F1: KIMI RAIKKONEN TO FERRARI
2007 world champion returns to partner Alonso
After four years away (but only three off the payroll) Ferrari's last world champion returns to the Scuderia to partner its tainted goldenballs, Fernando Alonso.
Kimi's race-winning form with Lotus during the past two years, coupled with a real fear that Alonso was about to do the unthinkable and walk out on his long-term contract to McLaren, led to this unlikely renewal of wedding vows.
Even more far-fetched, president Luca di Montezemolo - the man who sanctioned Kimi's payoff that he spent on rallying - acquiesced to the Finn's recall. A rare u-turn.
Since his return to F1, Raikkonen has appeared a different animal to that who wowed with Sauber, McLaren and Ferrari first time around - no longer Mr Maximum Attack, more Mr Consistency.
He should pose a much far more abrasive (albeit apolitical) team-mate than Alonso had in Felipe Massa, and it also marks an end to the clear number one/two demarcation; and team orders and Kimi are not happy bedfellows...
For Kimi fans, it's a dream move. For Alonso, he's a threat who'll need swatting. For Raikkonen... who knows?
He says: (He doesn't say anything, but Stefano Domenicali says:) "For anyone thinking that the choice of Kimi is somehow an anti-Alonso choice, I can put their minds at rest."
F1: DANIEL RICCIARDO TO RED BULL
Toro Rosso graduate accepts biggest challenge in F1
Red Bull's decision to promote from within its junior team ranks, rather than hire a proven 'outsider' like Kimi Raikkonen, should ensure continued harmony as it bids for a fifth straight world title with Sebastian Vettel.
Ricciardo's first task will be to support Red Bull's constructors' championship bid; his second will be to match the recent form of outgoing incumbent Mark Webber (third, third, sixth and third in the past four seasons) in the car.
The ultimate test for Ricciardo, of course, is how he compares against Vettel. The new regulations will give him a great opportunity as the established frontrunners bed-in to their new machinery, and his 'headmaster', Dr Helmut Marko, has set a target of challenging Vettel by "mid-season at the latest".
Depending on circumstances, he must be aiming for a 180ish-point season to retain his place, with Red Bull's conveyor belt of talent bringing in talented Russian Daniil Kvyat alongside Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso next year.
His dream move made, having ticked all the boxes so far, now Ricciardo's goal must be to retain his seat - and that means getting close to Vettel.
He says: "Hopefully Sebastian's not as dominant with this new rules package as he has been. I will do everything I can to get up to his level."
F1: PASTOR MALDONADO TO LOTUS
F1 bad boy joins reformed character Grosjean
Venezuela's only grand prix winner has been tarred with many brushes, including 'pay driver' and 'rock ape'. However, that simplistic view is to ignore someone who's won a race in a Williams, under intense pressure from Fernando Alonso in his home grand prix.
Like writing off Romain Grosjean as a 'first-lap nutcase', there's more to Maldonado than meets the eye. There should be no excuses about the machinery beneath him, and if his moments of over-enthusiasm can be kept in check, it's a very potent line-up. But that's a big 'if'.
He says: "It is a fantastic opportunity. I just need to have a good car, good support from the team and try to improve myself in every way."
F1: FELIPE MASSA TO WILLIAMS
Ferrari stalwart joins sleeping giant
After eight years at Ferrari, this move will come as a huge culture shock.
Like Rubens Barrichello before him, Massa has the opportunity to extend his F1 career - and should the Mercedes engine be the benchmark, as many expect, he could certainly add to his massive career points-haul (eighth on the all-time list).
But he'll find last year's star rookie Valtteri Bottas a tough team-mate.
He says: "So many things are changing inside the team that it maybe can be interesting and important for the future, not just next year."
F1: NICO HULKENBERG AND SERGIO PEREZ TO FORCE INDIA
Stopgap moves or Mercedes-powered masterstroke?
Dream drives turned to nightmares for both of these drivers: Hulkenberg's hoped-for move to Lotus didn't materialise due to money issues; Perez's tenure of a McLaren seat lasted just for one (apparently) not-good-enough season.
In terms of ports in a storm, Force India provides each with the chance to showcase their undoubted talents again.
Perhaps the most telling stat, however, will be how they fare against each other.
