Bruno Senna looks the most likely candidate to join Pedro de la Rosa in the first Formula One line-up fielded by newcomer Campos Meta next season, having apparently been able to confirm the necessary backing to finally secure his graduation to the top flight.
The Brazilian, who was thought to have been close to a deal to join Jenson Button at Honda for 2009 before the Japanese giant's shock exit from F1 last December, has reported that he is 90 per cent of the way to announcing a deal for 2010, and Germany's Auto Motor und Sport
claims that he has a multi-million Euro budget to take to whichever team secures his signature.
"We have some good offers on the table, and this is what we needed really," Senna admitted, "I think F1 is in a tough moment, with many drivers on the market, and that doesn't make it easy for drivers outside of F1 to get it. But, luckily, with the new teams, there are more slots. It's getting close. We we are, quite close to getting a deal. It's looking pretty good actually.''
Should he go to Campos, however, Senna is likely to have succeeded against the purse reportedly being carried by Vitaly Petrov, the Russian formerly employed by Campos' GP2 team and retained by successor Barwa Addax in 2009. The Russian is rumoured to have the biggest budget of any untried contender, around €15m, and could interest any team - new or old - for the coming season. Pedro de la Rosa is seen a certainty to be revealed as Campos' first signing, bringing both experience and nationality to the team.
F1's four newcomers - Campos, US F1, Manor/Virgin and Lotus - are all expected to plump for a blend of experience and finance, with Jarno Trulli the other veteran being mentioned as a likely signing, most probably with the Lotus project, which is expected to confirm Malaysian national Fairuz Fauzy in its second seat. The team, currently based in Norfolk, is expected to relocate to Sepang once it is up and running. Trulli has an established working relationship with Lotus technical director Mike Gascoyne and would bring years of proven F1 experience to the team.
The same report claims that A1GP champion Adam Carroll could finally get his F1 break with John Booth's Manor Grand Prix operation, no doubt helped by the team's anticipated deal with Richard Branson's Virgin Group. The identity of the second Manor/Virgin driver isn't expected to be known for some time, although Booth has made it known that he would have no qualms about slotting Nelson Piquet Jr - a former GP2 adversary of Carroll's - into the seat alongside the Irishman.
The Brazilian, ostracised for his part in the Singapore race-fixing scandal, is reported to have picked up a backer that would contribute a welcome €5m to a team's budget, although he has also lined up a test in NASCAR's Truck Series with a view to transferring to the US next season.
Perennial GP2 frontrunner Lucas di Grassi, and rivals Karun Chandhok, Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado all continue to be mentioned as likely candidates to join one of the 'expansion' teams for 2010.