The F1 silly season has kicked off in earnest this week, with the driver merry-go-round in full swing. But instead of the usual, a scattering of retirements and hot competition for the few seats vacated, next season will see six new seats come up for grabs thanks to the new teams on the grid.
The rumour mill has thus gone into overdrive, with some crazy names being linked to the seats available at Campos, USF1 and Manor Motorsport, the three confirmed new entrants. But on the whole the spaces are looking like they will be filled up according to nationality.
Campos is a Spanish concern and likely to recruit Spanish names. Pedro De La Rosa is thought to be in discussions, although it is unknown whether at his relatively advanced age he would want to help develop a car from scratch. He may well be hungry to race, however. New boy Jaime Alguersuari is not likely to leave Toro Rosso unless Sebastian Loeb comes along, in which case the 19-year-old might be a good foil for De La Rosa.
At USF1, much has been made of Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor’s desire to ‘buy American’ where possible. Some names from IndyCars might be in the frame, such as AJ Allmendinger, and quite a few would probably jump at the chance. Danica Patrick’s likelihood of being in one of the seats looks to have receded with her recent admission that she does not want to leave the US, although that could just be a bargaining ploy to up her proposed salary. Rumours in the last few days linking Jacques Villeneuve with one of the seats look to be unfounded.
Finally, Manor Motorsport has a long tradition of involvement in British motorsport. The Swiss newspaper Motorsport Aktuell reports today that Max Chilton, son of businessman Duncan Chilton, may well get the nod for a seat because he has looked decent in F3 and his father is in talks with Manor owner John Booth over sponsorship. Other up-and-coming British talent is relatively thin on the ground; it included Henry Surtees, until his sad and untimely death last weekend at Brands Hatch. For the other seat, it is not unforeseen that a name big in America may well come back to Europe in the shape of Dario Franchitti or Dan Wheldon.
However, discussions over seats are secretive in the extreme, and fans are unlikely to get the full picture about next season’s line-up until late autumn at the earliest.