Hulkenberg says: "I'm happy coming back here, and I can see [the team] is moving forwards."
Perez says: "If I didn't get this drive it would have been difficult to stay in F1."
F1: KEVIN MAGNUSSEN TO MCLAREN
Make-or-break chance for Formula Renault 3.5 champ
One of the big questions of 2014 must be: is Magnussen the next Lewis Hamilton or the next Heikki Kovalainen?
Judging by his junior category form, he is well prepared for McLaren's second seat, but is he ready for a drive with such a top team?
His father Jan had huge talent, but couldn't apply himself at the highest level. Kevin appears to have a wiser head on his young shoulders, and must grasp this opportunity.
He says: "The fact that Lewis was so successful doesn't raise the pressure for me, it just shows that it can be done."
F1: ADRIAN SUTIL TO SAUBER
Can he match Hulkenberg's sterling efforts?
Odd that a team associated with Chelsea, who once bought Fernando Torres for £50million, could not afford to cling on to (or perhaps didn't want) its pushy F1-winner-in-waiting Hulkenberg.
Instead, in true Swiss style, it has opted for the sensible option of a proven quantity in Sutil.
He brings over 100 GP starts alongside second-year driver Esteban Gutierrez, and will be key if Sauber is to repeat its seventh position in last year's constructors' points.
He says: "It's now time to embark on a new challenge. I am determined to do my part in order to have a successful future together."
F1: DANIIL KVYAT TO TORO ROSSO
GP3 champion gets chance to show he's Vettel MkII
The way he stormed to last year's GP3 title in the second half of the season proves he's capable of great things, but he'll still be a teenager when his F1 career starts.
It's that potential that Red Bull is attempting to mine by placing him at Toro Rosso. There should be little pressure on his shoulders, and a fine yardstick is provided by team-mate Vergne.
He says: "This is a dream come true and a priceless opportunity."
WEC: MARK WEBBER TO PORSCHE LMP1
Le Mans return for Formula 1 stalwart
After his dozen years in Formula 1, the nine-time grand prix winner returns to sportscars for the first time since his Mercedes GT days.
Those are best (or worst) remembered for his Le Mans somersaults in 1999, but don't forget he's a five-time winner in FIA GTs, sharing his Merc with Bernd Schneider, so he's no stranger to regular long-distance racing in front-of-the-field machinery.
Porsche's return to top-flight prototypes is also one of the big stories of 2014, so it will be fascinating to see what this combination can do against the established might of Audi, with its flyers like Andre Lotterer and Loic Duval, and Toyota's third-year campaign with the likes of Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi.
Le Mans will be the programme's centrepiece, as Porsche returns as a factory contender for overall honours for the first time since it last won there in 1998. Its LMP1 project is all-new, headed by former BMW 1 chief Fritz Enzinger.
Whether Webber is up to the task isn't in question here; it's how quickly Porsche's 919 hybrid can catch up with its proven rivals.
He says: "I'm very much looking forward to this new challenge. Porsche will undoubtedly set very high goals."
WEC: FREDERIC MAKOWIECKI TO PORSCHE GT
Surprise move from Aston for 'best-in-class' driver
This was a surprise move, not least as 'Fred Mako' held factory contracts with two manufacturers - Aston Martin and Honda - last year.
He won races in the World Endurance Championship, Blancpain Endurance Series and Super GT in Japan - and his Blancpain pole at Silverstone was arguably the GT lap of the year.
The 33-year-old joins Porsche's nine-man roster of works GT drivers (Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb were recruited for its new LMP1 project), and he'll concentrate on the WEC.
He says: "Porsche is special for me because it is where I started my sportscar career."
IndyCar: JUAN PABLO MONTOYA TO PENSKE
CART champion, Indianapolis 500 and F1 winner moves on from NASCAR
It seems a long time ago that he was challenging for regular race wins in Formula 1 - and that's because it is.
Since he jumped ship mid-2006 in an angry flap to NASCAR with old mate Chip Ganassi, he's been trying (mainly unsuccessfully) to crack US stock car's code. He never did win a race on an oval, although won races around both of the Sprint Cup's road courses, racking up 24 top-fives and 59 top-10s in total over seven years out of single-seaters.
