Barring Nyck de Vries’ mid-season ousting which paved the way for Daniel Ricciardo’s shock comeback with AlphaTauri, this year’s driver market has been remarkably stable.
No drivers have switched teams for 2024 and the grid will remain as it is if Williams decide to retain Logan Sargeant, whose seat is the only left unconfirmed for next year.
However, Haas driver Hulkenberg, who himself has been linked with a return to Sauber ahead of Audi’s takeover, expects plenty of movement before new engine rules are introduced in 2026.
“I think there’s still so much gap between now and then,” the German said of the 2026 regulations.
“Sounds like quite a big change [the regulations] and for sure, I think at the beginning of next year, you start to wonder about that.
“The Musical Chairs I think will move in and work quite a bit next year and I think naturally things will fall in place for people so yeah, depends what happens, how you perform and how strong your value is.”
So who could end up moving between now and then?
It’s all complete guesswork at this stage, but that hasn’t stopped us from making some purely hypothetical (and probably incorrect) fantasy predictions…
Norris joins Verstappen at Red Bull
Having decided to dispense of Sergio Perez’s services after the Mexican’s inconsistent performances spill over into 2024, and unconvinced that Ricciardo is the answer, Red Bull break with tradition to create an F1 ‘superteam’.
They launch a mega-money offer that McLaren and Lando Norris simply cannot refuse to get the highly-rated Briton out of his contract a year early to become Max Verstappen’s next teammate from 2025.
After demonstrating his talents at McLaren for several years, Norris finally gets the chance to drive a front-running and championship-winning car, and pit himself against a now four-time world champion.
Ocon replaces Hamilton at Mercedes
After Mercedes’ competitive struggles continue and Lewis Hamilton grows tired of battling in the midfield for another two seasons, the seven-time world champion makes the bombshell decision to call time on his illustrious career at the end of his contract.
With Red Bull moving early to take Norris off the market, Mercedes are forced to look at other targets. An attempt to sign Charles Leclerc was rebuffed, with Ferrari unwilling to make further changes to their driver line-up (more on that to come below).
Mercedes look to former protege Esteban Ocon, who Toto Wolff is a huge admirer of and originally wanted to place in one of his cars. Having proved his worth as a grand prix winner at Alpine, Ocon gets his dream move to Mercedes where he will partner George Russell, who has taken on the team leader position.
Sainz gambles on Audi’s F1 project
Unable to force himself ahead of superstar teammate Leclerc, and with Ferrari still not in a position to fight for world championships, Carlos Sainz decides against signing a new deal to instead put his faith in Audi’s F1 project.
The much-rumoured move is finally confirmed during the 2024 summer break, with Sainz joining the Sauber-run F1 team in 2025 to give himself a year to bed in prior to the Swiss outfit’s transformation into the Audi works squad.
At Audi, where Sainz will reunite with former McLaren boss Andreas Seidl, Sainz will finally get the chance to establish himself as a number one driver and build a team around him, something he has so far been unable to do.
Ferrari snap up sought-after Albon
Ferrari, in need of a replacement for Sainz, offer their number one target Alex Albon another chance to show what he can do in front-running F1 machinery.
Despite being happy at an ever-improving Williams, where he has flourished and rebuilt his reputation following his difficult and short-lived Red Bull stint, Albon jumps at the opportunity to drive for F1’s most famous team and try to help turn them back into serial winners.
Herta (finally) gets F1 shot with Andretti
In a world where the Andretti-Cadillac bid is approved by F1 after initially being green-lighted by the FIA, Colton Herta gets a long-awaited F1 break for the American outfit’s debut season in 2026.
Herta, who was unfortunate to miss out on an F1 drive for 2023 due to the sport’s stringent super-licence rules, follows Andretti over from America after an impressive IndyCar career.
Now 26, Herta fulfils F1’s desire to have an American driver racing for an American team.