Eight seats - officially at least – remain there for the taking. But who will land the final places on the Formula 1 grid for 2021?

Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, Racing Point and Williams have officially firmed up their full line-ups for 2021, but there are still places up for grabs and no shortage of interested parties to fill them.

As the 2020 season moves into its second half, we’ve taken a look at the state of play for the teams and reveal our predictions for who will land the last seats on offer…

Mercedes

Barring an unforeseen and highly unlikely sequence of events, Lewis Hamilton is set to continue with the team he has claimed five of his six world titles with so far and retain F1’s most prized seat alongside Valtteri Bottas.

The deal is expected to be a formality, with Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff confirming that the team intends to use the upcoming larger gaps between races to dot the i’s and cross the t’s in order to get Hamilton’s new contract done and dusted.

"This is a work in progress, and I wouldn't want to commit to a specific date [to complete the deal]," Wolff said at Mugello. "We get on very well, but then when it comes down to the detail, you just need enough time to do that.

“With one race after the other, we don't want to really be distracted by contract talks. In between the larger gaps, like next week, we're moving towards a satisfactory outcome. But I don't know when we will announce it."

Our 2021 prediction: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas

Red Bull

Alex Albon was already looking likely to keep his Red Bull seat for 2021 even before he strengthened his case with a brilliant drive to secure third place and his first ever podium finish at Mugello.

Albon has been gradually improving his form over recent race weekends and is ever so slightly edging closer to teammate Max Verstappen – who was tied down to a multi-year deal last winter.

If the Thai racer can continue his positive trajectory of late then Red Bull would have no reason to look elsewhere.

The team has continued to back Albon and has insisted that it is not considering a swap back deal with Pierre Gasly, or looking at candidates outside of the Red Bull house such as free agents Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.

"I think as far as Red Bull Racing's seats are confirmed, we're focused on Alex Albon,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “We want to try and give him the best opportunity to retain that seat.

"It wouldn't make sense to switch the drivers back. AlphaTauri is now a sister team rather than a junior team. Franz [Tost] is happy I believe with Pierre.

"The final decision will be made later in the year, but there’s no push from our side to reverse the situation.”

Our 2021 prediction: Max Verstappen and Alex Albon

AlphaTauri

While Gasly might fancy another shot at Red Bull, from AlphaTauri’s perspective, keeping the revitalised Frenchman – now a grand prix winner - at Faenza to lead its charge into next season is an obvious decision.

On the other side of the garage, Daniil Kvyat’s place looks far from assured. Red Bull has been impressed by its Honda-backed junior Yuki Tsunoda, who has been winning races in Formula 2 this year as one of the season’s breakout stars.

The biggest question mark over Tsunoda is whether he can secure the necessary superlicence points required to earn a graduation to F1. If he does do enough, the 20-year-old would surely have a decent claim to one of the AlphaTauri seats.

Fielding a Japanese driver in a Honda-powered car would meet the engine manufacturer’s aspirations, while promoting Tsunoda would also quell some of the recent criticism Red Bull has faced regarding a lack of quality within its junior pool.

Our 2021 prediction: Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo boss Frederik Vasseur indicated over the Tuscan Grand Prix weekend that Kimi Raikkonen is the team’s first choice for 2021 and it seems the decision lies with whether Raikkonen wants to extend his stay in F1 or retire.

The Finn’s current teammate Antonio Giovinazzi also faces an uncertain future, with a number of drivers understood to be in the frame for one of the seats at the Swiss side, including Perez and Hulkenberg - a driver who Vasseur is a well-known admirer of.

There are also the leading three Ferrari juniors to consider, all of whom are starring in F2 this season. Some reports claim that Mick Schumacher, the son of seven-time world champion Michael, has already been guaranteed an F1 seat as long as he finishes inside the top three. That appears likely given he currently sits at the top of the championship standings.

Providing he continues to perform and successfully overcomes the challenge posed by fellow Ferrari proteges Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman to triumph to the F2 crown, partnering the experienced Raikkonen – who turns 41 next month – would make plenty of sense for Alfa Romeo.

Our 2021 prediction: Kimi Raikkonen and Mick Schumacher

Haas

Arguably the most interesting driver dilemma comes at Haas. According to team principal Guenther Steiner, the American squad has an extensive shortlist of up to 10 drivers, including regulars Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

Having changed its driver line-up just once before, is now the time for Haas to freshen things up ahead of the major regulation overhaul coming into force in 2022?

Steiner stressed that “all options” are currently on the table for Haas - which includes fielding an all-rookie line-up - and the team can focus on its long-term vision now that it has committed to F1 by signing the Concorde Agreement.

“Everybody who is on the market is considered,” Steiner explained. “We lay everything on the table and then we see what we want.

“But it’s a general question - what do we want to do? Do we want to keep the drivers that we’ve got? Do we want experienced drivers? Do we want to start with young drivers? Do we do a mix of it? Everything is on the table.”

Securing the signatures of either Perez or Hulkenberg would be a big coup for Haas, while it could further extend its ties to Ferrari by taking on a Scuderia junior to boast an exciting blend of seasoned F1 experience with the promise of youth.  

Haas also has F2 frontrunner Louis Deletraz and 2017 World Series Formula V8 3.5 champion Pietro Fittipaldi on its books as reserve drivers.

Our 2021 prediction: Sergio Perez and Callum Ilott

 

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