IMO, all the drivers who are looking to try and get into F1, but now struggling, have missed a trick by refusing the RB program. Last year/before that Marko was looking for a driver to fill in the gap between Ricciardo and Vergne (two great picks), and Sainz Jr and Kvyat (also two good picks). Alguersuari had been thrown in earlier than desired by a year/half to fill a gap after Buemi (after they abandoned Hartley, who did poor in FR 3.5) and Marko didn’t want that for Sainz Jr.
So, he looked again at who he could put in, and Frijns really was perfect for this spot. Right now he would be finishing a second year of WSR, or maybe a full year in GP2 with a title shot, before getting a guaranteed 2 year drive at Toro Rosso. Beat Vergne next year and your stock will be high to get another seat, if not a RB seat once Vettel moves on. But Frijns said no, and after trying Williamson unsuccessfully for a few races, Marko went with Felix da Costa (a good pick, also at the right time, as he had ran out of budget – and driving for poor teams had hampered him for a few years).
Nasr can refuse RB because he has significant Brazilian backing, and with the moving on of Senna is in the plum seat to be the next Brazilian driver, once Massa moves on (be it next year or the one after). Coletti and Wickens are unlucky to be dropped by RB – they could have moved to Toro Rosso next year (Coletti they would like I’m sure). Not sure if Coletti is up to F1 however, don’t know why his season has blown hot and cold. Tyres? Wickens was also stuck with DR and JEV, hard competition. Felix da Costa has managed to come along after these three.
Now, da Costa is in the plum seat, while others like Frijns are hoping for a title shot in GP2 next year with the one paying seat available, Bird’s at Russian Time (vacant should he win the title or likely so if he is runner-up), to remain in the shop window, while others such as Sirotkin vault them with superior sponsor backing to fast-track to F1. I think this fast-tracking will only become more prevalent, or manufacturer backing (i.e. RB Juniors) will step in and many drivers will get stuck at GP2. We have Pic, Chilton and soon Sirotkin in the fast-track category at the moment (i.e. rushing up the ladder ASAP to F1, given their ability, amount of sponsor backing, and lacking any driver titles along the way).
The list of RB juniors promoted to F1 and those dropped are illuminating:
Promoted: Bernoldi, Klien, Karthikeyan, Friesacher, Doornbos, Liuzzi, Speed, Vettel, Buemi, Alguersuari, Chandhok, Ricciardo, Vergne.
Notable dropped: Albuquerque, Ammermuller, Coletti, Dillmann, Vernay, Aleshin, Bortolotti, Wickens, Juncadella, Hartley.
The last two still have a shot in Mercedes’ Junior program in DTM, where Juncadella looks favoured (YDT). Coletti and Dillmann look like GP2 will be their peak achievement for now.