2009 F1 drivers: who will be dropped?

Will Nelson Piquet Jnr and Sebastien Bourdais still be F1 drivers in 2009?

Will Nelson Piquet Jnr and Sebastien Bourdais still be F1 drivers in 2009?

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?

Sebastien Bourdais

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

Who else?

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.

F1 2009 season
F1 2009 drivers and teams

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.

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50 comments on 2009 F1 drivers: who will be dropped?

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  1. The Spanish Press are reporting that Alonso will stay at Renault – http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jHsQVWAwYLeJKA9GUlkLFBQXQx8Q

    This could make Piquet less secure for 2009?

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th September 2008, 15:25

    MW – perhaps the opposite. Piquet brings in money they can use to pay Alonso.

  3. santori said on 19th September 2008, 15:42

    Bourdais should stay. He’s obviously fast, based on his past record, including the races in the old TR. He’s had problems adapting to the new car but I think he might be getting on top of those. He seems very thoughtful, which should help.

    Piquet also should stay. His relatively poor qualifyings have only been about three tenths back from Fernando and apart from Spa he’s raced strongly. Like Bourdais, he seems to have a brain and when I look at his progress in his second years of F3 and GP2 it gives me hope for greater success in a second year of F1.

    I’d like to see them both on next year’s tyres, too.

  4. Alex Cooper said on 19th September 2008, 15:46

    As much as I’d like the Piquet name to remain in the sport, Nelson’s not done a huge amount this year to warrant keeping his seat – not on talent alone anyway.

    It’d be a “crying” shame if Bourdais lost his seat at Torro Rosso though. Throughout the whole of the debacle concerning the result of the Belgium Grand Prix, the tears that Seb held back reminded us all that this sport has a human side. I don’t think he’s done *THAT* bad a job this year – many from US Racing have done worse.

    Kazuki Nakajima must be big in Japan, or he must keep those Toyota revs in the back of the Williams hitting the high notes because as far as I can see the only progress he’s made in the last 12 months is to stop running his mechanics over.

  5. First of all, I think D Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello have been in F1 for a long time. Enough time to leave this sport, at least as drivers.

    It seems David has done the proper thing, should Barrichello follow the same way? IMHO yes. New blood have to come in, so, old ones should leave.

    For the rest, well, just wait a see, except for Kazuki. I agree with Alex Cooper, we would like having more exciting in F1, but not the kind of excitement Kazuki brings to us!

  6. graham228221 said on 19th September 2008, 16:02

    I’m sure Piquet will be dropped, his performances have been pretty woeful. 7 DNF’s out of 14 is an awful record, especially during a season when retirements have been curiously absent in general.

    And i’m sure STR would have confirmed Bourdais by now, if they were going too. it’s not a very good way to instil confidence in poor Seb! So i have a feeling he might be on his way back to America.

  7. Kazuki and Piquet Jr. have not been up to pace, I wont be surprised if both are out. But Williams might have to keep Kazuki due to Toyota link with Williams, and Renault might keep Piquet Jr. because he has got sponsorers with him.

  8. I don’t think its wise to change drivers so fast. Thing is, maybe the driver is having trouble adjusting, but at least the team know him, his work attitude, style of working, how to translate his feedback into technical improvements. With a new driver you are looking at the first half of the season being spent just on getting the human interface issues worked out.

    Ferrari believe in Kimi despite his lousy performance and want to keep him on for another 2 years. I wonder if this belief in the driver and a nurturing attitude is what differentiates the top teams from the others.

    So unless a driver is looking like a complete waste of time, I think they all should stay on for another year at least.

  9. diseased rat said on 19th September 2008, 16:12

    I really hope Bourdais is still driving next season, it’s nice to have a Frenchman who dominated Champ Car over a four year period in F1.

    I think his chances of staying are very good after reading the recent Autosport Q&A with Franz Tost. He said “The next point are the drivers, although both drivers are nearly new in F1, they are doing a fantastic job and Vettel’s performance curve is increasing tremendously.” That’s a pretty good endorsement for Bourdais right there.

  10. Yes, I think its time to think of new blood for the sport, with the new rules and new cars. Coulthard is going, and Barrichello should be thinking about it, and even Button. Honda must have some GP2 Asia or other young drivers under their wing….
    Its a shame Raikennon is staying put (and or Massa), its about time Ferrari cleared out their old stagers and brought in the younger generation. I was very surprised at the beginning of this year that there was no Red ‘Rookie’….
    We complain that the teams don’t bring the top drivers from GP2 into the cars soon enough, but without a ‘Rookie’ Championship alongside the main show (as in other series), what incentive is there?

  11. I like bourdais, and whilst his performance may have been marginal I find myself won over by him personally and am rooting to see him stay.

    Nelson and Kazuki, on the other hand, haven’t won me over either with their driving or their glowing personalities, and I’ve no objection to seeing them depart.

  12. Ron said that GP2 doesn’t have good enough talent this time. And it seems to be true. After all, an ex-F1 driver beat them all.
    So, that means the only good driver who doesn’t have a race seat is Takuma Sato ! ! And his only plus point is a free ticket to Honda engines.

    I doubt he will come back to racing. He might get a test seat.
    All the other drivers should be safe, but a merry-go-round is definitely on the cards.

  13. Agreed with Alex (Post #4), when you know what the Frenchman’s gone through to get to F1, how much he’s been patient for it and not get a car he may (or may not) deserve, it’ll be a shame not to keep him for at least another season, give him a chance. He’s not outshone this season, but he’s not been absolutely diabolical.

    That interview said it all, in an age where F1 drivers are so image conscious and many have some bravado exterior (imo), it’s nice to know that they are just human…well, ok, super-human all the same :)

  14. I see Kaz Nakajima’s name making round in the comments here. I am lifelong Williams Fan, and while it hurts to see the team not progressing. To be very Honest , If posters feel Kaz has not done enough, they need to compare him with his more Illustrious(!?)/Hyped team-mate. If Rosberg is considered to be prodigy and his best has extracted only these many points from FW30, Well Kaz has not done bad then. So let us not have “personal perceptions” cloud our judgements.

    Of Piquet and Bourdais. Bourdais has needs another season. and maybe French team needs to take another look at their “Home” driver this time…

  15. Alex Cooper said on 19th September 2008, 17:33

    DG (post #10) – you really think Button should retire??
    He’s only 28! He’s also highly marketable as well which at the moment is all Honda can lean on.

    He’s shown remarkable loyalty (for him) over the last couple of years when he’s been given a dog of a car to tour round in. I’m not a massive Button fan, but his attitude has impressed me recently. I really hope for his sake that his gamble pays off next year and Honda give him something worthy of his talent.

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