Brawn set to extend Button’s contract – but will he get a new team mate?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Should Rubens Barrichello stay at Brawn for 2010?
Should Rubens Barrichello stay at Brawn for 2010?

On the eve of the Australian Grand Prix it emerged Jenson Button had accepted a pay cut in the region of ??12-15m to stay at Brawn GP following the withdrawal of Honda.

Now, with a healthy lead in the world championship, he is tipped to sign a new multi-year deal with Brawn.

Button looks set to stay – but will Rubens Barrichello remain as his team mate?

Barrichello at Honda and Brawn

Rubens Barrichello’s F1 future was written off at the end of last season as many expected the most experienced F1 driver ever to be dropped by Honda in favour of sponsor-friendly GP2 racer Bruno Senna.

But after Honda put its team up and Brawn took over, Barrichello’s F1 career was saved.

By the end of this year he’ll have amassed 284 Grand Prix starts. Another full season in 2010 could but him past the 300 mark. But will he get another contract extension?

Barrichello joined Honda in 2006. He was largely out-performed by Button in their first two years as team mates, but Barrichello turned the tables last, most notably with an excellent podium finish in the streaming wet British Grand Prix.

However Button has beaten him in all six races so far this year, taking five wins and a third place. Barrichello has said he felt the modifications made to the BGP001 at the Spanish Grand Prix better suited his driving style, but he is yet to make that improvement count on race day.

After the Spanish race Barrichello revealed his frustration with his race strategy, which left him vulnerable to being passed by Button, leading to suggestions that Brawn was favouring its championship leader. The team rejected the claims.

It isn’t necessarily the case that if Barrichello is under-performing Brawn might seek to replace him. He continues to display the qualities that made him the perfect number two to Michael Schumacher – even if he is adamant that his contractually inferior status to Schumacher at Ferrari is not being replicated with Button at Brawn.

A new team mate for Button?

If Brawn did want to replace Barrichello, to whom might they turn?

They aren’t likely to be short of suitors. Most F1 drivers are due to have their contracts renewed this year, including Nick Heidfeld, Robert Kubica, Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli, Nico Rosberg and (presuming the Ferrari rumours aren’t true) Fernando Alonso.

Outside F1 we find a crop of promising talent including Bruno Senna, Lucas di Grassi, Paul di Resta (linked to Mercedes via the DTM, but likely to be disadvantaged by sharing the same nationality as Button) and Romain Grosjean (though likely to end up at Renault).

Are any of these drivers a better prospect for the team than Barrichello? Or should he get to stay with the team and become the first driver to start more than 300 races?

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84 comments on “Brawn set to extend Button’s contract – but will he get a new team mate?”

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  1. If Brawn did want to replace Barrichello, to whom might they turn?

    What do you think, Keith?

  2. Rubens will of course be signed up for another season after he turns the tables on Jenson and takes the title at the Brazilian Grand Prix ;)

    Hope springs eternal…

    Back in the real world, I expect Rubens to bow out. I’m sure he’ll win a race or two this season and to exit the sport after winning races in his 17th season (and as the oldest driver) would be a career end most drivers can only dream of.

    If Brawn are thinking long-term, they should look to a young hotshoe to develop into a team leader for when Jenson eventually moves on or retires. I’m fairly certain that will be Bruno Senna.

    1. I second your motion Pete Walker, Bruno would be the obvious choice to groom as a future championship contender.

    2. I cant think of anyone worse than bruno senna. he’ll be a piquet. looks fast in another series, but will blow in F1. it’s not like he’s walking all over drivers in other race series. sure he’s competitive, but not dominating.

      i’m not so sure if they’ll drop or lose rubens yet. they are still growing that new package and car and rubens has helped button in the last two races.

      without rubens knowledge of how an f1 car works button would not have had the right setup for the last two races, on both counts he used rubens setup as his starting point and moved from there.

      IMO they should go after vettel, but i doubt he will change teams, he’s a good kid that will stay loyal to RBR for a long time, i think they’d be better off with either Alonso, Rosberg or one of the other upcoming rookies.

    3. sure he’s competitive, but not dominating.

      Exactly. I don’t like the way Senna talks as if he’s assumed to get into F1 at some point. He’s not that special, has never won a championship,(compare this to Hamilton’s 5 before he entered F1 for example), has won 3 races from 41 starts in GP2… where is the evidence he should be in F1?

    4. yeah totally agree. i get the same impression, he’s barely making top 10 finishes, how is that f1 material?

    5. seriously, change his name to Steve Smith and then rate him as a potential f1 driver against the other talent that’s around.

      1. It’s a bit unfair comparing senna’s lack of a championship to Hamilton’s 5 before F1. Senna only started racing in 2005 I think, so being competitive at all is fairly impressive. I’d like to see Brawn sign him, just because it would be interesting to see how he performs.

