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. persempre said on 28th May 2009, 12:24

    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.

  2. Tiomkin said on 28th May 2009, 12:28

    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.

  3. John Spencer said on 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?

  4. schumi the greatest said on 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.

    • todd said on 30th May 2009, 11:11

      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).

  5. schumi the greatest said on 28th May 2009, 13:08

    apologies for the woeful spelling

  6. Senna, great PR move…

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

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

    USGP have expressed the need for 2 American drivers.

  15. 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

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