There are just a handful of spots left up for grabs as the jigsaw puzzle of the 2020 Formula 1 grid continues to take shape.

With Racing Point and Haas acting as the latest teams to lock down their respective driver line-ups for next season, there are question marks that remain over a handful of seats on the grid, most notably at Red Bull.

Here’s a rundown of the remaining seats and which drivers are likely to get them…

Red Bull’s dilemma

Red Bull’s sole-remaining seat is the hottest spot left up for grabs heading into 2020, and the question over who will partner Max Verstappen is yet to be answered.

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko confirmed in Singapore that it will be a two-horse race between Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly for the 2020 seat, with Daniil Kvyat set to remain at Toro Rosso for another season.

Following his mid-season graduation from Toro Rosso - in place of Gasly - Albon has impressed at the Milton Keynes squad. He recovered from a back-of-the-grid start (engine penalty) on his debut at Spa to take fifth, which he has followed up with a string of top six appearances, culminating in his best-ever result of fourth place in the Japanese Grand Prix last time out.

While he is yet to stand on the podium, the British-born Thai driver has shown more consistency behind the wheel of the RB15 than Gasly did during the first half of the campaign, and his technical feedback and attitude has impressed those within Red Bull’s ranks.

Notably at Suzuka, Albon was able to post an identical qualifying lap to what Verstappen managed, marking the closest he has been able to get to the Dutchman in representative conditions since his summer switch.

Gasly has regained some confidence since returning to Toro Rosso and has so far claimed three points finishes for the Faenza squad, comfortably outscoring podium-sitter Kvyat across the past five rounds.

Going off current form, and assuming nothing goes drastically wrong in Mexico, it would be hard to not pick Albon over Gasly.

Red Bull is expected to make a final decision over its 2020 line-up following next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, so watch this space…

Alfa Romeo’s spare seat

With Kimi Raikkonen still going strong at 40 and contracted to Alfa Romeo until the end of the 2020 campaign, a seat remains yet to be filled alongside the Finn.

Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur said over the Japanese Grand Prix weekend that the Swiss outfit will finalise its line-up for 2020 “quite soon”, as he continued to express his confidence in Antonio Giovinazzi.

Giovinazzi endured a tough start to his first full-season of grand prix racing and took nine races to register his maiden point in a car capable of regularly challenging for the top 10, as backed up by Raikkonen’s early streak.

But the Italian’s form has improved dramatically since the summer break, particularly in qualifying head-to-heads against his more experienced teammate.

Giovinazzi has proven a match of late to Raikkonen over one-lap, outpacing him on a Saturday at each of the last three races in Singapore, Russia and Japan, while he has gone on to claim further points finishes on home soil at Monza and Singapore. He was set for another top 10 appearance at Spa until crashing out on the last lap.

A timely form turnaround has swung things in Giovinazzi’s favour, as has a lack of viable candidates to challenge for the seat, with Ferrari’s next highest-placed junior Mick Schumacher not yet ready for F1 following a difficult rookie F2 season.

The Scuderia is understood to have a large sway over who gets the spare seat next to Raikkonen, something which will only further boost Giovinazzi’s chances.

Who will replace Kubica at Williams?

Formula 2 runner-up Nicholas Latifi looks highly likely to take the place of the departing Robert Kubica to join former F2 rival George Russell at Williams next year.

The Canadian has made a number of FP1 outings for Williams this season as part of his test and development role and is on course to seal second spot in the F2 championship, which will secure him the required points needed for an F1 superlicence.

He may have been convincingly beaten to the F2 title by Nyck de Vries in the end, but Latifi has impressed Williams with his performances across the campaign, particularly during an early run that saw him take three victories from the opening five rounds.

Such a move would see Latifi become the only driver to graduate from F2 to F1 this time around, following the impressive 2018 trio of Russell, Lando Norris and Albon.

Having announced his decision to leave the team at the end of a frustrating campaign in uncompetitive machinery, Kubica has been linked with a move to Haas in a development capacity for 2020, with his remarkable comeback story to F1 set to conclude after just one season back on the grid.

And what about Hulkenberg?

Nico Hulkenberg said in Japan that he now had no option but to play a “patient game” with his F1 future still uncertain beyond the end of the current season.

Hulkenberg has been replaced at Renault by Esteban Ocon for 2020, leaving him scrambling for a seat with the window of opportunity rapidly closing.

With his only realistic options now at Alfa Romeo at Williams, it is looking increasingly likely that Hulkenberg will find himself left on the F1 sidelines next year.

A development/test driver role could be a possibility, though he has made it clear he wants to continue racing, adding: “I would be in a racing car in the future because it’s what I love doing, it’s my passion. I think only time will tell on that.”

Hulkenberg’s options outside of F1 are also running out. There are no seats left on the 2019/20 Formula E grid, while a switch to sportscars and the World Endurance Championship also looks unlikely.

He has already turned down an offer to drive for McLaren as the British squad embarks on a full-season in the IndyCar series in 2020, citing his concerns over oval racing.

It would be a huge shame to lose such a talented driver from the field, but time is quickly running out for Hulkenberg…

 

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