Which drivers will make their last F1 start next week?

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Rubens Barrichello, WIlliams, Abu Dhabi, 2011

Rubens Barrichello, WIlliams, Abu Dhabi, 2011

It’s a sad feature of F1 that sometimes drivers’ careers end before we realise it.

They turn up at the season finale then depart never to return as someone else takes over their place for next year.

Heading into the final race of 2011 there are a few likely candidates for drivers whose time in F1 may be up.

Rubens Barrichello

Barrichello has been in this situation before. Three years ago he approached the final race – like this year, his home Grand Prix at Interlagos – unsure if his Honda contract would be renewed.

By a strange sequence of events the dissolution of the team ultimately paved the way for him to hold onto his place in Formula 1, as the remnants of Honda metamorphosed into Brawn.

This year his place at Williams is under threat after a sometimes lacklustre season, even when taking into account the obvious deficiencies of the FW33.

There are persistent rumours the team is courting Kimi Raikkonen for an F1 return. And even if that fails to materialise, the driver situation at Force India could send the likes of Adrian Sutil in the Grove team’s direction.

Pastor Maldonado’s place in the line-up has looked secure thanks to his substantial backing from Venezuelan state petroleum company PDVSA. The legitimacy of this deal has recently been called into question in his home country, but it remains to be seen if this is a credible threat to Maldonado’s place in F1.

Next week’s race will be Barrichello’s 326th. He already holds all the records for career longevity. But there are signs he may fall short of a 20th season in the top flight.

Adrian Sutil

Adrian Sutil, Force India, Abu Dhabi, 2011

Adrian Sutil, Force India, Abu Dhabi, 2011

The relative performances of Sutil and team mate Paul di Resta this year has been the subject of intense debate on F1 Fanatic, not least of which last weekend.

Sutil had a poor start to the year but has clearly improved as he’s got used to the Pirelli tyres. He is 34-23 up on di Resta in the points standings.

But has Sutil, with 89 starts to his name, conclusively proved his worth over di Resta, who’s in his first season of F1?

This is the question Vijay Mallya is expected to answer soon, and in doing so judge whether to swap Sutil for Nico Hulkenberg. His compatriot impressed in his first season of F1 and only lost his seat at Williams for sponsorship reasons.

A Di Resta-Hulkenberg line-up at the team next year would be short on F1 experience. But di Resta’s performance this year suggests that may not be too great a problem.

Money may ultimately play a deciding role here. The financial problems of Mallya’s other business interests have been well-documented, and he sold part of his share in Force India earlier last month for that reason.

Whoever can bring money to the team may tip the balance, and that could work in Sutil’s favour. Even if it doesn’t, an opportunity at Williams may secure his place in F1.

Bruno Senna

Bruno Senna, Renault, Suzuka, 2011

Bruno Senna, Renault, Suzuka, 2011

Like Barrichello, another Brazilian driver whose home race could be his last.

Senna has a fairly weak claim to a place in F1 at the moment, given that he’s the replacement for one driver who was a substitute for another driver.

In his seven races since taking Nick Heidfeld’s place he’s tended to match Petrov in qualifying (which is rather better than his predecessor did) but not performed as well in the races. Weighed against that we have the deteriorating performance of the R31 and Senna’s reliability problems – such as KERS failures in the last two races.

Robert Kubica looks increasingly unlikely to return at the start of next year, leaving GP2 champion Romain Grosjean as the greatest threat to Senna in the team.

On paper, Vitaly Petrov has nothing to worry about – his current contract expires at the end of next season. His recent public criticism of the team was embarrassing but hardly a sack-able offence.

That leaves Senna in a vulnerable position but the sponsorship he helped bring to the team earlier this year could stand in his favour. He’s popular within the team and if he were to get a place next year at the expense of the under-contract Petrov, it would be a significant vote of confidence in his ability.

Jerome D’Ambrosio

Jerome D'Ambrosio, Virgin, Abu Dhabi, 2011

Jerome D'Ambrosio, Virgin, Abu Dhabi, 2011

There are some who believe Charles Pic already has a deal to replace D’Ambrosio at Virgin next year, when the team becomes Marussia.

D’Ambrosio has arguably performed better as Timo Glock’s team mate than Lucas di Grassi did last year, but that may not be enough to keep his place at the cash-strapped team.

Vitantonio Liuzzi

Who knows who’ll turn up at the wheel of an HRT next year. Liuzzi brings experience and continuity to the team but this is another seat where income is likely to overrule talent.

The Toro Rosso driver logjam

Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Toro Rosso have four drivers in the hunt for two seats. It’s conceivable that either, neither or both of their current pilots could lose out.

Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi have been closely-matched in their second full season together. Alguerusari has started to pull ahead in the points standings of late, albeit aided by three car failures in four races for Buemi.

With Daniel Ricciardo, currently seconded to HRT, and Jean-Eric Vergne both making their way up the Red Bull Driver Development ladder, something’s got to give in time for the start of next season.

Your say

Which of these drivers will lose their F1 seats after the Brazilian Grand Prix?

