The cogs have already started to turn in the 2021 Formula 1 driver market before the teams have reconvened in Barcelona for 2020 testing.
Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have both announced contract extensions with their respective teams, closing off two coveted seats more than a year in advance.
Elsewhere, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo are among the majority of the grid that is out of contract after the final race of the 2020 season in Abu Dhabi.
It’s likely to make for a chaotic driver market, particularly as teams prepare for new regulations in 2021 and drivers will assess their options ahead of the reset.
Potential vacancies at Mercedes and Ferrari will no doubt be the target for many, while a possible return for Fernando Alonso is a twist that could add to the drama.
Who will gamble on a new home for 2021 in the hope that their team has aced the new regulations; who will be content to stay put in familiar surroundings; and who will find themselves replaced with someone younger and faster?
Here is the latest news and rundown of rumours as the 2021 grid begins to take shape
A switch to Ferrari is just one of the possibilities for Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton will find himself out of contract after this season and will play a big part in the driver market.
Would he move away from Mercedes where he has achieved the majority of his F1 success and take on a new challenge in what would be the final few years of his career?
Ferrari is an apparent option for him after it was confirmed last year that he had met with Ferrari president John Elkann.
Though Ferrari has played down the meeting since, should Hamilton equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven F1 world championships in 2020, there would be something poetic about returning the championship title to Ferrari while breaking that record with the Prancing Horse.
The 2019 champion moved to play down speculation that discussions over a new contract were already underway ahead of the new season.
In an Instagram post, Hamilton revealed that talks between himself and Toto Wolff had not even begun despite a supposed deal in place.
Valtteri Bottas’s current Mercedes deal also expires at the end of 2020, after the team took up an option to extend his contract for a further year last season.
While the Finn achieved his best season to date in 2019, Mercedes may be looking elsewhere once more.
Esteban Ocon had been considered for the second Mercedes seat before Bottas was retained, but George Russell waits in the wings at Williams.
The 2018 Formula 2 champion has been consigned to the rear of the field by virtue of an uncompetitive car, but it is clear Mercedes rates the 21-year-old Brit.
Read more: Hamilton could favour Ferrari over Mercedes with new 2021 F1 contract
Ferrari: Charles Leclerc & ?
Ferrari committed to Leclerc early but where does it leave Vettel?
Just a handful of days before Christmas, Charles Leclerc was handed an early present as Ferrari announced he would remain with the Scuderia until the 2024 F1 season, having signed a five-year deal.
The Monégasque driver impressed in just his second year in F1, taking on and beating team-mate Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship and scoring three wins to the German’s one.
It’s a deal that marks Leclerc out as the future of the Italian team, though who will partner him in 2021 remains to be seen.
Vettel has struggled to deal with Leclerc since his arrival at Ferrari. Many have questioned whether the four-time champion still loves the sport. His radio message in Russia, urging F1 to “bring back the V12s” as his hybrid unit developed a problem, evidence of frustration that has only grown in recent championship-less seasons.
With his current contract ending at the end of the 2020 season, could retirement be an option for a family man disillusioned with F1? Will he remain at Ferrari, or will he surprise everyone and look at other available seats?
Read more: Charles Leclerc signs five-year Ferrari contract extension