2014 is a new chapter in the history of Formula 1.
The Rules have changed, the Designs have changed, the chariots look different, the Turbos have returned and new battlegrounds have been added.
Reliability is paramount this season. The changes have humbled some and brought a resurgence for some.
We are almost nearing the end of the season and the paddock is abuzz with rumours about drives for next season.
How does it all shape up? Lets have a quick peek.
Williams Martini Racing :
Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa are retained for 2015 and its not a surprise considering their performances so far. The Team can now focus on fighting for Constructors' Championship as well as on developing their 2015 contender.
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton stay in the team for 2015. The Incident in Belgium created a huge stir but I feel both have grown from the incident and learnt many lessons. The 2014 Title is still up for grabs and either one could go home with top honours. Leaving a team dominating the way they are this season would be unthinkable. The Team only needs to ensure that both cars finish races.
Marussia F1 Team :
The Team should retain their current lineup for 2015 and with the possibility of a higher financial influx at the end of the season should aid the survival of the team ( thanks to vital points in Constructors this year ). Chilton and Bianchi are both resourceful, the latter enjoying preference for a seat as the team is a Customer for Ferrari Engines. Staying with the current lineup is the way forward but as is the case with smaller teams, guarantees can never be given.
Sahara Force India F1 Team :
Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez have been performing really well and the sheer talent of the duo should ensure their seats for 2015. Its a shame to see Hulkenberg's inability to move up the grid due to a lack of sponsors and the height disadvantage. A man with his talent definitely deserves a seat in the sharp end of the grid. Daniel Abt from GP2 is waiting in the wings but his decision to also race in Formula E might hamper his chances into F1.
Sauber F1 Team :
Sauber is a team known to spot talent. However the team's existence in F1 itself is at stake due to a lack of funds and dismal performances. Sergey Sirotkin, the rookie might get a Practice Session in Sochi and his chances for 2015 seem bright. Gutierrez and Sutil might lose their seats to Van der Garde and Sirotkin if they can't raise sufficient finances for 2015.
Sutil seems the most likely to go out with Sirotkin taking his seat. Van der Garde is a talent but does he have the same financial backing as Sirotkin? - I don't think so.
Caterham F1 Team :
A Change of Ownership and a management overhaul means there is a lot of uncertainty about the team. The Team has reiterated its intention of staying in F1 and the current line-up of Kobayashi and Ericsson cannot take a 2015 seat for granted. Kobayashi has already lost his seat once this year and Ericsson is definitely not the quickest rookie around. Both Seats would be up for sale according to me and the Highest Bidder will get them. The Contenders are many and for most this might be the ticket into Formula 1.
Lotus F1 Team :
Lotus went backwards in 2014 after 2 years of great success. The Drastic Rule Changes left them struggling at the back of the grid not to mention the exodus of technical personnel and the lack of finances. Maldonado was hired in 2014 to bring PDVSA onboard and some much needed finances. The Car has not yielded the results expected and the team is languishing at the back of the grid. Grosjean will be looking to greener pastures and Maldonado's performances will not help him go elsewhere. For Charles Pic ( the reserve driver ) the possibility of a drive is getting bigger by the day.
Scuderia Toro Rosso :
Red Bull's B Team and the final hurdle before earning a drive in the Big Team. Both Vettel and Ricciardo spent time here and their performances helped them moved into the A Team. Jean-Eric Vergne already lost his seat for 2015 while Daniil Kvyat retains his. Max Verstappen who will be 16 years old next year joins the team for 2015.
Is he too young for F1? Many believe if someone is quick then age shouldn't really be a factor but the lack of experience might prove to be detrimental. Red Bull is the best judge and I am sure they might have seen something in him to be reason enough to award him with a drive. Carlos Sainz Jr. who belongs to the same program and races in a series higher than Verstappen was overlooked and would feel hard done by Red Bull's Decision. I hope he does well and proves the doubters wrong.
Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Ferrari F1 & McLaren Honda :
6 Drives and uncertainty looms all over in 3 of the top teams in F1. Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen will stay with Red Bull and Ferrari respectively for 2015. The other 4 drives are a classic case of Driver Merry-go-round in F1 with the rumour mills running overtime.
Red Bull Racing will try to hold onto their Quadruple World Champion Sebastien Vettel. He had a tough season so far but his abilities and talent are unquestionable.
Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Vettel might swap seats as per the latest rumours. Alonso joined Ferrari in 2010 and is yet to win a World Championship with the team. Ferrari has had a forgettable 2014 and the struggles within the Maranello outfit compelled Alonso to explore options. Alonso's departure would also mean the loss of a big sponsor in Santander for Ferrari and the team must look for a worthy replacement for his seat.
The Advent of the Honda Engine for McLaren in 2015 adds more confusion to the mix. Reports suggest that McLaren are trying to sign either Alonso or Vettel or if possible both. Kevin Magnussen is a rookie this year and his performances bode well for him. A product of the McLaren Driver Program, he would be hoping to retain his seat.
Jenson Button faces an uphill task to hold onto his. I feel his stint at McLaren is over and the team wants a change of guard. Honda comes in as a new engine supplier in 2015 and joining the team carries a big risk for a new entrant. The Uncertainty of the performance and reliability could severely backfire on Alonso or Vettel if they choose to go down that path. Alonso had issues with the management at McLaren but those are things of the past. Alonso is more likely a contender for the seat than Vettel as it would be taking a step back for the latter.
According to me, Vettel and Alonso swapping teams seems to be more realistic with Alonso opting to be with Red Bull only for one year; this would help the Spaniard to assess the performance of McLaren in 2015 with the Honda Engine and of the Renault in the Red Bull. He can weigh his options at the end of 2015. McLaren would be stronger in 2016 with Honda addressing engine issues ( if they have any in 2015 ) and if Ferrari produces a resurgence, maybe return to replace a retiring Raikkonen for 2016.
Red Bull would definitely have something in place for him in 2016 but considering his age and the talent pool that Red Bull possesses, Alonso's one year will be the perfect time frame for Red Bull to ready the next Ricciardo or Vettel.
Romain Grosjean could spring a surprise in all this.
Grosjean's Manager Eric Boullier is the Racing Director at McLaren while Ciaron Pilbeam the Chief Race Engineer at Lotus F1 ( in 2013 ) also joined the Woking Outfit this year. Both know how big a talent and how resourceful Romain is. His arrival would be like a breath of fresh air at Woking.
All this points to only one thing - Jenson Button's Career is at stake. Should he lose his seat to any of these, he would either have to hang up his boots or move down the grid and join a smaller team. Lotus F1 seems to be the most viable option.
However McLaren must keep Button and Magnussen for 2014 to maintain stability but the final decision rests with the management.
Personally, I see 4 to 5 drivers not featuring in next year's Driver Line-up. Its a sad story this but with the cut-throat competition, drives are few and far between.
2014, dubbed the "Silly Season" has been one the most exciting in the history of F1. The Possibility of a major reshuffle within the big teams would be an intriguing one. What happens at the end of the season? Only time will tell.
Till then, lets enjoy the remainder of 2014.