F1 driver market: Mick Schumacher to Haas or Alfa Romeo?

The driver market has been full of surprises this year and if recent speculation is anything to by, there could be a few more before the start of the 2021 season. With a number of key seats yet to be confirmed and plenty of talented drivers left on the market, ESPN takes a look at who will end up where in 2021.

Mercedes

There's little doubt that Lewis Hamilton will continue with Mercedes beyond the end of this season, but a deal is not yet done. Team principal Toto Wolff, who is also out of contract at the end of the year, insists team and driver simply haven't found the time to thrash out the details, but it would be a huge surprise if negotiations weren't well under way by now.

The big questions will be over contract length and money. Hamilton's last deal was a two-year contract, reportedly with a guaranteed pay of $39 million per year that had the potential to become $52 million with bonuses.

Hamilton is now 35, so this contract could be his last in Formula One. A three-year deal will take him to the age of 38, but a two-year deal with an option would leave a little extra flexibility for both team and driver after the first season of F1's new regulations in 2022.

Valtteri Bottas will partner Hamilton in 2021, but was only able to negotiate a one-year deal.

Ferrari

Ferrari had its 2021 line-up sorted before the start of the season, with Carlos Sainz joining from McLaren to replace Sebastian Vettel and partner Charles Leclerc. Sainz is on a two-year deal with the team whereas Leclerc is currently in the first season of a five-year contract.

The team's poor performance this year has led to questions over both drivers' decision to commit long-term, but Ferrari is confident it can return to the front of the grid in 2022.

Red Bull

Finding a teammate who can match Max Verstappen is proving problematic for Red Bull. When Daniel Ricciardo left at the end of 2018 the team opted for Pierre Gasly, but within the space of 12 difficult races his confidence was ruined and he was replaced by Alex Albon. Now Albon is the driver struggling and Gasly, who recently secured a remarkable win at the Italian Grand Prix at AlphaTauri, is proving he still deserves a place in F1.

Red Bull's Plan A for 2021 was to stick with Albon, and for the most part team principal Christian Horner has stood by his driver. But as the poor results continue to pile up, there are signs -- mainly from Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko -- that the team could look elsewhere for a replacement.

Gasly, who has looked like a new man ever since his demotion to Toro Rosso last year, seems like the obvious replacement, but Red Bull has played down the likelihood of that scenario, saying Gasly still needs to play an important role to play at AlphaTauri.

That has led to speculation -- again fuelled by Marko -- that Red Bull could break from tradition and recruit from outside its own driver pool. Both Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg would be willing candidates for the Red Bull drive, having spent the entirety of their careers outside of race-winning machinery.

The Hulkenberg rumours gained traction after the Eifel Grand Prix when it emerged Marko had approached the German driver ahead of the race weekend when Albon returned an inconclusive COVID-19 test. Albon later tested negative and was able to race, but the fact the story was relayed to the media only increased the pressure on the Thai driver and fuelled speculation over a switch next year.

Perez appears to offer a similar package to Hulkenberg but with the added benefit of additional sponsors. Red Bull would present a perfect landing spot for the Mexican, who will leave Racing Point at the end of the year to make way for Sebastian Vettel, and speculation in his home country is rife.

And just to complicate things further, there are multiple reports that Verstappen will be able to work his way out of his Red Bull contract at the end of 2021 now that engine supplier Honda has confirmed its departure from the sport at the end of next year.

McLaren

When Sainz told McLaren he had been approached by Ferrari earlier this year, the British team got back in touch with Daniel Ricciardo to discuss options for 2021. The Australian had come close to signing ahead of the 2019 season, but with McLaren still struggling towards the back of the grid in 2018, he opted for a two-year deal with Renault instead.

That two-year deal comes to an end this year and, even before a wheel had turned in 2020, Ricciardo has signed a deal to move to McLaren for 2021. Movement on that deal paved the way for a happy parting of ways between McLaren and Sainz, although McLaren CEO Zak Brown claims he would have blocked the Spaniard's move to Ferrari had the Ricciardo deal fallen through.

Ricciardo will partner current McLaren driver Lando Norris next year.

Renault

Losing Ricciardo was a big hit for Renault and at one stage it seemed like it might be the last straw for the French car manufacturer in Formula One. But the Renault Group has since committed to F1 until 2025 and signed two-time champion Fernando Alonso to lead its charge.

It's clear the two-time world champion has unfinished business in Formula One and he joins Renault just as the team has started to emerge as the top midfield team behind Mercedes and Red Bull. The team will change its name to Alpine from 2021 onwards, but that shouldn't have an impact on the progress it has shown in recent months.

