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Grapevine: Silly Season in Full Swing

BAR may have failed to score a World Championship point so far this year but that has not prevented them becoming a key target for some of the sport's bigger stars in their quest to land a top-line seat in 2006

With Jenson Button looking almost certain to join Williams next year, with him unlikely to hit the much talked about performance related clause that kicks in after the Turkish Grand Prix, the possible vacancy has no shortage of candidates putting themselves forward as a possible replacement.

Autosport-Atlas understands that there are four candidates for either one or two seats at the team, depending on whether BAR decide to keep Takuma Sato on-board for another season.

Sources claim that the options have already been narrowed down to Rubens Barrichello, Nick Heidfeld, David Coulthard and Anthony Davidson - with preliminary talks already having begun about possible deals for next year.

Barrichello is under contract to Ferrari for next year but that does not necessarily mean he is definitely tied in - despite Ferrari insisting that they have no intention of ending the deal one year early to make a space for Felipe Massa.

Heidfeld's impressive performances for Williams this year have boosted his reputation a lot but are unlikely to be enough to allow him to get an extension to his current one-year deal for 2006, because of the Button situation.

He has been linked with a drive at Sauber, which is likely to have BMW engines next year, but sources close to the German have indicated that his management team are reluctant to make the switch to the Swiss team because the big changes that are set to take place imminently will take time to pay dividends.

They believe that BAR is a far better option for 2006.

Coulthard is already in talks with Red Bull Racing about staying on there for next year but is also understood to have had preliminary discussions with BAR for next year - and his new fired-up image would certainly suit BAR.

His current team boss Christian Horner is hopeful of keeping the Briton on board, however, and has told this week's Autosport that he is not worried by the BAR situation.

"We've been very happy with David and what he has contributed to the team," he said. "I'm not too distracted by any other rumours. If David wants to drive here and we want him, it will happen."

The failure of BAR to conclude a deal with any of these experienced stars would leave the way open for Davidson, who is holding out on his chance of landing a full-time Formula One chance.

Autosport reports this week that he recently turned down an offer to replace the injured Bruno Junqueira in the Newman/Haas Champ Car team because he is so set on F1.

He told this week's Autosport: "While I'm obviously desperate to get racing again, it would be mad to jack it all in when I've waited around F1 for so long.

"You've only got to look at Dan Wheldon, who's now an Indy 500 winner, but is desperate to get my seat. There are plenty of guys who would kill to be in my position."

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