The 2014 F1 driver market as things stand

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The driver market for the 2014 Formula One season has been a hot topic for almost six months now, having been kick-started by Mark Webber’s decision to retire from the sport and move to Porsche’s revived LMP1 programme. Following Lotus’ confirmation of Pastor Maldonado for 2014 on Friday, the final few seats are ready to be filled, meaning that we are close to knowing just who will be on the grid in Australia next March.

RED BULL RACING

Confirmed: Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo
Ricciardo was confirmed as Webber’s replacement back in September, stepping up from Toro Rosso.

MERCEDES

Confirmed: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
More of the same for the German marque in 2014 after an impressive year.

SCUDERIA FERRARI

Confirmed: Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen
Raikkonen replaces Massa to create the strongest line-up on the grid next season, but also the most volatile. 

LOTUS

Confirmed: Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado
Money helped forge Maldonado’s move away from Williams; Grosjean could flourish as team leader.

McLAREN

Confirmed: Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen
Experience meets potential with this line-up, and it will be fascinating to see how Magnussen fares in 2014.

FORCE INDIA

Confirmed: None.
Candidates: Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, James Calado.
Hulkenberg is the obvious choice here, and with di Resta eyeing up a drive in IndyCar, the second seat is between Sutil and Perez.

SAUBER

Confirmed: None.
Candidates: Esteban Gutierrez, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, Sergey Sirotkin, Adrian Sutil
With questions surrounding Sirotkin’s funding, the return of Perez to form an all-Mexican team with Esteban Gutierrez is perhaps the most likely line-up, although Sutil could seek refuge at Sauber should Force India drop him.

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO

Confirmed: Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.
Kvyat was not the obvious choice, but some impressive displays in practice at Austin and Interlagos proved that he can challenge Vergne despite his lack of experience.

WILLIAMS

Confirmed: Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa
In Massa, Williams has secured a valuable and experienced driver who should compliment the promising Bottas well.

MARUSSIA

Confirmed: Jules Bianchi
Candidates: Max Chilton, Rodolfo Gonzalez
Chilton is likely to be retained after a solid – albeit far from successful – debut season.

CATERHAM

Confirmed: None
Candidates: Giedo van der Garde, Charles Pic, Marcus Ericsson, Heikki Kovalainen, Alexander Rossi
Kovalainen is closing on a seat, but after missing out on P10 in the constructors’, Caterham may have been forced into a rethink. GP2 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi could be viable options.

Hamilton: McLaren could help create four-team F1 title fight in 2018

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Lewis Hamilton says the Mercedes Formula 1 team cannot afford to let up in its push to improve ahead of a fiercer fight at the front of the field in 2018 – potentially including former team McLaren.

Hamilton clinched his fourth F1 drivers’ title in Mexico at the end of October as Mercedes continued its perfect record of championships since the introduction of the new V6 turbo hybrid engines in 2014.

The team faced a stiffer challenge in 2017 thanks to a resurgent Ferrari, while Red Bull also posed a threat towards the end of the season, setting the stage for another close fight next year.

Hamilton is expecting both Ferrari and Red Bull to remain a force at the front of the pack, but also feels McLaren could join the fight after ditching Honda in favor of a Renault engine supply for 2018.

“When I’m training and preparing for a new season, I firmly believe that we can be contenders for the next championship. It may turn out to be not possible, but you have to have that mindset,” Hamilton said.

“If you go in with expectations of finishing fifth, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to gear yourself up to win.

“Next year, McLaren will have Renault engines, then we may see four teams fighting for the championship. I think Red Bull will be quicker and Ferrari for sure will be fast again.

“We can’t stand still – we have to keep moving forwards.”

Hamilton started his F1 career with McLaren back in 2007, winning his maiden world title in 2008 before leaving the team for Mercedes at the end of the 2012 season.