Driver speculation starts heating up

With the 2005 season approaching the halfway point it won't be too long before teams start finalizing driver line-ups for 2006. Naturally this sends the rumour mill into overdrive and the speculation has been building about who may go where. Faces...

With the 2005 season approaching the halfway point it won't be too long before teams start finalizing driver line-ups for 2006. Naturally this sends the rumour mill into overdrive and the speculation has been building about who may go where. Faces at a few teams are expected to change and some of the activity seems to depend on the future of Jenson Button.

It certainly seems at the moment that BAR will not be able to keep hold of Button, who presumably will see out his plan to move back to Williams. David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello have both been linked with BAR and the team's test driver Anthony Davidson has previously said that he's on a promise for a race seat next year.

Coulthard is being coy about moving anywhere but didn't deny it either. It's thought that Red Bull, the Scott's current team, wants Christian Klien and Tonio Liuzzi to pilot the race cars in 2006 -- both the youngsters are on long-term contracts while Coulthard was only contracted for a year.

"If we're all just patient, then the definitive truth will come out and you won't need to speculate about it," Coulthard told ITV in regard to the rumours. "For sure there will be some moves amongst the paddock, and some drivers are already signed up for next year, so over the coming weeks it will all become much clearer."

Barrichello is keeping quiet about his future but might he be finally leaving Ferrari? He could be replaced by another Brazilian -- Felipe Massa. Massa is one of the few up-and-coming drivers available and has been under Ferrari's watchful eye since he entered F1 in 2002. Managed by Nicolas Todt, son of Ferrari boss Jean, Massa has won praise from Todt Senior.

Massa is speculated to be testing the Ferrari F2005 this summer. It's nothing unusual for Felipe to be in a Ferrari test seat as it was his role for the 2003 season. Considered to be talented but a bit wild, Massa has matured nicely in the last couple of years and, no matter who he is managed by, he is ready to move up the F1 ladder.

Michael Schumacher is plagued by people asking him if he's going to retire and he always steadfastly denies he's thinking about it. However, the time for the champion to hang up his helmet is inevitably drawing closer. Ferrari has previously shown an interest in Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso but neither are available next year -- allegedly.

Nick Heidfeld has impressed with Williams so far in 2005 but seems to be the most likely to lose out if Button returns to the team. Williams has long been keen on Mark Webber and the Australian appears to be on safe ground. However, Williams may split with engine partner BMW and the German manufacturer is in talks with Sauber.

If BMW does indeed team up with, or even buy, Sauber, Heidfeld could well find his way back to the Swiss squad. BMW is keen on Heidfeld and would reportedly be happy to have him on board. Where Jacques Villeneuve's future may lie anyone's guess as the beleaguered Canadian has been a rumour target ever since he got in the Sauber.

Those seem to be the main movers and shakers at the present time -- or at least the ones attracting the most gossip anyway. Many of them may turn out not to be movers at all but while the F1 rumour mill is often wildly inaccurate, it can be spot-on as well.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Anthony Davidson , Fernando Alonso , Felipe Massa , Christian Klien , Nicolas Todt
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , Williams