Which drivers will make their last F1 start next week?

Debates and polls

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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Images ?? Williams/LAT, Force India/Sutton, Renault/LAT, Red Bull/Getty images

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

  1. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 20th November 2011, 16:44

    I see Virgin juggling their 2nd driver about for a few years yet until they see someone really beat Glock (why they’d do that I’m not sure if he’s the lead driver??) so I see D’Ambrosio going.

    It’d be very refreshing to see Sutil in another car, actually. It’d put the argument about whether he’s any good or not to rest and at the minute his career is going wherever Force India is going – upwards, but perhaps too steadily for him to shock anyone.

    It’s going to be pretty sad seeing Barrichello go…especially ending on a year where his car has been so slow and unreliable. Unfortunately Maldonado seems to be staying. His money will hopefully benefit whatever driver he is paired with though.

    As for Toro Rosso, I really, really hope Buemi stays. He’s been terribly unlucky as of late when he’s been on for good finishes and although Alguersuari is emerging to be a solid, points scoring driver, the team should look at the progress this year and keep the drivers they know and love and carry on the trend in 2012.

  2. Oliver said on 20th November 2011, 16:46

    Barichello should have announced his retirement earlier, rather than wait forthe door to shut on him.
    Granted he brings a lot of experience to a team, but what are his long term objectives, and do they tally with that of his team.

    Unlike Schumacher, whose team has a 3year plan to win the championship, Williams’ current plan is to move forward in the constructors championship. It will take a lot more than a hope and a prayer before Barichello wins another race.
    Obviously then, he isn’t driving to win a championship or to be discovered. So what is he driving for?

    His place could be taken up by one of the numerous talented but younger drivers, who are eager to try new ideas and take more risk.
    It is time to move on.

  3. KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 20th November 2011, 17:28

    I’m pretty certain that picture of Barrichello at the top isn’t from Abu Dhabi… I don’t remember the run-offs being that shade of green.. Can’t think which track it would be though…

  4. adzz36 (@adzz36) said on 20th November 2011, 20:42

    Ideally, I think Alonso, Massa, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Button, Schumacher, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Perez, Glock, Kovalainen, Buemi, Alguersauri, Hulkenberg, Di Resta, Sutil, D’Ambrosio, Senna, Petrov, Ricciardo, Maldonado, Raikkonen and Grosjean have done enough of a job to warrant a place in F1. That’s not mentioning Kubica or any of the promising young talent such as Pic, Vergne, Wickens, Bird, Bianchi etc…

    However, I highly doubt these will be the 24 drivers at the wheel next year. The likes of Barrichello, Trulli, Heidfeld, Liuzzi need to give it up. Why carry on in F1 for one more year when you aren’t going to achieve anything? Barrichello and Trulli have won races and won’t win again next year. Heidfeld has had multiple podiums but after being matched by Petrov will never find himself into a competitive seat again, while Liuzzi finds himself in the same position lower down the grid.

    I hope next season we see:
    Red Bull – Vettel, Webber
    Ferrari – Alonso, Massa
    Mclaren – Hamilton, Button
    Mercedes – Schumacher, Rosberg
    Renault – Petrov, Senna
    Sauber – Kobayashi, Perez
    Williams – Raikkonen, Maldonado
    Force India – Hulkenberg, di Resta
    Toro Rosso – Alguersauri, Ricciardo
    Lotus – Kovalainen, Trulli
    HRT – Sutil, Grosjean
    Virgin – Glock, Pic

    Although hopefully Sutil can move to Lotus and replace Trulli, who will continue to be a second off his team-mate’s pace all season and let another up and coming driver move in at HRT.

    • Himmat said on 21st November 2011, 3:24

      Huh? You say Trulli should give up, but you name him in your preferred lineup for Caterham?

      • adzz36 (@adzz36) said on 21st November 2011, 7:47

        Yes sorry, I’ve included drivers who already have contracts for next year and filled the gaps with who I’d like to see.. I should have been more specific. I have always liked Trulli, but you can’t be almost a second off the pace of your team-mate almost all season and keep your place in F1 when the likes of Sutil, Hulkenberg, Buemi and Grosjean could be out of a seat next season.

