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. Rejkjavicsdottir said on 21st November 2011, 12:28

    Massa. Dead in the water, unless he moves to one of the backmarkers. No way he is driving for SFR again.

  2. montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 21st November 2011, 13:09

    I’ve chosen only Rubens and Jerom. Others I don’t know. It doesn’t seem clear cut to me and can turn either way.

  3. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 21st November 2011, 14:37

    Not sure about Barrichello, but I’m certain that Liuzzi and D’Ambrosio wont race in F1 anymore. Both have failed to impress, or there’s someone with more money taking their seats.

  4. magon4 (@magon4) said on 21st November 2011, 14:49

    Just some stats on the candidates above, to enrich the (already concluded?) debate:
    Based on my own database, with some data from Keith used, I’ll put it down to two variables: mean grade the drivers got from me in this year’s races, and performance one on one between team mates.
    WILLIAMS: Barrichello has had an average grade of 5,67 (#18) this season, against Maldonado’s 5,47 (#22). They are both part of a group of 8 drivers (one third of the grid) below 6,0 (which I consider an average performance). If there was no money issue involved, both seats should be replaced, but Maldonado does deserve another season to now show his true worth. For Barrichello, i do think it is time to call it quits, because although he is now beating Maldonado in all figures, but not by the margin that should be expected. 56% of laps led, 9×8 in qualifying and 7×5 in races is just not good enough.
    Bruno Senna has had a really mediocre season, worse than what Nick Heidfeld was doing with the car. His 5,29 average is the second worse of the grid, an even a worsening Vitaly Petrov, who was much stronger at the beginning of the season, is now beating him rather comfortably. He just hasn’t got what it takes. And neither does Petrov (average 5,56, #20), who had a weak first season and got better, started will into season 2 and got worse. I think Petrov and Senna should leave the team (and some Red Bull alumni or even Adrian Sutil should take the spots).
    Adrian Sutil had a rough start to the season, but has always been seen positively by people who follow F1 from close. He’s got the talent, and he’s showin the consistency of late. He’s getting the job done in races and has just passed Di Resta in laps led (now at 51%) – coming from behind, this is quite impressive. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place, and some merit should go do Paul. But Nico HĂĽlkenberg does deserve a seat, and I kind of hope that Sutil gets a shot at Renault (soon to be Lotus); but he should not be out! Di Resta has clearly deserved a second season, but will have to prove himself again to earn the third chance. By the way, Sutil has averaged a 6,50 with me (#8), Di Resta a 6,47 (#9), all in all a very strong duo.
    Jerome is a nice guy, but he’ll be lucky to have another try at F1. He sits at 5,08 and last place on my list, impressing in China and Turkey and doing well in Japan and India, but not doing quite enough with the material in most of the other races. He should be out.
    In the Buemi x Alguersuari debate I am a clear fan of the swiss. 13×5 in qualifying, 6×5 in races, 53% of laps led – only the points race is being lost, for unfortunate reasons. Jaime might be able to shine more here and here, but he is not nearly as consistent. Both deserve to be in F1, but Buemi should stay in Toro Rosso. He is my #7 driver in average grade (6,50), Jaime is at 6,22, which is 15th. 9×8 in race weekends shows how close it actually is.
    Daniel Ricciardo has done enough to earn his seat in F1 next year. A 6,30 average puts him at #14 in my list. It does mean that Liuzzi shouldn’t continue in F1, after the strong start to the season. That seemed quite relative to Karthikeyan.
    Ok enough from me.

    • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 21st November 2011, 16:33

      Thumbs up for the detailed and well thought out post but I think you disregard a very important factor: relative performance of the cars changes throughout the season. This is espesially true regarding the Renault drivers. You cannot really compare the performance of Senna and Heidfeld directly as Renault in the second half of the season is only the 8th fastest team and scored only 6 points as compared to 66 in the first half. This also renders your statement that Petrov “got worse” very questionable. Has Vitaly got worse or the R31 got worse? I think the second option is far more likely.

      • magon4 (@magon4) said on 21st November 2011, 17:05

        I do take into account that the car has not moved forward during the season, this is why I don’t compare points. But Vitaly had actual strong performances relative to the car in Australia and China, and was good in the second half of the season in Monza and Suzuka, too. But he has been dreadful in Malaysia and Singapur, and very weak at Monaco, Silverstone & Hungary. All in all, not a good season.
        I might add that there has not been a sharp decline, it was never a really good season for him. Just so you see my point, I gave his India performance a 6,0 (he did what is expected, not more) and a 5,0 in Abu Dhabi (the car wasn’t good, but he wasn’t really in form either).

        • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 21st November 2011, 17:22

          That’s the point. Most circuits you’ve mentioned regarding Petrov being bad/awful apart from Malaysia where he had a crash, are circuits with lots of slow corners where the R31 is weakest: Monaco/Singapore/Hungary/Abu Dhabi. Did his team-mate have a good race in those GP’s? No. So the blame should fall on the car IMO.

  5. codesurge (@codesurge) said on 21st November 2011, 15:24

    Looks like one piece of the puzzle is in place – de la Rosa just signed a 2-year contract with HRT.

    Guess that means Liuzzi is likely to lose his seat if Red Bull continues to pay to put Ricciardo in the other HRT?

  6. Tinakori Road (@tinakori-road) said on 21st November 2011, 16:15

    Liuzzi should be a champion winning points scorer next season in bumper cars at amusement parks.

  7. Britalian Stallion said on 21st November 2011, 19:09

    I don’t think we should say “Last F1 start”, I mean Karun Chandhok’s last race in 2010 was Britain for HRT, it wasn’t his last ever, he raced for Team Lotus at Germany this year. I don’t think we should call the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix a final race for anyone, it’s rather risky to call it that, because who knows? They might be back before long…

  8. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 22nd November 2011, 7:27

    I can see Brazil being Rubens last effort, unfortunately. I would have loved to see him lead a competitive team.

    If tyre rumours are to be believed, we won’t be setting much out D’Ambrosio, which is a shame. He’s had a good year.

    They’re the only two in my mine who won’t have a seat next year. I think the STR boys will be fine.

  9. nzer (@nzer) said on 22nd November 2011, 8:42

    what they need to do at STR is get vettel to do some laps then put Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Éric Vergne, Jaime Alguersuari, SĂ©bastien Buemi and see which of them are close to vettel then give them the seats. i know it won’t happen but it would make things alot easier

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