In this picture, Ferrari's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel, Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, Red Bull's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen, middle row (R-L) Force India's French driver Esteban Ocon, Force India's Mexican driver Sergio Perez, Renault's German driver Nico Hulkenberg, Renault's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz,McLaren's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso, McLaren's Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne, Williams' Canadian driver Lance Stroll, Williams Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin, top row L-R, Haas French driver Romain Grosjean, Haas Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, Sauber's Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson, Sauber's Monaco driver Charles Leclerc, Toro Rosso's French driver Pierre Gasly and Toro Rosso's New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley pose for a photo prior to the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 25, 2018. SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

The 2018 Formula 1 season driver market continues to be a hot topic of discussion in the paddock after the silly season got underway much earlier than expected this season.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull all had potential vacancies and it was understood very early the jigsaw will only fall into place once the top six drives on the grid are fulfilled.

Mercedes were the first to confirm their driver lineup after much speculation over the futures of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, the reigning champions decided to retain their current pairing for 2019. The former signed a two-year deal until the end of the 2020 season, while the latter was handed a one-year extension yet again.

Toto Wolff had initially indicated Hamilton was their team’s priority, but Bottas’ place was uncertain with the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon in the running. But the Finn’s performances this season have convinced the team to retain him for at least one more season.

Mercedes, however, are the only team on the grid to have a confirmed driver lineup for the 2019 season with the other nine teams yet to decide. Every weekend there is a new rumor about a certain driver moving to another team, and with the sport heading into the summer break, it is unlikely to be settled before the start of the second-half of the campaign.

Sebastian Vettel is contracted to Ferrari until the end of the 2020 season, but Kimi Raikkonen is in the final few months of his contract with the Italian outfit. The Finn is keen to stay for at least one more season, but admits the final decision lies with the management.

Charles Leclerc, the young rising star, who is part of the Ferrari academy has been constantly linked with a move to Ferrari. Reports suggest a deal until 2020 has already been agreed with the Monegasque driver as his impressive debut campaign with Sauber goes from strength to strength.

Meanwhile, it is almost a similar situation at Red Bull Racing with Max Verstappen tied down on a long-term deal, while Ricciardo is in the final few months of his contract. It looked like the Australian will leave the team at the end of the season, but lack of opportunities at Ferrari and Mercedes have seen him begin negotiations with his current employers over a new deal.

Ricciardo revealed recently he had held positive talks but they are yet to reach an agreement. He is keen to ensure they will be challenging for the title in the years to come despite the team switching engine partners from Renault to Honda in 2019.

It is only the top three teams that have at least one driver confirmed for the 2019 season with the other seven still to decide about their driver lineup for next season. And it is all a case of them waiting for the top teams to make their move before everything falls into place.

At Renault, it is almost certain that Nico Hulkenburg will remain next season, but the future of Carlos Sainz is unclear — his future is tied with that of Ricciardo, as he is contracted to Red Bull team and was only on loan to Renault for the 2018 season.

It is being suggested Renault are in talks to sign Ocon from Force India from 2019 leaving a vacancy alongside Sergio Perez, who though not contracted, is likely to remain with the financially troubled outfit.

Haas Racing are having a successful season with Kevin Magnussen leading the way in terms of points scored, but Romain Grosjean has not ably backed up his teammate with multiple DNF’s since the start of the campaign. Both the drivers are not contracted for 2019, but the former is likely to be kept on.

Grosjean reportedly could be replaced at Haas by Leclerc in the event that Ferrari opt not to promote the youngster to the works team in 2019. This will leave a vacancy at the Sauber team, whose second driver Marcus Ericsson is also out of contract next season.

Red Bull Racing’s sister team — Toro Rosso — are currently with Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley as their two drivers and are yet to confirm their lineup for the 2019 season. While the final team Williams are also yet to confirm if they will stick with Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin for 2019.

There are a number of drivers fighting for their future as the 2018 season enters the second phase – and the key names are Grosjean and Sainz. The former is not in favor at the moment after some disappointing drives for Haas, while the latter’s situation is not connected with his driving ability but his contractual situation with Red Bull.