  • Rubens Barrichello (79%)
  • Pastor Maldonado (14%)
  • Adrian Sutil (31%)
  • Paul di Resta (2%)
  • Bruno Senna (50%)
  • Vitaly Petrov (10%)
  • Jerome D'Ambrosio (67%)
  • Vitantonio Liuzzi (49%)
  • Jaime Alguersuari (6%)
  • Sebastien Buemi (44%)
  • Daniel Ricciardo (11%)

Total Voters: 351

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See which drivers are already confirmed for 2012 here: 2012 F1 drivers and teams

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170 comments on Which drivers will make their last F1 start next week?

  1. Kamui Fan (@kamui-fan) said on 20th November 2011, 12:23

    Drivers on this list who should remain in f1 2012:
    Adrian Sutil
    Paul di Resta
    Jaime Alguersuari
    Vitaly Petrov
    Daniel Ricciardo

    and those who should not
    Rubens Barrichello – too old
    Bruno Senna – not F1 standard
    Sebastien Buemi – not done enough to warrant a seat at Red Bull
    Jerome d’Ambrosio – not F1 standard

    • Can we please ban the use of ‘too old’ as a reason for anything. Talk about form, or lack of motivation, or performance drop off, but age by itself is not a reason!

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 20th November 2011, 23:21

        I agree, if I driver’s not good enough, fine, but just saying they’re “too old” is as redundant as saying someone is “too young” – what matters is their ability.

        • Noelinho (@noelinho) said on 21st November 2011, 0:32

          And besides, if Barrichello is too old, you’re missing Michael Schumacher from the list. Drivers don’t lose their speed just because they are too old. They lose it mainly because they lose their motivation. Reflexes slow down, but motivation costs far more lap time.

      • Kamui Fan (@kamui-fan) said on 21st November 2011, 0:30

        Barrichello was talented but nowadays the likes of Maldonado can beat him. Like Trulli, he simply lacks the ability, so I apologize for saying he his too old. I think he has had a great career but he should know when to stop

  2. Eggry (@eggry) said on 20th November 2011, 12:24

    Anyway I’ll be surprised if Rubens secure a seat next year.

  3. I think Barrichello is most likely to go. He’s been a round for a quite a long time and its time for him to give the young and new drivers a chance. It’s a shame that the team cannot confirm whether he is leaving so the other drivers can give him a fitting goodbye.

  4. matt90 (@matt90) said on 20th November 2011, 12:49

    @keithcollantine
    I’m a little confused. When voting for who will lose their seat. do you mean their current seat or their seat in any F1 car next year?

  5. silencer (@silencer) said on 20th November 2011, 12:50

    some still believe Trulli might be not make it to 2012 despite already have contract extension…

    Senna, Buemi and Barrichello are the drivers that I believe will not make it to 2012.

    Even tho Petrov’s seat seem secured; with Lotus name dispute now over; maybe Group Lotus sponsorship money will finally flowing in without further delay and they can afford to dump Petrov after all.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 20th November 2011, 13:07

      @silencer – So, the team would just give up on the $15 million that Petrov brings? Sure, strictly speaking, they might not need it … but they could certainly put it to good use. And who would they get to replace him? Senna and Grosjean? That’s perhaps the least-experienced line-up on the grid; between the two of them, they have done just a season and a half in three years. Or perhaps Timo Glock – but if so, where is the money to buy out his contract going to come from?

      Whichever way you look at it, Vitaly Petrov is one of the best driver choices Renault could hope for. He knows the team, he can score points, and he brings in money. Any driver they considered to replace him might be able to do one of those things – but certainly not all three.

      • Myrvold said on 20th November 2011, 14:21

        If the rumours are true, Glock can go when he wants without any hussle if a better team approaches him. That is a clause in his contract.

  6. Dan_the_McLaren_fan (@dan_the_mclaren_fan) said on 20th November 2011, 12:54

    I think it could be also the last race for Jarno Trulli. He’s in F1 since 1997, and failed to perform weel against Kovalainen. He’s old, and he’s no longer a challenge for his teammate. Maybe Caterham would want to replace him with a better driver…

    • Himmat said on 20th November 2011, 13:36

      Raikkonen? I know it’s a long shot…but if Tony can persuade him with their vision, anything is possible.

  7. black (@black) said on 20th November 2011, 14:00

    drivers (in the right teams) that should be in 2012

    RBR : Vettel-Webber
    Mclaren : Button-Alonso
    Ferrari : Alonso-Raikkonen (this would be an unbelivable line-up)
    Merc. : Schumi-Rosberg
    Lotus (Renault 2011)/(given Kubica is not comming back) : Massa-Heidfeld
    Williams : Barrichello(for one last season)-Hulkenberg
    Force India : Sutil-Di Resta
    Torro Rosso : Alguersuari-Ricciardo
    Sauber : Kobayashi-Perez
    Caterham (Lotus 2011) : Kovalainen-Petrov
    Virgin : Glock-Charles Pic
    Hrt : J.E. Vergne-Buemi

  8. For me it would be hugely sad to see Rubens go. No other driver lives F1 like he does.

    Just think, He and Schumacher are the last connection we have to the era that saw Senna, Prost and the like. It’s amazing to think that Rubens has raced so many greats. Only four other drivers have stood on the podium more than him (68).

