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Friday, November 22, 2013

Six guys, five seats?

A few day's back I made my first outsider's guess as to who will be sitting where when the music stops. Some things seem a little clearer now, so here's an update...

This much we know:

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel
Daniel Ricciardo

Fernando Alonso
Kimi Raikkonen

Nico Rosberg
Lewis Hamilton

Jean-Eric Vergne
Daniil Kvyat

Felipe Massa
Valtteri Bottas

Jenson Button
Kevin Magnussen

Romain Grosjean
Nico Hulkenberg/Pastor Maldonado
The money is still the key on this one. If the Quantum money comes through and he is still available, Hulkenberg gets the seat. If not, and Maldonado still has the PDVSA money, he's in.

Jules Bianchi
Max Chilton continuing seems likely

Sergio Perez
Estaban Gutierrez
If the Sergey Sirotkin deal with the Russians has fallen apart, Sauber needs money. Obviously, there are drivers at the bottom of the grid that bring it, but a return of Perez, along with and improving Gutierrez is, at least, a possibility. There is history there. The Carlos Slim backing isn't huge, but two Mexicans lined up a year before a Mexican GP could be advantageous to all involved, and I would be surprised to see him let Perez go to one of the backmarkers.

Force India
Adrian Sutil
Paul di Resta/Nico Hulkenberg/Sergio Perez
Sutil claims a deal is, for all intents, done. I'll go out on a very sturdy limb and say he is returning to Force India. Rumors continue to tie Hulkenberg to the team, and they rate him, so I'd put money on him over Perez, who is being mentioned for practically any competitive seat. That would make the odd man out di Resta. I just get the feeling the relationship has soured, and I think there are some pretty credible rumors tying him to Dario Frachitti's seat Chip Ganassi IndyCar seat.

Heikki Kovalainen/Charles Pic/Marcus Ericsson
Giedo van der Garde
It all still comes down to money. I'm not sure even taking 10th from Marussia in Brazil would change that. Obviously, the team is still high on Kovalainen, but it picked its current pairing based on cash. The BBC is reporting it also would like to run youngster Ericsson. Best guess? Ideally, the team would run Kovalainen/Ericsson, a traditional veteren/rookie pairing. More likely, continuing with Pic/van der Garde or swapping one of them for whatever remaining driver brings the most cash to the team.

So, the Lotus seat still seems to be the one on which everything else hinges. Hulk, Maldonado, Perez, Gutierrez, Sutil, di Resta. One seat at Lotus, two each at Force India and Sauber.

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