F1’s grid for 2013 is almost complete, with the vacancy at Force India now the most sought after job in the paddock.
On paper, only Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Toro Rosso have finalised and announced their race drivers for next season.
But Williams is hotly tipped to pair Pastor Maldonado with Valtteri Bottas, while Sauber is expected to sign Esteban Gutierrez to partner Nico Hulkenberg.
Moreover, Timo Glock is expected to be joined at Marussia by Max Chilton, and Caterham is likely to field Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde.
Lotus is ready to keep Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, and has even confirmed the latter appointment, but Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport reports that there is some uncertainty over Raikkonen’s salary.
Journalist Michael Schmidt said the Finn has been “more expensive” than Lotus expected, having initially agreed to pay him a lucrative bonus for each point scored.
So far, the 33-year-old has a whopping 206 points on the board.
Even so, the most open 2012 vacancy is really at Force India, whose Paul di Resta will certainly stay put for next season.
His teammate, according to Auto Motor und Sport, will be selected from a long shortlist of more than a dozen suitors.
The report said names including Jules Bianchi, Heikki Kovalainen, Bruno Senna, Davide Valsecchi, Luiz Razia, Johnny Cecotto jr and Rodolfo Gonzalez were all on the list.
Even Rubens Barrichello – who was in Austin at the weekend – and 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve expressed interest, Schmidt reported.
After a meeting in Mumbai last week, however, Vijay Mallya-led Force India reportedly narrowed the list to a much shorter shortlist, having ruled out the veterans and also the ‘pay drivers’.
Auto Motor und Sport said 2011 Toro Rosso teammates Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, and former Force India racer Adrian Sutil, now have the best chances of all.
Force India is tipped to make an announcement in Brazil.