Nico Hulkenberg was involved in talks with Ferrari as a possible replacement for Felipe before the prancing horse made their move for Kimi. This however leaves the German facing the potential of 2014 without a drive, which is quite frankly a travesty but not the first time a driver with talent has fell by the wayside. Many see Nico's best chance as a drive with Lotus, mainly because people want to see him in a competitive car. The problem however (as always) is one of money, Quantum (formally Infinity Racing) are still to complete the purchase of a rumoured 35% stake in the team. This is where the aforementioned Maldonado steps in, as with the Lotus team looking for liquidity it could come from the well backed Venezuelan giving him his desired step into a 'larger' team. Eyebrows have been raised over the combination of two drivers within the same team backed by oil suppliers (Pastor and PDVSA / Romain and Total) but I don't see this as a huge problem. The team has plenty of space on the canvas of the E21 at present for sponsorship logos and it's not as if the two oil giants haven't played in the same pool as one another before. Besides as most of the F1 world are aware, these are sponsors bought in by drivers and so as long as their drivers are assured parity and a good drive their investment/exposure is safe.
So IF we find come 2014 Massa sews up a deal with Williams and Maldonado goes to Lotus what happens to Hulkenberg? Well I still believe there is a seat available at other teams...
Sauber have of course made their allegiance with Sergey Sirotkin public based on the backing coming out of Russia but is he ready for a race seat? With Gutierrez being their test driver for several seasons before stepping into the breach this year, is the young Mexican ready to lead the Swiss team into a complex new regulation changing season? Of course it sets him in better stead than Sirotkin but surely the team and moreover the young Russian would do better to install someone with more experience?
Force India another mid field team that are looking to make strides toward F1's top step could have a space open and according to Sky Sports have even offered Hulkenberg a 2 year deal. This would however leave one of their current drivers out on the bread line again too.
I feel I must also mention Sergio Perez who too has come under scrutiny toward the latter stage of the season with McLaren considering Kevin Magnussen for his seat in 2014. The Mexican shone whilst at the wheel of the Sauber C31 but this season has struggled, much like McLaren to make an impression. Is this his fault? I'd argue not, the machinery after all needs to match the talent of the driver to expect results.
Lastly as I pause for thought I cannot help thinking that the Raikkonen/Ferrari situation isn't cut and dry, with the announcement today that the Finn won't finish the season with Lotus instead having back surgery. How bad is his injury? Could it actually prematurely end his career? I'm guessing with the breakdown of relationship between himself and Lotus and Ferrari concerned if he'd be ready in time for the pre season tests he had little choice doing this now. But what if, he chose to do this now in case Ferrari need to draft someone in to replace him for 2014?
I see the whole debacle running on for quite some time yet and offer a list of potential F1 seats available and a list of drivers that could fill them...
Red Bull Racing - Confirmed, Vettel & Ricciardo
Mercedes - Confirmed, Hamilton & Rosberg
Ferrari - Confirmed, Alonso & Raikkonen (Possible question mark over Kimi?)
Lotus - None confirmed but Grosjean as good as, Hulkenberg, Maldonado and Massa all linked but should Valsecchi race the last 2 races of the season and do well, he could throw his hat in the ring too.
McLaren - Confirmed Button, 2nd Seat still unconfirmed - Perez and Magnussen linked
Force India - None confirmed, Di Resta and Sutil current drivers whilst Hulkenberg also linked
Williams - Confirmed, Massa & Bottas (11/11/13)
Toro Rosso - Confirmed, Jean-Eric Vergne & Kyvat
Caterham - None confirmed, Kovelainen, Van Der Garde and Pic all vieing for seats
Marussia - Confirmed, Bianchi, Chilton likely to be retained although McLaren may try placing Magnussen there if not in their own team *