Esteban Ocon is due to enter the second year of his two-year contract with the team in 2021, but there has recently been speculation he could be replaced by Gasly. The switch seems unlikely given Ocon has a deal for 2021, but Perez's situation at Racing Point has shown how little a contract can be worth in F1.

Nevertheless, it is more likely Gasly will become a factor/bargaining chip in 2022 when Red Bull may have to switch to Renault engines to replace the outgoing Honda.

AlphaTauri

As ever, AlphaTauri (the team formerly known as Toro Rosso) is dependent on the senior Red Bull team making up its mind on its drivers before committing to a line-up for 2021. Gasly has made a case to be promoted back up to Red Bull next year, but with senior figures playing down such a move, he could be set for another year at AlphaTauri.

Despite showing a turn of form in recent races, Gasly's teammate Daniil Kvyat appears to be on the way out. He could make way for Albon if Red Bull looks to recruit Perez or Hulkenberg or may have his seat taken by Honda-backed F2 driver Yuki Tsunoda.

Tsunoda, who is also supported by Red Bull, will test for the team at Imola after the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix and is also due to drive the car at the end-of-season young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

Racing Point

Sebastian Vettel will head up the new-look Aston Martin team in 2021, where he will join the boss's son Lance Stroll. Vettel's arrival comes at the expense of Perez, who had his contract cut short to make way for the four-time world champion.

The team is confident it can improve Vettel's current form, which has seen him score just one point in the last five races at Ferrari. The Mercedes-style concept of this year's Racing Point bodes well for an evolution in 2021.

Alfa Romeo

As of the last race at the Nurburgring, Kimi Raikkonen became the most experienced driver in Formula One history. Whether he will extend his record of race starts into 2021 is not yet clear, but as recently as the Eifel Grand Prix there were stories that he had already agreed a new deal with the team. He denied a deal was done in a press conference on the same day, but it seems the door is open for him to stay.

If not, Hulkenberg and Perez remain serious options and both have links to the team having driven for it in the past.

Meanwhile, Antonio Giovianzzi's position at the team is under threat from the rising stars of the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA). Giovinazzi is occupying a Ferrari-owned seat at Alfa Romeo and with FDA member Mick Schumacher -- the son of seven-time world champion Michael -- on course to become Formula 2 champion, he is facing very stiff competition.

Even if Schumacher ends up elsewhere (see Haas), the FDA has a backlog of talent at the moment, with in Callum Ilott (currently second in the championship to Schumacher) and reigning Formula 3 champion Robert Schwartzman also on its books.

Haas

Ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Haas confirmed it will not retain Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, a partnership it has had since 2017. That leaves the team with two seats to fill for 2021 and some very interesting options available.

Previously, the team had justified keeping its line-up by arguing it needed stability to turn its results around, but its steady decline down the order in the past four years suggests driver stability is not going to cure Haas' issues.

Money, on the other hand, might, and the latest rumour is that Russian billionaire Dimitry Mazepin is keen to get his son, Nikita, a place on the F1 grid in 2021. Mazepin Jnr currently races in Formula 2 and has bought private tests with Mercedes (in two-year-old cars) in recent years, so has more F1 experience than many of his F2 rivals. If a deal can be struck at the right price, then it would make sense for Haas to take a punt on the 21-year-old.

Perez and Hulkenberg are also on the market if Haas wants a more experienced driver in its car and sees no future with either Grosjean or Magnussen, although another rumour is that Ferrari could be lining up a Haas drive for Schumacher.

Alfa Romeo makes more sense (and it was the team Schumacher was due to drive for during first practice at the Nurburgring before the session got rained off) but Haas does have a history of offering tests to FDA members and ran Esteban Gutierrez as a race driver in 2016 when he was a Ferrari-contracted driver.

Williams

Current drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi both have contracts for 2021, but that hasn't stopped rumours swirling about their futures in recent weeks. Since those deals were announced, Williams has been sold to Dorilton Capital, leading to speculation that the new owners might want to unpick the contracts in place.

That would be slightly at odds with previous information, which suggested Russell's 2021 contract was marketed as an asset during the sale of the team and that Latifi's sponsorship money helped make the numbers add up.

On the flip side, neither Russell, who is likely to join Mercedes in coming seasons, or Latifi, who has failed to impress in his first season with the team, appear to be long-term prospects for Williams and Dorilton may be on the lookout for a driver to help rebuild the team over several years.