Once that piece of the 2010 F1 driver line-up puzzle is in place, the rest of the picture should be assembled very quickly.
Other key moves expected for 2010 include a surprise return for Kimi Raikkonen to McLaren, Nico Rosberg displacing one of the Brawn drivers, and Robert Kubica signing for Renault. How will the rest of the grid shape up?
Kimi Raikkonen to McLaren
F1 Fanatic understands Raikkonen was one of three names under consderation by McLaren for the seat alongside Lewis Hamilton. That selection has now narrowed to two drivers with Finnish passports.
Heikki Kovalainen, who joined the team in 2008 and had a one-year contract extension for 2009, is still in the running. But his results this year have not compared well with his team mate’s, even taking into consideration the fact they have not always had the same equipment available to them.
Raikkonen is, in some respects, a surprise contender. He left the team somewhat under a cloud after a win-less 2006. He won first time out for Ferrari and claimed the 2007 championship.
However he remains popular with McLaren, who he was championhip runner-up for in 2003 and 2005. The installation of Martin Whitmarsh as team principal in place of Ron Dennis (who is overseeing the company’s road car production including the MP4-12C) is also believed to have attracted Raikkonen.
Nico Rosberg to Brawn
The third name under consideration at McLaren was Rosberg. He is now expected to drive for Brawn in 2010, as Mercedes prepares to invest in the team.
But will he replace Jenson Button or Rubens Barrichello? Either driver could win the championship, but with Button having led it all season long and Barrichello admitting last week he’s unsure about where he’ll be in 2010, suspicion falls on the Brazilian driver losing the seat.
Robert Kubica to Renault
Following Renault’s wrist-slap punishment from the FIA last week and the team’s first podium of the year at Singapore yesterday, the future for the team in F1 now looks brighter.
Presumably Romain Grosjean will be able to keep his newly won seat until the start of next season. But idealy the team needs a more experienced driver to partner him.
Kubica is being widely tipped for the drive. Although the future of the BMW team appears to be secured, details on the teams new investers Qadbak are hard to come by. And Kubica was not impressed the team did not tell him it would be quitting F1 before it made its public announcement.
Kubica got his break in F1 after winning the World Series by Renault in 2005, which earned him a test for the team.
What other moves will happen?
GP2 champion Nico Hülkenberg’s graduation to F1 with Williams is being widely predicted.
However the team has already dropped a substantial hint that Jarno Trulli will not be driving for them after this season.
What other driver moves are you expecting for 2010? Have your say in the comments.