Barring any unexpected surprises yet to be revealed, there are only two vacant race seats left for the 2006 grid. Ferrari, BAR and Williams have already confirmed their race driver line ups, while there seems no reason to expect any changes at ...
Barring any unexpected surprises yet to be revealed, there are only two vacant race seats left for the 2006 grid. Ferrari, BAR and Williams have already confirmed their race driver line ups, while there seems no reason to expect any changes at Renault, McLaren and Toyota. Red Bull and Toro Rosso drivers are confirmed, although not yet officially allocated, which leaves one seat apiece at BMW and Midland.
There are also vacancies at the new Super Aguri squad but for the moment that team is still waiting for FIA approval of its entry to the 2006 championship, so the current focus is elsewhere.
BMW has already confirmed Nick Heidfeld but who will line up alongside the German is something of an ongoing saga. Jacques Villeneuve has always claimed that his Sauber contract would be carried through when BMW took over but so far the manufacturer has been reluctant to make that possibility a reality.
Renault tester Heikki Kovalainen is the latest to be linked with BMW. Kovalainen was expected to take over the official test and third driver role at Renault next season as Franck Montagny already said that he and the French outfit were parting company. However, Montagny has now been quoted as saying that Renault has asked him to test this winter, giving rise to speculation that Kovalainen is on his way to BMW.
It would seem a little odd that Renault, which has invested in Kovalainen's career for some time, would loan the Finn out to another team but F1 works in mysterious ways. ChampCar ace Sebastien Bourdais and IRL champion Dan Wheldon were also linked with BMW but Bourdais has now committed to another year in the States, while Wheldon is thought to be likely for a test role somewhere rather than a race seat.
Midland, previously Jordan, has already signed Chrisitjan Albers and of the team's pilots from this season Narain Karthikeyan has said he is out of the running. "It looks very unlikely unless things change dramatically," the Indian told Reuters in regard to his Midland chances. "We're looking at a test driver's slot for the year 2006, build up on that and see what happens."
Midland's Colin Kolles blamed Karthikeyan's management. "Narain has lost out because of his management," he said, according to the Times of India newspaper. "A pro driver has professional management but we didn't see that in Narain's case. Narain is a very pleasant, nice person but that's not enough for Formula 1. He has to be professional too."
Tiago Monteiro is speculated to most likely be teammate to Albers. The Portuguese impressed in his rookie season with Jordan by finishing 18 out of 19 races and scored a podium finish in third at the controversial US Grand Prix. Rumour has it that Monteiro, who has backing from petrol company Galp, will be confirmed by Midland sometime soon.