  5. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 20th November 2011, 22:09

    Alguersuari makes me jealous I must admit: at his age driving F1 and being DJ / producer. But as – amateur – musician myself, I cannot imagine that hè has that 110% focus needed for F1 next to his music. So, I would sack him, were I teamboss.

    • electrolite (@electrolite) said on 20th November 2011, 22:50

      @verstappen if his musical interest really compromises his F1 focus, doesn’t that make it the more impressive that he’s beating Buemi this year? On top of his young age and lesser experience? Even before Buemi’s recent run of bad luck this was the case.

      • verstappen (@verstappen) said on 21st November 2011, 10:02

        @Electrolite I’m certainly impressed with him.

        However, In these comments, I also see people making the case for Buemi and against Alguersuari, so it’s not as clear cut as – say – Alonso vs Massa.

        And from that point of view, you want you driver to give everything and not be preoccupied with something else.

        We’ve seen with Hamilton how important your mental state is and everything other then F1 is ballast. It’s as simple as that. And we’re not talking about a mere hobby, but about another career, with gigs, produciing new tracks etc.

        So as impressive as it might be, this sport requires 110% and I can’t imagine him giving that.

        (and if he turns out to be both world champion F1 and world’s best DJ… now there’s being impressed for me)

  6. Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 20th November 2011, 22:57

    I would hope for:

    Red Bull – Vettel & Webber
    Ferrari – Alonso & Massa
    Mclaren – Hamilton & Button
    Mercedes – Schumacher & Rosberg
    Renault – Raikkonen & Grosjean
    Sauber – Kobayashi & Perez
    Williams – Maldonado & Wickens
    Force India – Hulkenberg & di Resta
    Toro Rosso – Alguersauri & Buemi
    Caterham – Kovalainen & Ricciardo
    HRT – Sutil & Vergne
    Virgin – Glock & Pic

  7. Kamui Fan (@kamui-fan) said on 20th November 2011, 23:43

    the 2012 grid from my point of view

    Red Bull: Vettel and Webber
    McLaren: Hamilton and Button
    Ferrari: Alonso and Massa
    Mercedes: Schumacher and Rosberg
    Renault: Sutil and Petrov
    Force India: Di Resta and Hulkenberg
    Sauber: KAMUI!!! and Perez
    Toro Rosso: Alguersuari and Ricciardo
    Williams: Raikkonen and Maldonado
    Lotus / Caterham: Kovalainen and Trulli
    HRT: Liuzzi and Vergne
    Virgin: Glock and Wickens

  8. soundscape (@soundscape) said on 21st November 2011, 1:29

    Buemi will almost certainly be gone in my mind.

    I also think Williams will lose either Barrichello or Maldonado, but I don’t know which one, so I voted for both.

  9. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 21st November 2011, 2:38

    I don’t think Barrichello will go further. Sutil may end up somewhere, Senna will need a lot of luck to stay in Renault.Should be end of the road for both D’Ambrosio & Liuzzi. Will be interesting to see what happens in the Torro Rosso line up but I hope Jaime Alguersuari get another chance wih Riccardo while Jean-Eric Vergne take the HRT seat.

  10. manatcna (@manatcna) said on 21st November 2011, 3:16

    Perhaps a better poll would be –

    Who should go at season’s end ?

  11. vho (@) said on 21st November 2011, 7:27

    I think Ferrari should replace Massa with Jules Bianchi… Whomever the 2nd Ferrari driver will be Alonso’s whipping boy anyway. What better way to get Bianchi up to speed with F1? And, hopefully Alonso can see that he is there to help mentor Bianchi to F1 for the next 3-5 years before retirement is on the cards.

  12. xxiinophobia (@xxiinophobia) said on 21st November 2011, 8:44

    I think Barrichello, D’Ambrosio and Liuzzi will all be out of F1 after Brazil.

