.
    Renault- Raikkonen and Buemi.

  14. 2010.
    Brawn GP- Button, Vettel.
    Red Bull- Webber, Buemi.
    Toyota- Trulli, Glock.
    Ferrari- Massa, Alonso.
    McLaren- Hamilton, Rosberg.
    Williams- Kovalainen, Nakajima.
    Renault- Raikkonen, Di Riesta.
    BMW Sauber- Kubica, Heidfeld.
    Toro Rosso- Bourdais, Piquet.
    Force India- Fisichella, Sutil.

  15. Rahul said on 9th June 2009, 18:24

    i think Narain Karthikeyan , India’s first ever formula one driver , will find a way back in.
    Since force india does not have a Indian driver, and Narain i much talented than those drivers.

    He will find a way back in with williams/Prodrive/any other new teams??

    He has previous experince in f1 and due to the strong population and growing motorsport hunger population in india

    F1 would hold him as a strong possiblity for one of the teams .

    lets c…
    i think Karun , is not as talented as Narain , he is doing GP2 for fourth time , and has not managed to perform well, so he is unlikely to make it.

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