  3. i think they should replace him because he is crying all the time. Who knows we may even see alonso there?

  4. I’d like to see Rubens go when he wants to, not when someone else has decided that he is past it.

    But, there is also something to be said for not outstaying your welcome. Would have been far nicer for DC if he’d retired a season earlier, and I think Rubens should keep that in mind.

    1. Scott Joslin
      28th May 2009, 16:30

      I think they would be ill advised to change anything, he seems to be doing a very good job and, despite throwing his toys out of his pram in Spain, he is a team player. Next year should be harder for the Brawn team and therefore equally as critical as this year. Perhaps once the team is financially established then perhaps they can take risks on new boy such as the aforementioned names.

      Bruno Senna would be a mistake I feel. A young driver who has not won a major championship, who is prone to mistakes and one that has had an enforced year of absense would be a negative destraction for the team.

      Perhaps go half way and get someone with decent experience but a point to prove – Davidson perhaps or Kovi if he is droped for Rosberg next year at Mclaren.

    2. He always said he wants to get 300 race starts, but it wouldn’t be good if he had to spend that last year in a dog of a car after having such a good car this year.

  5. Jonathan102
    28th May 2009, 11:30

    Unless Rubens do ridiculously bad for the rest of the season, i can’t see Brawn dropping him for a new/young driver.

  6. Rubens is still very good at setting the car up – his work on Friday and Saturday has helped save Button’s bacon at each of the last two or even three races. Which is not to say Jenson can’t set up a car, but two wise heads are always better than one in that respect.

    He still has the desire, and if he believes next year’s car is going to be another good one (and why wouldn’t he?), I’m sure Rubens will be trying his best to persuade the team to keep him.

    On the other hand, Bruno Senna must be a tempting commercial draw (more from Bernie’s point of view than Brawn’s), and I’d love to see Ant Davidson back in a Formula 1 car. A lot will depend on which teams end up getting a place in F1 next year…

  7. I would love to see him in the seat next year and break the 300 mark. But if her were to leave then having someone like either Alonso or Heidfield may be good! Heidfield would, i think, get on well with the balance of the car more so than his BMW at the moment, and Alonso may want to go with a team on the up, rather than one, whose at the moment,F1 inclusion next year is in doubt….maybe!

  8. I think they should keep him. His technical knowledge is very good, teammates often use Barrichello’s set-up data.

    And its not like he’s been miles behind Button, unlike certain other supposedly highly-rated teammates (I’m think of you, Heikki). If Button had made any slipups, he’d be right there to take the win and I’m certain he’ll win a couple of races this year.

    Let him show you can be old and still well on form and let him go when he decides, or at least when his performance drops off. He’s better now than he’s ever been.

  9. My initial reaction was that they should keep Rubens, he is proving to be a great teammate to Button and beneficial to the teams development. However, what then would happen to Senna, is that an opportunity you would want to miss (assuming he is not over-hyped).

    I think some careful consideration is required here, but am thinking Button/Senna next year… there is no other driver (Alonso aside) on the grid that would be good for Brawn IMO.

    As for Rubens, I don’t want him to retire at the end of the year. I think he has still proved his worth and that he has a lot of speed and fight in him, and that any team would find him a great help in developing the car. I doubt a big team will take him, but Williams have already expressed an interest in experience and Rubens could fit well there, and if Rubens is happy to then Force India may be a nice place to be for a year or two before finally retiring. Of course he would need to accept a pay cut.

    This is all assuming of course that the rest of the season continues as it has started.

  10. I like Rubens. I think he is a decent chap, hes an experienced driver and still quick.
    I get the impression he is good at car development- im sure that is very useful to the Brawn team.
    It seems Jenson finds Rubens useful for car setup, dialing them in. Jenson mentioned that he was struggling with the balance during free practise at monaco until they used Rubens setup.
    I feel a little sad for Rubens that he hasnt been able to really take the fight to Jenson- this has to be his best chance at a world title…
    Still, its early days for the championship, but i think he needs to start beating Jenson on sundays soon to stand a chance.
    Im not sure it would be productive to put a young “hotshot” in with Jenson, might not have the desired effect.
    I think Brawn should stick with Rubens for 2010.
    If Brawn decide to go with a new driver id like to see Bruno Senna in the second seat.

  11. I think Brawn should be thinking about long term development too, and even if they replace Barichello with younger talent, they should keep him on in a role similar to DC at Red Bull to help with developing and testing the cars. Otherwise all his knowledge will just be wasted…….

  12. If Barrichello wants to stay at Brawn next year I think he will get the chance. If he felt Button was being favoured at Brawn he has already said he would leave. If he wanted to race next year but didn’t have a seat at Brawn I think he would have plenty of options with all his experience and all the potential new teams.