With Ganassi running out of patience with Montoya, his IndyCar rival Penske has swooped (beating Andretti Autosport) to bring him back to a series that he starred in during its Champ Car guise.
He won one-quarter of all the races between 1999-2000 - a staggering hit-rate - leading over half of them (1774 laps!) and, of course, the Indianapolis 500 at his first (and only) attempt.
After struggling with Ganassi's mid-grid stock car team, Montoya reasons that he wanted to drive a race-winning car again. Roger Penske will give him that, so will Chip live to rue letting him leave - especially now that Dario Franchitti has been forced to retire?
He says: "I wanted to race for Roger. I'm so excited. I'm like a five-year-old kid again."
IndyCar: TONY KANAAN AND RYAN BRISCOE TO GANASSI
Indy 500 winner replaces retiring Franchitti; second chance for Aussie
Indy winner Kanaan had already done his deal to switch to Chip Ganassi's crack IndyCar squad before the accident that forced Dario Franchitti's retirement from the sport.
Subsequently, the decision was made for him to drive Franchitti's famed #10 Target car, allowing Briscoe the opportunity to return to the team that gave him his first shot in 2005.
Kanaan says: "I want to be in the best team with the best guys who have been beating me."
Briscoe says: "It's not every day you get to be a part of a team like this."
WRC: ROBERT KUBICA TO M-SPORT
Ex-F1 star gets full-time WRC opportunity
His injuries sustained in a crash in an Italian rally in 2011 have precluded a return to F1, so the Pole is pressing on with his rallying career.
Having sealed the WRC2 title last year with Citroen, he has transferred to Malcolm Wilson's M-Sport team for his first attempt at the full WRC series.
The decision of his co-driver Maciek Baran to walk away from their partnership blunted his hopes of starring in a works Citroen on last year's Rally GB, during which he crashed twice.
His speed is not in any doubt, but the accidents that have blighted his rally career must be stopped if he's to progress to be a WRC title challenger.
He says: "M-Sport will create a solid foundation for my development and I'm looking forward to gathering valuable experience on the WRC stages."
WRC: THIERRY NEUVILLE TO HYUNDAI
Last year's runner-up leads South Korean charge
Hyundai's return to the WRC arena, following its somewhat acrimonious exit in 2003, is headlined in its intent by signing last year's world championship runner-up.
Neuville is under no illusions about the task ahead of him, hence his long-term, three-year deal to develop the i20.
He says: "It is the perfect fit because it is a young, emerging and ambitious manufacturer team with long-term objectives."
WRC: KRIS MEEKE TO CITROEN
Despite the crashes, Briton gets Loeb's prized seat
After a number of false dawns (his last with Mini in 2011) in a rollercoaster career, Colin McRae's protege finally gets his major break in a full-time works car with a committed manufacturer.
What's more, he effectively replaces the legendary Sebastien Loeb in its line-up: no pressure there!
If he can resist the temptation to drive flat-out, and keep it on four wheels, he could finally deliver on all that promise as Britain's next WRC title hope.
He says: "I'm not coming in to try and emulate Loeb, nobody could ever do that."
WRC: MIKKO HIRVONEN AND ELFYN EVANS TO M-SPORT
One restoring his reputation, one seeking to make his
The Citroen reject and rising Welsh star both have points to prove, but for polar opposite reasons.
Hirvonen didn't shine as expected with Citroen, and is seeking to re-established his career with a team he has starred with before; Evans takes the next step as M-Sport attempts to craft a British star of the future.
Hirvonen says: "Joining M-Sport will give us a good chance to try again - a fresh start."
Evans says: "We have a long-term plan to get to where we all, ultimately, want to be."
Indy Lights: JACK HARVEY TO SAM SCHMIDT
Rising British star seeks his fortune in the States
As reigning British Formula 3 champion, fifth in his rookie season in GP3 wasn't quite enough to convince his backer, Racing Steps Foundation, that spending more millions on the F1 feeder series was worthwhile.
For the first time, it has switched its sights to the American open-wheel scene where Harvey will race for one of IndyCar's top junior teams.
He says: "We always try to associate ourselves with winners, which is exactly what this team has proven itself to be."
