Following Friday’s announcement that Caterham will now be lining up on the grid for the final race of the Formula 1 season, a number of questions have been brought up, largely surrounding the long-term future of the team and the suitability of its crowdfunding project.
However, with Marcus Ericsson confirming that he has cut all ties with Caterham ahead of his move to Sauber, the backmarkers will need to draft in at least one replacement for the final round in Abu Dhabi.
So who could be the drivers that do indeed line up on the grid in Abu Dhabi?
The Japanese driver was supposed to be Caterham’s leading light in 2014, not being a conventional pay driver and instead being hired for his talents. However, he has since become something of a second thought for Caterham. In Belgium, he was dropped for Andre Lotterer, and was not set to race in Italy before being called on Wednesday in Japan and told to get on the next flight so he could race. Kobayashi could race in Abu Dhabi, but only if Caterham can’t find a higher bidder.
Following his one-off appearance at Spa, Lotterer turned down a second race for Caterham at Monza, instead choosing to focus on his WEC commitments with Audi. The German has been offered the chance to race in Abu Dhabi, according to Autosport, and said he is not sure if he will take it up. With the WEC finale in Brazil just one week later, it might be a bit of a stretch for Lotterer.
Merhi is perhaps the most likely candidate for the seat alongside Kobayashi, having enjoyed a very successful practice run-out at Monza in September. The Spaniard reportedly has a deal to race in Abu Dhabi, so expect him to make his F1 debut. After considering quitting motorsport at the beginning of the year, making his F1 debut would be the perfect way to mark a huge turnaround in events.
This is more of a ‘two and two makes four’ deduction, but the outcast Marussia driver may look to make an F1 return in Abu Dhabi. Neither party has said that it will happen, but if Chilton is looking to use his budget to secure a seat for the final race of the year, he would be a very viable option for Caterham.
Again, this is more based on logic than anything, but if GP2 champion Palmer was looking to make his F1 debut early, he could give himself a very busy weekend in Abu Dhabi by vying for the seat. However, he might think it better to bide his time and work on a package over the winter to find a place on the grid for 2015.
Largely unknown in the US, Alice Powell enjoyed a successful junior career in the UK before taking part in some GP3 races last season. Reports suggested that her family was putting together a package for her to take part in FP1 in Abu Dhabi, but without a super licence, and far bigger offers on the table, this is a long shot if there ever was one.
Ultimately, the seats will go to the highest bidders, so in reality, it is a very open fight. With more staff being made redundant earlier this week, though, it seems that making the grid in Abu Dhabi may only paper over some of the cracks at Caterham.