    Senna I’d put at a 50/50 shot of him coming back. If he loses his race seat he’ll probably stay at Renault GP/Lotus as a reserve.

    I find Sutil hard to read. I can’t decide if his issue is that he’s done worse than expected or that di Resta’s exceeded expectations. I think if he gets dropped from the race seat he’ll land elsewhere.

    I think Alguersuari and Buemi have both done well enough to deserve to stay on, but I can’t imagine both of them still being at Toro Rosso in 2013. Red Bull simply has too many drivers in the pipeline to keep them on. Though if Buemi gets dropped due to vehicular unreliability, I’m going to be quite upset (and I don’t even particularly like Buemi as a driver). He deserves better than that.

    Ricciardo may stay on at HRT if Red Bull are still willing to throw money that way.

    I must say: I will almost undoubtedly cry if Barrichello doesn’t come back. His career mirrors the time I’ve spent watching Formula One, and it’s at the point that I can’t imagine a grid without him. I know he’s not spectacular to watch, but I’ve been impressed with his ability to remain competitive (as the situation allows) for so long, and I would really like to see him leave on his own terms.

  13. Girts (@girts) said on 21st November 2011, 9:15

    It’s nice to return from holidays and find a couple of cool unread articles on F1F. This is a topic that was on my mind already before this article was published.

    I agree with the majority about which drivers will most likely have to give up their seats. But, in my opinion, the list of the drivers who will go is not the same as the list of those who should go. For sure, we have 24 excellent drivers on the grid but if some have to give way to youngsters then probably these should be the ones:

    1) Vitaly Petrov – It’s great to see a Russian driver on the grid but Petrov’s performance in his 2nd season hasn’t really impressed me. I’m also not sure if he is a good team player, his criticism towards Renault might have been fair but I doubt whether Petrov himself can help the team move forward.
    2) Bruno Senna – His results both in HRT and Renault just haven’t convinced me.
    3) Jarno Trulli – His performance level has been declining over the last two years. And I think Trulli probably finds it hard to motivate himself to fight for 17th places and he also understands that he most probably won’t stay in F1 long enough to reap the harvest of Lotus’ work.
    4) Vitantonio Liuzzi

  14. Estesark (@estesark) said on 21st November 2011, 11:05

    I think there will be fewer changes than most are predicting.

    Helmut Marko has said there is a strong possibility that Toro Rosso’s line-up will stay the same for next season. If that happens, Daniel Ricciardo will probably continue at HRT, and if Red Bull really wanted to, they could pay for Jean-Eric Vergne to drive alongside him. That would effectively give them two feeder teams, and would leave Vitantonio Liuzzi without a drive.

    Virgin’s team principal John Booth was effusive in his praise for Jerôme D’Ambrosio in Abu Dhabi’s Friday press conference, saying he has done a great job all year and that he is likely to be in the frame for a driver next year. I think he’ll stay, alongside Timo Glock.

    Jarno Trulli has a contract for next year, which was only recently signed, and I can’t see him losing his seat, so the Lotus Caterham line-up will stay the same too.

    In fact, the only changes I can see are Nico Hülkenberg coming in for Adrian Sutil, Kimi Räikkönen replacing Rubens Barrichello and Romain Grosjean taking Bruno Senna‘s seat. Of the three displaced drivers, Senna and Barrichello will leave the sport, while Sutil will either drive for Williams if Räikkönen’s comeback doesn’t materialise, or take up a test/reserve driver’s role at team X for one season, with a promise of a drive in 2013. I don’t see why he would want to go to any of the three new teams except perhaps Lotus, who already have their driver line-up confirmed, and there just aren’t any spaces elsewhere. A shame, because he deserves a place more than Maldonado, for example.

    The names in bold are the ones I voted for, who I don’t think will be racing in F1 next season.

  15. lukebrowne111 (@lukebrowne111) said on 21st November 2011, 11:26

    I think di Resta’s seat is safe, Sutil better watch his back though

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