Before the Italian Grand Prix ITV showed an interview with Sebastien Bourdais. The stress of knowing his F1 drive for 2009 is under threat was plain to see as he started crying at one point.
He’s not the only driver who’s place in F1 in 2009 is in doubt: Nelson Piquet Jnr is waiting to learn whether he’ll be driving for Renault next year. Which of these drivers deserves to keep their seat?
Bourdais’ season began well as he scored on his debut at Melbourne. Without a late engine problem he’d have finished even higher, but it was a bright beginning.
Since then he’s had some problems – in fact four of his five subsequent races ended in retirement, and none of them due to car failure. Toro Rosso’s introduction of the STR3 also seemed to work out better for team mate Sebastian Vettel than Bourdais.
But he had some cruel luck in the last two races as well (as Christine noted here). Going into the final lap at Spa he was third, but as Nick Heidfeld blasted past him on the final lap using wet-weather tyres (Bourdais still on dry-weather rubber) Bourdais slithered wide and was also passed by Vettel and Robert Kubica, and then the flying Fernando Alonso got him as well.
At Monza his car stalled on the grid after he’d qualified fourth. He probably didn’t have Vettel’s pace over the race distance but without that critical delay a decent haul of points was definitely on the cards.
Vettel’s departure to Red Bull next year in theory eases the pressure on Bourdais. But with the team testing GP2 racer Sebastien Buemi and ex-Super Aguri pilot Takuma Sato this week, they may be considering an all-new line-up in 2009 (more on this from Wolf). There are even rumours Alonso could ‘return’ to the team next year (he raced for them as Minardi in 2001) but then, who hasn’t Alonso been linked to for 2009 at some point?
Read more about Sebastien Bourdais: Sebastien Bourdais biography
Nelson Piquet Jnr
Around the mid-part of the season Piquet seemed to have got on top of the problems he’d had earlier in the year. He raced well at Magny-Cours and nabbed a place off Alonso in the closing stages, and after inheriting the lead in fortunate circumstances at Hockenheim he did a commendable and mature job to bring the car home in second.
But he’s been knocked out in Q1 in three of the last five races. At Spa he spun on a wet kerb in practice – a forgiveable mistake in testing, but he committed exactly the same error during the race. Given his form in the rain at Hungary in GP2 two years ago I expected better from him in races like those we’ve seen recently at Monza and Spa.
Last year Heikki Kovalainen rebounded from a poor start to the season with Renault to end the year in excellent style – and still got dropped. Piquet hasn’t shown anything like that kind of improvement, but he does have a tougher team mate and a less competitive car. All the same, I think his financial backing will have a bigger say in whether he keeps his seat next year than his talent will.
Read more about Nelson Piquet Jnr: Nelson Piquet Jnr
Kazuki Nakajima hasn’t been on Nico Rosberg’s pace but he has at least been consistent enough to score eight points – only one fewer than his team mate. But it will be his Toyota connections that keep him at Williams for another year.
If Honda lands Fernando Alonso, will Rubens Barrichello or Jenson Button face the axe? Presumably it would be Barrichello, given he has now been racing in F1 longer than anyone ever.
Force India seem likely to keep Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil.
Which F1 drivers do you think will lose their seats in 2009? Could any of them, as Vee sugests, get dropped before the end of the year? Have your say in the comments.