NOVEMBER 8, 2005
Who will be the second (and third) BMW drivers?
The big question at the moment in Formula 1 circles is who is going to partner Nick Heidfeld at BMW next year. On paper Jacques Villeneuve has a contract but there is no doubt that BMW is talking to other drivers and has been in conversation with Champ Car double champion Sebastien Bourdais. The fact that he has now re-signed for Newman Haas Racing for another year would seem to suggest that his chances are gone. There have also been suggestions that the job could go to Indianapolis 500 winner and IRL champion Dan Wheldon, who is currently available. Wheldon is looking for a testing drive in 2006 leading to a race drive in 2007 and that would fit in neatly with the idea that the team would keep Villeneuve for the rest of his contract and then replace him with Wheldon.
There has also been talk that the team might sign Heikki Kovalainen but this does not seem very likely as it is expected that Kovalainen will be named Renault test driver for next year and will then move up to replace Giancarlo Fisichella at the end of 2006. It is hard to see why Renault, which has paid for Kovalainen's development to date, would allow him to race for BMW unless the team was going to get him back in a year or two.
However, if that is the case it makes no sense for BMW to sign him up as it will, in effect, be investing to improve a driver for another team.
We believe that a man who must be watched is 18-year-old German Sebastian Vettel, who is currently racing in the Formula 3 Euroseries. He was recently given his first taste of F1 in a Williams-BMW and we believe BMW has big plans for him in the future.
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