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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Few open seats remain for '09

Fernando Alonso
Originally uploaded by ph-stop

With the 2008 F1 season speeding toward its conclusion, it is time to check in again with the results of this year's silly season.

Fact is, not much has happened. Most of next year's seats are set, the only questions revolving around just how many seats STR, Honda and Renault will have available.

Here's a rundown:

Ferrari: Kimi Raikkonen's new deal sees him team up with Felipe Massa through 2010.

McLaren: No change. Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen for a second season together.

BMW Sauber: Rumored to be on the move, Robert Kubica is instead remaining with BMW Sauber. He will again partner with Nick Heidfeld, who survived despite his teammate having the better of him most of the year and persistent rumors he would make way for Fernando Alonso.

Renault: Much continues to hinge on what Alonso decides to do. Rumor is if Renault is fourth or better in the constructors a clause kicks in that binds Alonso to Renault next season. That would seem to be set, but the Spaniard has been linked with just about everybody this season, including STR (unlikely) and Honda. Honda believes there is enough of a possibility it has not finalized its lineup, but a move from Renault for Alonso seems remote, and it is believed he will commit to the team for 2010, then move to Ferrari.

The second seat remains a mystery. Nelson Piquet has been shaky, and could make way for either Lucas di Grassi or Romain Grosjean.

Toyota: No change. Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli return.

Honda: Awaiting Alonso's decision. If he signs with Honda, it is believed Jenson Button would remain and Rubens Barrichello would be the odd man out. Should Alonso stay with Renault, Barrichello could still could be replaced by Bruno Senna. A wild rumor has Rubens heading to IndyCar, which he denies. Nelson Piquet's name has also been mentioned in connection with the team.

Williams: No change. Nico Rosberg returns for a fourth season. Toyota boy Kazuki Nakajima has been a pleasant surprise for the team this season and has earned an encore.

Red Bull: Mark Webber returns and Sebastian Vettel, who has been outstanding for Toro Rosso this year, replaces the retiring David Coulthard.

Force India: Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella will stay for 2009, Vijay Mallya maintaining India's current crop of drivers are still not ready.

Toro Rosso: The question remains, just how many seats are open at STR? Vettel's, obviously, but will the team keep Sebastien Bourdais, a man they wanted so badly just a couple of years ago? Things have been looking up for the Frenchman as of late, but did his earlier struggles both with the car and team poison his relationship with the prickly team, or has he done enough to be retained? Takuma Sato, Tonio Liuzzi, Sebastien Buemi and Bruno Senna all would jump at the opportunity to replace Bourdais, with Buemi considered a likely possibility due to his Red Bull ties.

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