It is near impossible to predict what will happen to the Caterham team over the next six months. Having been sold by Tony Fernandes to a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors, whose first act was the odd appointment of Christijan Albers as team principal, their future is something of a mystery,
Despite a solid 2014 campaign, Kobayashi is unlikely to return. The Japanese driver is bringing only a very small amount of money and essentially racing for free this year in a bid to revive his F1 career. That has not paid off as such, in that he is unlikely to find a grand prix berth in 2015. However he has clearly been the better Caterham driver this year - as you would have expected - so will, at the very least, exit with his pride in tact.
His current team-mate, GP2 veteran Ericsson, has a better chance of hanging around for 2015. Though he has not really impressed this year, the 23-year-old has largely kept out of trouble. More importantly, he brings vital funding to the team and, if this remains in place, he has a good chance of retaining his seat. Remember the old adage: better the pay driver you know.
You wouldn't want to pair him with a rookie. Kobayashi's experience is currently a big asset to the team; take that away and they may find themselves a little directionless.
However that may be exactly what the team has to do, with few funded drivers currently on the grid likely to fancy the Caterham gig. Perhaps the best-placed man with F1 experience is Giedo van der Garde, who raced for Caterham in 2013 and is now reserve driver at Sauber. The Dutchman has significant backing, and with his fellow countryman Albers now in charge he is a natural choice. Van der Garde isn’t the fastest driver in F1, but he is capable and intelligent, making him a sensible rather than spectacular choice.
As for rookie options, there has been talk of Carlos Sainz Jr. racing for the team this year ahead of a move to Toro Rosso in 2015. However it is also possible that Sainz, or his fellow Red Bull Junior Alex Lynn, could drive for Caterham next term. Either man would provide a big boost to the team. Red Bull don’t mess around with average drivers and these two are their star pupils.
If Red Bull aren’t interested Caterham’s potential pool of drivers is vast, though not too inspiring, with a dozen or so GP2 veterans desperate to land an F1 seat. It would be pure speculation to name names, but if you stick a pin anywhere in the current GP2 standings you’ll inevitably land on a potential candidate.
Caterham also have a junior programme, though its status is a little up in the air following Fernandes’ exit. On one hand they have the tragically wasted talent of Robin Frijns on their books, but with little in the way of funding he has almost no hope of a seat. Brit Will Stevens is also part of the programme, but again this is more through talent.
They have recently added a few new names to their junior roster. There’s Nathanael Berthon, who is 25 and sits 18th in his third season of GP2; and Julian Leal (below), who is now in his fourth GP2 campaign but lies a less depressing eighth in the standings. Both have funding, so they are definite candidates for the drive.
Unfortunately, financial constraints mean that whatever direction Caterham take is unlikely to result in them running a real talent next year. While Marussia have benefitted from the arrival of Ferrari protege Jules Bianchi, their green-liveried rivals have struggled with average pay drivers. Perhaps Caterham's only hope - and it is a long shot - is to convince Red Bull to place a junior star in their trust.
VERDICT: It’s total stab-in-the-dark stuff, but we’ll go for the returning Van der Garde and newcomer Leal