GP2: JOLYON PALMER TO DAMS
Multiple race winner seeks title tilt with former champion team
For his fourth year in GP2, this is a no-excuses move to the multiple champion team that took Romain Grosjean and Davide Valsecchi to their crowns.
Palmer has three GP2 victories to his name, and two of those came last year in feature races with Carlin.
DAMS only finished fourth in last year's teams' championship, and is eager to match its Formula Renault 3.5 squad's recent title feat.
He says: "I only have one objective for next year, which is to win the GP2 title."
FR3.5: CARLOS SAINZ JR TO DAMS
Red Bull protege takes champion Magnussen's place
The son of world rally legend Carlos senior moves to the team that took Kevin Magnussen to last year's title, allowing him to graduate to F1.
After a mixed bag in his dual GP3/FR3.5 campaigns, Sainz will hope the French team offers him the stability he craves for a full-on title tilt to earn his continued place in the Red Bull junior ranks.
He says: "Since the first test I did with DAMS last year I have always wanted to be part of this team."
DTM: ANTONIO FELIX DA COSTA AND MAXIME MARTIN TO BMW
Red Bull junior and GT racing star switch codes
Overlooked by Toro Rosso in favour of Daniil Kvyat, da Costa can busy himself in the hotbed of DTM competition, leaving him free for F1 simulator work for Red Bull Racing on GP weekends too.
Martin comes from a very different background; last year commuting between the American Le Mans Series and Blancpain Endurance Series for BMW as well as testing its DTM car.
He's highly-rated in GT circles, how he adapts to tin-top sprints will be fascinating.
Da Costa says: "DTM will open new things for me to learn, so as a driver I can develop."
Martin says: "It was always my goal to use my year as test and development driver to put forward my case for a DTM seat."
WTCC: SEBASTIEN LOEB AND YVAN MULLER TO CITROEN
WRC legend joins four-time champ for inaugural Citroen bid
After a year of racing his McLaren in FIA GTs, WRC gigastar Loeb makes his tin-top bow as part of Citroen's new attack.
In team-mate Muller, he has the ultimate benchmark of performance. After the way his last French team-mate relationship ended (remember Ogier?) there could be fireworks!
Loeb says: "I don't expect to win straight away, but I am determined to get there one day."
Muller says: "We have set ambitious goals for our new challenge in WTCC."
WTCC: ROB HUFF TO LADA
Russians get serious with swoop for ex-world champ
The 2012 World Touring Car champion is back in a works car, but not quite the one we might have expected.
While Citroen will be grabbing the headlines with its Muller/Loeb axis, Huff has two years to knuckle down and turn Lada's Granta model into a world beater for the new generation of regulations.
He says: "I've been working hard all year to get back in a manufacturer seat, so I'm very happy."
BTCC: MARC HYNES TO TRIPLE 8 MG
The man who beat Button in F3 makes racing return
Triple 8 is no stranger to running satellite cars alongside its main operation, so if Hynes can get rid of the rust after a five-year sabbatical from racing expect him to be there or thereabouts the likes of Jason Plato et al.
He says: "I want to win the BTCC, but I don't know how long it might take."
NASCAR: KEVIN HARVICK AND KURT BUSCH TO STEWART-HAAS
Two more aces join Tony Stewart's all-star line-up
Harvick has been a nearly-man of NASCAR, often knocking on the door of the championship but never being invited over the threshold.
His move from Richard Childress Racing, with Budweiser backing, gives team boss Stewart a top-flight wingman.
In Busch's case, this former champion brings his bad-boy persona to the party. More likely to butt heads than bring harmony to the outfit, there's no doubting his speed or ability to win races in top-notch equipment.
Stewart says: "Everybody is looking at this as 'oh my God, this is an atomic bomb that can get set off at any moment'. But I really think it's an asset for Kurt to have both myself and Kevin as a support system, and to lean on each other."
V8 Supercars: CHAZ MOSTERT TO FPR
Youngster replaces Will Davison at Bathurst-winning team
Talents don't come more precocious than this: the 21-year-old stepped up from the Development Series to replace Jonny Reid at the struggling Dick Johnson Racing team after three events last season and took a shock win at Queensland Raceway.
He says: "To be able to call myself an official Ford factory driver is truly a dream come true."
This article also appears in the January 9 issue of AUTOSPORT magazine