    I just hope the next race goes well for him. He deserves it more than anything.

  9. JPedroCQF1 (@joao-pedro-cq) said on 20th November 2011, 15:02

    I can’t help thinking that is Rubens that will leave F1. The financial situation at Williams asks for a driver that gets sponsers interested in the team.

    I don’t know why, but I feel sorry for him. I would like to see him get to his 20th season. And he deserves a better car than the FW33 that Williams has produced this year. I don’t even think that this year’s car deserves the FW name.

    • black (@black) said on 20th November 2011, 15:23

      and next year (when probably rubens is gone) williams would likely produce a quite competitve car with the reanult engines and with raikkonen on the team everyone is going to think that it was rubens fault that the team didn’t go well this year

  10. it seems to me that lotus renault desperately need an experienced driver for next year as it seems kubica isn’t going to make it

    personally I can’t see a better bet than reubens , maybe not a race winner but as the team needs to get back on track after their failed experiment this year a one year contract to help them re-develop could work well , especially if he could bring some money

  11. I hope HRT keep there current livery, Ithink Senna should stay and I wonder how long Branson is going to put up with his brand running around as a loser brand at the back of pack.

  12. SupaSix-1 said on 20th November 2011, 15:41

    It would be an utter travesty if Sutil doesnt have a seat for 2012.

    Many people moan about how drivers should be loyal to their teams but it seems ok for teams to treat their drivers without as much of the same level in loyalties.

    I think mallya is fast becoming another boulier….with his arrogance & lack of decisions and allowing things to drag on. It makes no sense for Force India to drag out this process….for the sake of the whole team and their drivers.
    He doesnt really seem to care much of his drivers – loyalty goes both ways.

    Sutil, Diresta & Hulkenberg all deserve a drive for 2012.

    One driver in particular should be thrown out of F1 = Maldonado
    -How he is quickly forgiven for his disgusting, dangerous & unsportsman-like purposeful shunt in Spa on Hamilton is beyond me – he shouldve been banned.

    F1 is losing its mojo & quickly becoming a sad sport for a number of reasons including where the importance of money overrides the importance of talent.

    • tflb1 (@) said on 20th November 2011, 17:49

      On that basis, Hamilton should be thrown out as well for provoking the incident with Maldonado in the first place and Alonso should be thrown out for Spygate and Crashgate. Would you want that? No. Hell, every driver has done something stupid in their career. There’s no need for a witch-hunt against Maldonado.

  13. Rob Wilson (@rob-wilson) said on 20th November 2011, 15:52

    I voted for Senna, D’ambrosio, Buemi to lose they’re Formula 1 drives after Brazil.
    I don’t think they’ll be as much change in next years driver line-up as people think.
    I think Williams will stick with the same drivers and give Rubens a 20th and final year. As much as i would love to see Kimi back, it seems like more of a hope than a reality.
    I also think that, if they could, Toro Rosso would keep both drivers also. But with the backlog of young talent queuing up they have to make a tough decision – Buemi out, Vergne in.
    With Renault, i know it’s nice to see the Senna name, but in this business you have got to impress right off the bat, not take a couple of seasons to mature, i think i would be more forgiving if Bruno was say 21, but he’s 27 or 28 right? I would replace him with Grosjean.
    For Force India It’s also tough, if they let Adrian go i have no idea where he will end up, if anywhere, but surely he doesn’t deserve to be left out of the sport completely.
    For Caterham, god only knows why they gave Jarno another contract, he has been in my opionion the worst driver on the grid in 2011 power steering or no power steering he just hasn’t got it anymore.
    With Marrussia, not much to say about Jerome and that says it all really..hasn’t really shown that spark that i was hoping for.

    Well, i think that just about covers my view on things anyway.

  14. TED BELL said on 20th November 2011, 16:23

    Its really more about the cars being bad than the drivers. Next year at this time most likely the bad cars will again be the bad cars and the new drivers of those cars will become foder for this type of discussion.

    Thanks to RB and his commitment to F1. Still a very good driver who looks to become a victim of a team who is an absolute mess. He has shown during his career that when in a proper race car he is as good as the best and was near to the drivers championship several times. Besides that he is such a decent guy and represents the sport with such dignity and respect.

    Seems like the other names on the list of short tenure are probably pretty much right on. Again the failings of the cars themselves look to make those drivers seeking employment elsewhere. Thanks to each of them who had to deal with cars that were simply “Belegrados”

  15. Scalextric (@scalextric) said on 20th November 2011, 16:38

    For some teams, especially HRT, the driver selection may not depend on cash rather than talent. So a driver who no longer deserves a seat may get one if they come with generous sponsorship. Looking at you, Mr Maldonado.

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