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

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 ?é?ú12-15m 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?

  1. Senna, great PR move…

  2. LewisC said on 28th May 2009, 13:29

    No-one thinking Hamilton then? Sulks off from McLaren looking for success? (Only kidding).

    I don’t understand all the mentions of Heidfeld. Never rated him.

    However, if RB does go, maybe to Williams, Brawn could do worse than replace him with Rosberg.

  3. Rui said on 28th May 2009, 13:54

    I can’t but wonder how Bruno Senna would be doing in a Brawn car. Do you people think he would be doing better than Barrichelo?

    • This season, I would doubt it. Bruno has shown flashes of speed but he is very inexperienced. Rubens is one of the best on the grid at car setup and development, so he’s surely getting more out of the Brawn package than Senna could.

      I just wish Rubens would be more selfish and stop sharing this expertise with Jenson!

  4. I for one am not entirely convinced that Brawn-Mercedes will be the prospect in 2010 that it has proven to be in 2009. Remember: they had almost a year’s head start on their 2009 car, funded by Honda. It is not yet clear if they can keep up the rate of development necessary to do pick up WDC and WCC, plus still allocate the resources necessary for next year’s car.

    Teams like McLaren, Ferrari and BMW Sauber would still be a better bet for most top drivers, since they’ve proven to be top contenders if not race winners continuously. Although I hope not, 2009 could prove to be a fluke for Brawn. They could be a reasonable alternative if the top cars are all taken, though, but could also destroy a career like Alonso’s if he should join Brawn and not be at least a WDC contender.

  5. Bigbadderboom said on 28th May 2009, 14:35

    It’s Rubens’s willingness to share his setup and insite into circuit information which makes him such a valuable assett to Brawn, which is why in my opinion he will keep his seat.
    It would do a lot for Rubens’s legacy in F1, to so obviousley had aided a multiple world champion and a world champion with a new team should Jenson win this year. The more I reflect on Rubens career in F1 the more i get an appreciation for the often under valued Brazilian. I would love to see him achieve the 300 gp’s with Brawn I couldn’t think of anybody more deserving.

  6. Prisoner Monkeys said on 28th May 2009, 14:43

    I keep waiting for someone to (seriously) suggest Hamilton for Brawn. Ignoring the fac that Brawn probably couldn’t afford him right now, the only way I could ever see that happening would be if Mercedes pulled its work support for McLaren and gave it to Brawn instead, demoting Woking to a customer team. But Mercedes have endured hard seasons with Ron’s boys before, and they’re not the sort to go jumping ship at the first sign of trouble.

    I can’t see a rookie driver signing up for Brawn. Not unless they have serious issues with getting sponsorship, but when you qualify and finish one-two on debut, sponsors should be falling over themselves to get their name on your car. But a team’s secons season – and a driver’s, too – is considered to be their most important because they’ve been in the game for a year and there are no more excuses. I hope Brawn haven’t set the bar too high; the BGP-002 is already under development and is based on what has to be one of the best cars in Formula One history, but Brawn will need both continuity and some experience. They have some of it in the shape of Button, but Ross Brawn will know the importance of having an experienced driver in the other car as well. He’s not Flavio Briatore, ignoring the second driver.

    Everyone is going to want a Brawn drive for 2010, but I can’t see the older names like Trulli and Heidfeld being considered. Brawn will want someone quick and to the point, and so if Barrichello does not return, I’d pick Rosberg or Kubica. Rosberg is tied up with Williams and is having some trouble converting practice pace into race results, but with the right car I think he could do it. Kubica, on the other hand, is consistently quick when he has the right hardware. The other alternatie would see Kovalainen move from one Mercedes team to the other, with a promotion for Adrian Sutil to the McLaren. Sutil might not be as quick, but he gets along well with Hamilton, and I think the two could make for one of those driver pairings that simply clicks. Such a move would also see Barrichello move to Force India (or one of the new teams), and Fisichella retired (or again moved) in favour of another young driver, probably someone like Chandhok. But two things stick out: I don’t think Kovalainen is quick enough to warrant a Brawn drive (so he’d only really be filling up space), even if he was the best rookie of 2007 (he improved dramaically over the course of that year, unlike Hamilton who was merely consistent), and secondly, I don’t think Barrichello would take to the idea of simply teaching a new driver in a backmarker of a car.

    If he doesn’t work out a contract with Brawn for 2010, the best place Barrichello could go would be one of the new teams. Even if he takes a pay cut, he’d be invaluable. He’d experienced and he knows his way around a car; when he first joined Honda, he apparently taught Button a lot about finding the optimal setup. If he joins a new team – say USGPE – he can establish himself as the driver who leads the team through their first season.

  7. GST said on 28th May 2009, 14:45

    There is no need to replace Rubens. I think a lot stems from his age and how long he has been around. He’s only just turned 37 and as somebody said earlier, Mansell was 39 when he won his championship and came back in his forties with Williams (where he won a race) and later signed for McLaren.

    You could see at the Spanish GP that Rubens still has the speed required for F1. There is no need to change the current line-up. The ‘get a young driver’ statements that you constantly hear make no sense as someone who knows how to drive an F1 car and has the experience of such is far more valuable for a team than someone who is unproven in F1.

    Rubens can win. Hell, he can win the world championship. A few wins and podiums in the right places could make a different predicted 2009 champion, and if Brawn signs him for the 2010 season it could make him even more motivated to take the title.

    I think he has more than a few seasons left in him. They should stick with Rubens.

