Slowly but surely the driver line for the 2006 Formula One World Championship is beginning to take shape.
With this week’s announcements of Christijan Albers at Midland and Nico Rosberg at Williams, two more berths were filled, leaving the possibility of just four empty seats, that’s if Aguri Suzuki can get everything in place for next year.
As for BMW, contractually they could be tied to Jacques Villeneuve. According to his web site Jacques had this to say about the situation;
“No development has ever been needed for next year so what do you want me to say? The same contract that was signed last year is still in place, so no, there is no development. To the question that some people have said that he had signed a contract with Sauber and now they have been brought by BMW, he answered, “That it is still the same company. Sauber didn’t go bankrupt”. Either Villeneuve WILL drive for BMW next year, or it’s another one for the courts to sort out.
The rookie driver count for next year includes, along with Rosberg, either American Scott Speed or Swiss driver Neel Jani, at Squadra Toro Rosso. All three men will graduate from the year old GP2 series, and as such will have a least a little knowledge of some of the circuits they will be racing on. These just leaves the three seats at the two Red Bull teams, the second seat at Midland and the possibility of Team Super Aguri. The fight here is between Klien, Liuzzi, Speed and Jani at Red Bull, and with the hot money on Sato at Aguri, and two unknowns.
The Red Bull problem could be an easy one to solve. With Red Bull’s dream of bringing American talent to Europe, Speed looks set for a berth somewhere, and Klien has singularly failed to impress, so expect to see some off-season “musical chairs”.
Midlands second seat has the promise of a good engine deal, but the memory of the old Jordan team’s worst ever season, and as yet it isn’t the seat to chase, so expect to see a “pay to drive” deal finalise that place.
Ex-Formula One driver Aguri Suzuki faces an uphill struggle. Not only has he got to get his championship entry accepted, he needs to find a chassis for his promised Honda engine. Bernie Ecclestone is known to be very keen to swell the Formula One grid, so either the team will receive special dispensation to use either a current, or year old BAR chassis, or there is the outside chance that Japanese manufacturer DOME could be persuaded to construct a chassis for the team, but it’s a lot to expect before the 2006 campaign gets underway in Bahrain next March. With just a handful of seats still to be confirmed, the line-up so far:
Red Bull Racing
Klien or Liuzzi
Squadra Toro Rosso
Klien or Liuzzi
Speed or Jani