As the season-opening Australian Grand Prix draws ever closer, eight drivers will be missing a fundamental aspect of what used to be their livelihoods. GPUpdate.net has put together a list of Formula 1's winter departures to highlight the significant change to the 2013 line-up and takes a look at what the future holds for them.

Michael Schumacher

Age: 44 / Starts: 307 / Titles: 7 / Wins: 91 / Podiums: 155 / Points: 1,566

Michael Schumacher is the only driver out of the eight in this list to have willingly left the sport. The seven-time World Champion, who endured a difficult three-year comeback with Mercedes, is devoting a second retirement to his family, helping wife Corinna with her horse breeding and business ventures. Looking towards the future, the German has stated that a Formula 1 punditry role does not interest him.

Kamui Kobayashi

Age: 26 / Starts: 60 / Titles: 0 / Wins: 0 / Podiums: 1 / Points: 125

Kamui Kobayashi's Formula 1 exit was greeted by a wall of negativity from fans of the sport, highlighting the extent of his global popularity. Although his departure will have caused permanent scars, the Japanese driver has gone a long way in healing the short-term pain of Sauber's line-up decision by securing a coveted World Endurance Championship (WEC) drive with Ferrari’s factory AF Corse squad.

Bruno Senna

Age: 29 / Starts: 46 / Titles: 0 / Wins: 0 / Podiums: 0 / Points: 33

It was always going to be difficult for Bruno Senna to retain his Williams Formula 1 seat this season, having been forced to give up a total of 15 practice outings to the now promoted Valtteri Bottas last year. Although the Brazilian's dream of emulating late uncle Ayrton is now over, he has a prime opportunity to demonstrate his true potential after securing a deal to race a works Aston Martin Vantage GTE in the WEC.

Heikki Kovalainen

Age: 31 / Starts: 109 / Titles: 0 / Wins: 1 / Podiums: 4 / Points: 105

Heikki Kovalainen's departure was one of the biggest shocks last winter, with the Finn being left on the sidelines for the first time in six seasons. Three years at Caterham saw the edge taken off his promising name and, as more youngsters rise to the top of the sport, a return is questionable. The former Renault and McLaren man has nothing in place for 2013 and has shown little interest in a Formula 1 reserve role.

Vitaly Petrov

Age: 28 / Starts: 57 / Titles: 0 / Wins: 0 / Podiums: 1 / Points: 64

For Vitaly Petrov, failing to extend his stay at Caterham comes as a bitter blow. The Russian's impressive performance at last year's Brazilian Grand Prix saw the Leafield-based team reclaim the crucial tenth place in the Constructors' standings, but this was not enough to halt Giedo van der Garde's arrival. Formula 1 options are now limited for the Vyborg man, but a home Grand Prix in 2014 could save his career.

Pedro de la Rosa

Age: 42 / Starts: 105 / Titles: 0 / Wins: 0 / Podiums: 1 / Points: 35

Pedro de la Rosa's HRT deal was never going to yield substantial rewards, with the team struggling to launch its 2012 car on time and later apply any meaningful upgrades. The Spaniard's 13-year spell in Formula 1 came to an end when HRT closed its doors at the end of last season, but he has since been handed a development role with Ferrari and will complete important work in the team's simulator.

Narain Karthikeyan

Age: 36 / Starts: 46 / Titles: 0 / Wins: 0 / Podiums: 0 / Points: 5

Narain Karthikeyan had to fight tooth and nail to make the grid in 2011 and 2012, so although unfortunate, his current situation comes as no surprise following HRT's exit. The Indian was a highly rated driver in lower categories, but he was never given a genuine opportunity to display his full abilities during a patchy career in Formula 1. As for what lies ahead, the United States appears to hold the best opportunities.

Timo Glock

Age: 30 / Starts: 91 / Titles: 0 / Wins: 0 / Podiums: 3 / Points: 51

Timo Glock's mutual split from Marussia, initiated by financial issues, is definitely a loss for the sport, but it became increasingly clear last season that he was in need of a change. After three years at the back of the Formula 1 grid, the German is now filled with a renewed sense of optimism as he enters the DTM series, a category in which he should be able to achieve the level of success that his talent deserves.

Mike Seymour
GPUpdate.net Editor