  8. HounslowBusGarage said on 28th May 2009, 14:46

    As Dougie, SiY, Andrew and others have said, it’s not as if Reubens is miles behind, is it? You wouldn’t get rid of a driver who came second in the WDC, would you?

    I suspect that Keith is working on the basis that brawn will be the Championship-winning team and that JB will be the WDC.
    Under those circumstances, I can’t see Alonso joining Brawn; he’d have to take second place to the World Champion and his pride would not allow him to do that. In the same way, I can’t see Massa, Raikkonen or Hamilton doing that either.
    Ross has worked with Barrichello for years and no doubt values his testing and analytical skills very highly. If Barrichello is to retire from racing (and actually, I don’t see why he should for another couple of years), he would only be able to pre-season testing for the team, and not Friday set-up. And as JB has had to rely on Barrichello’s set-up a couple of times already this season, I can’t see Ross Brawn letting that valuable resource walk away.
    As Dougie, SiY, Andrew and others have said, it’s not as if Reubens is miles behind, is it? You wouldn’t get rid of a driver who was second in the WDC, would you?

  9. Bigbadderboom said on 28th May 2009, 14:47

    USGP have expressed the need for 2 American drivers.

  10. fastmike said on 28th May 2009, 15:07

    For a start Mercedes owns a part of Mclaren so I cant see how Mclaren could end up a customer team …. and Im more concerned Brawn wont find the sponsership for 2010

  11. Brawn said on 28th May 2009, 15:37

    It would be exiting to have Alonso in the seat but as already mentioned he wouldnt join a team not based around him. Rubens will keep his seat i think, Even though not at Buttons level yet, he’s still perfoming and 2nd in the championship.
    I still think Braun shavers should be the main sponsor.

    • I still think Braun shavers should be the main sponsor.

      If only in a barter deal, supplying the likes of Ross Brawn, Jenson Button and Richard Bransons. Just too many bearded men for any one team to handle.

    • Wesley said on 28th May 2009, 21:53

      “I still think Braun shavers should be the main sponsor.”

      I don’t think Jense and Ross would be the best posible spokesmen for an electric razor.

  12. TommyB said on 28th May 2009, 16:05

    Would be nice to see a rookie try and compete with Jenson. Barrichello is clearly useless and should retire at the end of the year after a competitive season.

    As long as Nando or Lewis doesn’t go there I’d be happy, yes I’d love them to win but I wouldn’t be seen dead in a Brawn GP shirt

  13. Moe said on 28th May 2009, 16:27

    I think Rubens should stay.. As long as he is making a good performance..

  14. Lobo said on 28th May 2009, 16:49

    For many reason Rubinhoshould stay for next season. He is a team-oriented driver, works well with Brawn (and apparently with Button), has a great deal of experience and knows the business upside down. He is a very good #2 driver as well. No reason for him to go, at least not form the moment.

  15. Leaf said on 28th May 2009, 16:49

    Hate to say it but if Jenson wins the WC this year Ruebens is gone in favor of another younger driver. By that time he will have done alot of development of the car and Brawn will be comfortable enough to move away from the “established” driver lineup that they felt necessary this year due to the new car/team etc. They will also save a few bucks and be able to budget Jenson for that large contract enticement to stay on.

  16. Chaz said on 28th May 2009, 16:53

    Rubens should stay on for at least another year. I has proved he is more than capable passionate and enthusiastic…

    • Chaz said on 28th May 2009, 16:55

      oops I meant to say “He has proved…”

      By the way, what happened to the edit feature….

  17. Jess said on 28th May 2009, 16:54

    I see that he is doing fine this year and I cant see why they would want to replace him.

  18. antonyob said on 28th May 2009, 16:56

    Much as though Button is the better prospect i much prefer watching Barrichello, especially incar views. His much flashier balls out style is both more entertaining and more instructive into what an f1 driver actually does. Button does make tiny adjustments to balance the car but it doesnt show on Tv or even when you watch him through a corner like Blanchemont in the flesh. So i hope he gets a drive next season, hes one of the few left that entertains.

  19. It is foolish to pick anyone but Ruebens,
    1.If Button fell out of any of his winning grand prix, Reubens would be in the lead or tied for first in the series.
    2.He’s played the role of #2 before, knows it well, and is there to pounce at every race.
    3.Setup, you want to know why he’s great, 2 words Luca Badoer, he’s learned from the best tester/setup man on the planet (don’t believe me, look at all Michael Schumacher’s championships but 2, there’s Luca looming in the back). Ross Brawn loves great tester/setup guys. As much as they’ll whine, he knows why he needs Reubens.
    4. Senna is just going to crash and learn not go out and score points that the team needs to win a championship. If you want a championship, keep Reubens, it’s that simple.
    5. As for the Hammy thoughts, I seriously doubt he’s switching around. I can’t see them wanting to share (Between Button and Hammy).

  20. ConcedoNulli said on 28th May 2009, 17:49

    If not Rubens then Adam Carroll (ex BAR Honda test driver 2005 and current A1GP drivers champion). Unfortunately that would mean two Brits in the team.

    • TommyB said on 28th May 2009, 18:16

      That would be disappointing. A1GP drivers are very amateur. A top driver should sign for them and not just a filler driver.

    • Bigbadderboom said on 28th May 2009, 18:45

      There is a bit of a class difference between A1GP and F1, not sure Adam is good enough to test even.

    • TommyB said on 28th May 2009, 18:47

      Agreed. That explains the ridiculous collisions during races. Makes it exciting though!

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 28th May 2009, 21:42

      Adam Carroll is Irish, isn’t he? He drives for A1 GP Ireland.

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