Driver market still wide open

With the news that Fernando Alonso has left the team, it seems McLaren are in no hurry to replace the Spanish driver. The second McLaren seat is one of the most highly sought after in Formula 1 so McLaren know that there will be few problems in filling it.

Lewis Hamilton has made his own predictions about who he thinks might be his team-mate next season. “I have no clue who it is going to be we can only guess,” he said. “I think Nick Heidfeld has already been signed to BMW so I think there s Nico, Adrian Sutil and Heikki Kovalainen so one of those three and I haven t really guessed which of those three.

“I think they are all fantastic drivers and I know all of them quite well. If I could choose, honestly, I don t know who I would. We need a team player. But they all have contracts, so that s what makes it so hard to guess.”

However, Hamilton s pick of Nico Rosberg is definitely not on the cards according to Williams Patrick Head has revealed that a swap between Rosberg and Alonso is not a possibility.

“Nico is contracted to our team for 2008 and we have an option for his services for 2009,” he explained. “We are planning to go into next season with Nico as out lead driver and we would not entertain any approach from McLaren for Nico. McLaren are a team I a position to offer very large salaries but our aim is to be looking to strengthen Williams.”

Meanwhile, Williams are still looking for a driver to fill their second race-seat after the retirement of Alexander Wurz from Formula 1 late last season. Drivers tipped to sign to Williams are Vinantonio Liuzzi, Adrian Sutil or their current test driver Kazuki Nakajima.

For McLaren, Heikki Kovalainen seems to be the strongest option, particularly as Briatore has made it clear that Alonso is welcome back to the Renault team. However, the swap depends on whether Alonso does return to Renault and whether Ron Dennis and Flavio Briatore can agree terms.

Adrian Sutil is already good friends with Hamilton a friendship that would be beneficial to the team as it would ensure little in-fighting, something which was commonly witnessed during the 2007 season. However the German appears to be central to Vijay Mallya s new team and it is therefore unlikely that Sutil will make it to McLaren.

An outside shot is Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren s current test driver. McLaren s Spanish sponsors would be happy at another Spaniard being given a race-seat however with de la Rosa being central to the espionage saga which marred McLaren s 2007 season, it is doubtful whether the team would give him a race-seat. 

And so it seems that the driver market is still wide open with a number of excellent drivers still unclear as to their future. It appears that until Fernando Alonso makes up his mind as to his future in the sport, the race-seat speculation will continue.