    I hope when he does retire it is his choice and not forced upon him, it would be nice if he planned it in advance so he can have a proper send off at his last Grand Prix like Coulthard last year, but hopefully with a better result.

    If Brawn do need a new driver next year their options have increased. Before this season Bruno Senna missed out on a race seat because Brawn wanted the experience of Barrichello because of their lack of testing etc, now you could argue they could dictate the terms and have their pick of most of the available drivers. I don’t think they will sign Alonso though unless he finds himself without a seat due to Renault or Ferrari withdrawing.

  13. Bigbadderboom
    28th May 2009, 11:54

    If Brawn did want to replace Barrichello, to whom might they turn?

    Not sure that there is a real reason to, unless his fitness is failing, or he wants to walk away. I think he has massive benefits, his experience alone is priceless, and having a calm old head in the team must be a benefit.
    Although I don’t agree with team orders there is certainly a benefit in having an older guy teamed with a younger race winner.
    I really can’t see Brawn wanting to upset the applecart by introducing a new young buck who may end up doing more damage to the team.
    However!! I think Nick Heidfeld will probably fit the bill best, I don’t think he is in Jensons league and may be willing (unofficially) to play rear gunner if required. Also I think he is less likely to take Jenson out first corner!
    I don’t see the benefits (other than cost saving) of Brawn taking on any of the young guns outside F1 at this time.

    I really like Rubens and I think he is a credit to both the sport and his team, a good solid driver who can win races and will accumalate a lot of points for the team. I think he should stay on for the magic 300!!!!

  14. Alonso doesn’t have a contract for 2010, does he? I’d like to see him replace Rubens, then we’d see how good Button really is…

  15. Bigbadderboom
    28th May 2009, 12:00

    Alonso has Ferrari contract I am sure!!!

  16. I tend to stay out of silly season rumours but I think whoever is Jenson`s teammate needs to be, if not Rubens, then someone very like him.
    Ross has worked for many years with Rubens. They know each others ways. Rubens is also good with set-up as we have seen this year.
    Next year when Brawn have to provide their own car in a much shorter timeframe this could be extremely important.
    I don`t think you`d find Jenson or Alonso would jump at the idea of being teammates. Neither would Kimi or Felipe IMO. You could may up with another Alonso/Hamilton situation which is self-defeating to a team.
    So, for both Jenson & Alonso`s teammates I think it would have to be an older less-successful driver or a younger one not yet ready to threaten their position.
    Just my gut instincts, though.

  17. Alonso will never be happy in a team where he is not the lead driver. Brawn will never make him No.1, it will be Mclaren all over again.

  18. John Spencer
    28th May 2009, 12:30

    The problem is that I remember Rubens as a fresh faced youngster, so I would never consider him over the hill. And of course, Mansell was nearly 40 when he won the championship, so there’s still time for Rubens…

    On the other hand, for all his experience and ability, he is now and always has been a couple of tenths shy of greatness. He makes a jolly good number 2. He’s good at set up and keeping Jenson honest but isn’t exactly irreplaceable.

    He’s not going quietly though, is he? Rubens feels he has unfinished business in F1, because he’s either been a contractual #2 or in an uncompetitive car. Now his time has come … and we can see that Jenson has the measure of him.

    I say bring on Bruno Senna for 2010, then we can laugh at Brawn for making a terrible mistake.

    Talking of contracts, here’s an esoteric trivia question: when Jenson wins the championship, he will be the lowest paid driver to do so for how many years?

  19. schumi the greatest
    28th May 2009, 13:08

    Honestlty i dont know, although rubens is in his 17th year you could hardly say hes past it, hes not getting thrashed by button although the 5 wins to 0 scorline may look like that, better luck here or there and maybe if rubens went lighter than jenson in qualifying for once and it would be a close race.

    I think that they will put bruno senna in though, next year the brawn team arent going to have as big a budget fro drivers as they did in the honda days so i assume senna would bring alot of sponsorship and that bernie might be encouraging ross to take him on for the commercial aspect of the sport.

    Ross has also said that he was very impressed with senna during the testing over the winter so thats another sign.

    At the moment though rubens is a perfect foil fro jenson because you know that if jenson runs into trouble rubens is more than capable of getting the result.

    There were also rumours of alonso joining honda after brawn took over remember…..

    i think theyl end up with senna though….maybe im way off the mark here but i dont think hes “that” good.

    1. yeah the win ratio isn’t in his favour, but the points tell the story more, he’s second, not way down the order.

      he’s still very fast and motivated, you should have seen him at Massa’s karting event in the off season. he won some of the races – if not the whole thing if i’m correct? (i forget, i think he wont at least 1 race).

  20. schumi the greatest
    28th May 2009, 13:08

    apologies for the woeful spelling

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