It says a lot about the driver market this year that the most interesting aspect of it was the movement between performance coaches and those that support the drivers themselves.

Max Verstappen’s trainer Bradley Scanes left his role, leading Carlos Sainz’s performance coach Rupert Manwaring to make the switch to work with the three-time world champion. And Yuki Tsunoda is also in need of a new partner after Michael Italiano departed for a major opportunity in cricket.

Once Logan Sargeant was finally confirmed at Williams for a second consecutive year, the least active driver market in history was complete as not a single seat changed between the end of the 2023 season and the start of 2024.

And it’s not like there was huge movement mid-year, either, with only Daniel Ricciardo’s return to AlphaTauri in place of Nyck de Vries preventing identical lineups from race one of the season just gone to the next.

But you’ve probably heard the saying “The calm before the storm” and that’s just where the driver market is right now.

The end of 2024 offers a huge amount of possibilities, and many of them are playing a role in keeping other opportunities open.

Even with some high-profile contract extensions being announced over the past 12 months, three quarters of the grid have deals that expire at the end of the coming season.

The easiest way of kicking this off is by outlining who are the drivers who are currently under contract for more than the next year (even if there might be options involved that could negate that if needed).

Unsurprisingly, Max Verstappen has the longest deal at Red Bull that runs until 2028, while it’s Oscar Piastri who is most secure behind him with a deal that was announced as up to the end of 2026.

Then for the remaining three drivers — Piastri’s teammate Lando Norris and the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell — 2025 is the end point of their current agreements, leaving them with the potential ability to make a move in time for the new regulations that will be introduced the following year.

So the most sought-after name that could be available at the end of 2024 is Charles Leclerc, as both Ferrari drivers have yet to agree to new deals.

Team principal Fred Vasseur had stated that he wanted to have the two drivers’ respective futures tied up prior to the end of the year in order to have clarity heading into ’24, but that’s a target that he admits has been missed, with the revised goal of the start of the new season being set.

And it’s not strange to see why. Given the fact that so many drivers are available at the end of next year — but also three big names currently hitting the market at the end of the following season — there are options not just for the Ferrari drivers but for the team too. Vasseur needs to keep the situation positive at Maranello, but it would be remiss of him to ignore the potential candidates that might be available over the coming years.

That then plays a part in the type of contract that will be discussed. It’s not hard to imagine Ferrari wants to lock Leclerc down longer-term given the way he was brought through the ranks, but Sainz might find himself offered a deal that includes an option at the end of 2025 in case of significant movement.

Spin that around to the drivers’ perspective, and Sainz is likely to want a more solid commitment — but both he and Leclerc are also going to have an eye on the 2026 regulations.

It’s always so tough to judge which teams will get it right when there is a major change in both aerodynamics and power unit technology, and the decision to prevent teams doing work on the new cars years in advance only shortens the window to gain such an impression. So having a contract that expires one year after the new regulations are introduced — and therefore a full competitive picture will have been seen — might be the smartest play.

That’s true of all the drivers, of course, rather than just the Ferrari pair, but with so many available at the end of next year there’s likely to be one or two who are more willing to commit longer-term if offered the chance, or take a shorter deal if it secures them a more competitive seat than they currently have.

The way this year played out, there were few contracts that needed resolving and therefore few potential moves that could happen. That leant itself to drivers and teams sticking with what they had, because the alternative options were few and far between.

That’s not the case in 12 months’ time and even those with longer deals are aware of it, with McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown believing Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari will all be assessing options, including showing an interest in Norris.

“I would say next priority — a lot of priorities — but certainly Lando we’ve got some time with; but he is a driver that everybody up and down pit lane want,” Brown says. “How much longer is Lewis going? What’s Mercedes going to do? How much longer is Sergio going? So for sure, I think the three other big teams probably don’t have visibility as to their driver lineup beyond ’25, and I think with how Lando has performed, he would be top of everyone’s list.”

While Norris is certainly going to be a target for many teams unless he signs a new deal, the number of others available means teams will be working on a Plan A through to Plan F at least.

There’s definitely a lot of scope for the majority of drivers to stay exactly where they are at the end of next season, too, but until somebody gets the ball rolling and either cements their current position or commits to a move elsewhere, teams are unlikely to want to fully commit and take themselves out of the picture.

And it might be 2025 when most seats become available, but as Brown adds, teams are going to want to get their business done “sooner rather than later” given the permutations: “I think the market is already going!”