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F1 driver market gathers pace

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F1 Mole | 12:42 UK time, Monday, 31 August 2009

Giancarlo Fisichella may have stolen all the headlines with his shock drive to second place at the Belgium Grand Prix but he wasn't the only driver fighting for a brighter Formula 1 future at Spa.

Out of the top eight finishers on Sunday, only Sebastian Vettel knows for certain who he is driving for next season after penning a new deal with Red Bull in Valencia.

Speculation over the fate of race winner Kimi Raikkonen, said to be on his way out of Ferrari despite having a contract for 2011, McLaren incumbent Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren-linked Nico Rosberg and veteran Brawn driver Rubens Barrichello - all out of contract at the end of the season - kept the Belgium paddock humming.

Amid the hubbub, the fate of BMW Sauber pair Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, who collected the team's best finish of this season in Spa with fourth and fifth respectively, managed to slip under the radar.

In July, BMW announced it would terminate its four-year foray into Formula 1 as a manufacturer team this year, leaving both drivers without a drive for 2010.

Kubica has since been linked with a move to Williams while his best buddy Fernando Alonso's Renault seat is also up for grabs, once the Spaniard's not-to-secret switch to Ferrari is officially confirmed.

alonso_kubica595.jpgGood friends Alonso and Kubica are central to the F1 driver market this season

Renault, who are putting their heads together to roll out a more competitive car in 2010, are perceived to be a good option for Kubica but, despite rumours in Spa that it was a done deal, the Pole is in no hurry to commit to anything.

The 24-year-old is understood to have followed up talks with Brawn at the European GP with another sit-down in Belgium.

And a third option intriguingly emerged over the weekend - honouring the final year of his contract with whoever BMW morph into.

Kubica is understood to be happy to stay with the team, who have submitted an entry for next season, if they succeed in finding a suitable buyer.

He is said to be close to founder Peter Sauber, who owns a 20% stake in the team but had his takeover bid rejected by BMW at the beginning of August. Now, Sauber and team principal Mario Theissen are working hard to secure new investment for the team before the end of September.

After struggling with a sluggish BMW all season, staying with a team in transition would arguably do little to satiate Kubica's title-wining ambitions and talent. But the Pole is understand to want a one-year contract so he is free to move on in 2011 if a better drive becomes available.

Heidfeld is also confident he will find a drive for 2010 and the German has also been linked with a return to Williams, who he drove for in 2005.

The Italian GP on 13 September could well be an unexpected landmark in Fisichella's career if, as looks likely, he gets the nod as Felipe Massa's second stand-in for Ferrari and Monza traditionally provides the backdrop for handshakes on driver moves.

But in a season where The Mole is learning to expect the unexpected don't bet on things to be quite so straightforward this year.


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