Which drivers will say farewell to F1 after Brazil?

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Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber C31, Jerez, 2012Michael Schumacher start his final F1 race in this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

It’s always a pity to see a career reach its end. But at least Schumacher knows about his impending retirement. Others who are unsure whether they will be back in an F1 car after Sunday.

A sad consequence of the way F1 works is that drivers’ careers sometimes come to an end without the fanfare they deserve.

F1’s longest-serving Rubens Barrichello started his final Grand Prix in his home race last year, but at the time it was yet to be confirmed that he wasn’t returning.

Similarly when Jarno Trulli started his 252nd Grand Prix in the same race he was expected to return for Caterham this year. But over the winter he lost his seat to Vitaly Petrov.

This year doubt has been cast on the future of several drivers’ places in their current teams. Some teams will be looking for a change, others will be coveting drivers who bring more lucrative sponsors – and one might be about to disappear entirely.

Kamui Kobayashi

Kobayashi made his F1 race debut at Interlagos in 2009. His performance there and in Abu Dhabi persuaded Peter Sauber to give him a seat at Sauber for 2010.

He stood on the podium for the first time in his home race at Suzuka last month but he may find himself out of a seat at Sauber. Nico Hulkenberg will join the team next year and GP2 driver Esteban Gutierrez is strongly tipped to join him.

Bruno Senna

Williams’ desire to give track time to test driver Valtteri Bottas has seen Senna give up 14 appearances in first practice so far this year while team mate Pastor Maldonado hasn’t missed any.

That hasn’t helped Senna’s efforts to cut the qualifying deficit to his team mate. Senna may be only 14 points behind Maldonado in the championship, but he has not run as close to the front of the field as often as Maldonado has.

That and the support Bottas enjoys within the team means Senna’s future looks uncertain.

Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham, Buddh International Circuit, 2012Kovalainen has driven well for Caterham this year, much as he has done for the same team in the previous two seasons.

Even so, there have been rumours about his future, connected to the team’s potential loss of tenth place in the constructors’ championship to Marussia and the significant loss of income they may suffer as a result.

Asked about the situation in India, Kovalainen said: “Nothing’s been signed for next [year] for myself yet.”

“Personally, my target and my focus is at each race weekend for our team it?s quite important that we try to regain that tenth position back from Marussia. It?s not going to be easy but I think we have to do whatever it takes to be in a position to do that if a freak race happens again.

“So, the main focus is on that and regarding the future with the team and with Tony, we haven?t decided yet. I think Tony knows what he gets with me but then he?s evaluating other options I think to see what he wants to do. And I?m waiting.

“In the meantime, of course, my management is also working. There?s nothing really to report but the main thing I think for myself and really for our team has to be to keep pushing to get that tenth position back, it?s quite crucial.”

Charles Pic

Pic’s two predecessors at Marussia (formerly Virgin) both lost their seats after single seasons. Last year Pic was announced as the replacement for Jerome D’Ambrosio barely three hours after the chequered flag fell on the season finale.

Max Chilton has been tipped as a potential replacement for Pic having driven for the team at the young drivers’ test and in first practice at Abu Dhabi. He is backed by insurance firm Aon: his father is a board member and they also back his brother Tom’s team in the World Touring Car Championship.

Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan

De la Rosa has a contract to drive for HRT next year but after the team was put up for sale will it even be on the grid?

Given that, doubts have to be raised whether he or Narain Karthikeyan will be race again in F1 after this weekend.

Over to you

At present 14 of the 24 seats potentially available for next year have been filled:

Which drivers do you think will not be returning after this weekend’s race? And who will arrive to take their places? Have your say in the comments.

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Image ?? Sauber F1 Team, Caterham/LAT

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147 comments on Which drivers will say farewell to F1 after Brazil?

  1. Tomsk (@tomsk) said on 21st November 2012, 18:24

    Probably the end of the line for Pedalo, Narain and HRT.

    Any of the other four could be absent at the beginning of 2013. Even all of them, but it’d be harsh, and shouldn’t be the last F1 sees of them.

    Senna’s raced well in the last 3 GPs – but 7th or 8th is the best he’ll ever do, and Williams are in a position to aim higher than that. I suspect Caterham will feature van der Garde plus one current driver, probably Petrov. It would be tough on Pic, and Max and Daddy Chilton should think hard about taking the Marussia plunge – they may be getting into F1, but it won’t get them far into F1…

    Toyota won’t believe their luck if Kobayashi becomes available, and the World Endurance Championship would welcome the dropouts with open arms, although it may be awkward fitting them all in before Porsche (& maybe others) join in 2014 – so maybe just an extra car at Le Mans, as Buemi did this year.

    All these guys should be prepared to fly off to any Grand Prix at a moment’s notice, with helmet and racing seat, and seize any chance a bit better than Jerome d’Ambrosio did at Monza. And with all these pay-drivers muppeting around in the races, maybe there’ll be more race bans and opportunities. Particularly if FIA bring in penalty points and reprimands for piddling offences like turning up late or not being on-message at press conferences, as reported last week.

    Williams will need a new third driver. And Sauber, maybe Force India and Ferrari too. A year out’s not the end of the world – Alonso, Hakkinen, Massa and Hulkenberg have all done it. Maybe two years right away from F1’s even better, if Kimi is anything to go by…

    • Fernando Cruz said on 21st November 2012, 21:23

      “Senna’s raced well in the last 3 GPs – but 7th or 8th is the best he’ll ever do, and Williams are in a position to aim higher than that.”

      Give Senna the same practice time as his rivals and he will be a frontrunner again, as he was in GP2. Furthermore Maldonado was (this year) in his second year with the team and in a second year with Williams Senna also can do much better in terms of raw pace. Also 2013 tyres will suit him better, as they won’t have such a slim performance window as those of this year, with the result that even a World Champion in his 13th year in F1 (Button) could only score 7 points in 6 races of the first half of the year, just because he couldn’ t warm enough his tyres in qualifying.

      So, there’s no reason Senna can’t recover the qualifying form of 2011 (when he put the Lotus in Q3 4 times) and become a complete F1 driver, capable of wins if a has really good car, as in races he is already as fast as almost anyone and certainly as fast as his current team mate.

      • Give Senna the same practice time as his rivals and he will be a frontrunner again, as he was in GP2.

        Right. Like that’s the only thing that’s holding him back from performing on par with his team mate, at least…and like F1 is in any way similar to GP2…

        • Fernando Cruz said on 21st November 2012, 22:19

          No, it’s not the only thing but with FP1 for him he can reduce the gap to Maldonado and 2013 tyres will also help him. Already in GP2 we could see Maldonado should have a little edge on him in qualifying (I remember Spain and Monaco 2008) but Senna was definitely better and more complete. However the Venezuelan could develop more these last few years with proper seasons (2009 and 2010 in GP2, 2011 in F1) while Senna had only this year to have a proper season in racing and even so not in equal terms, with almost half of the time his rivals had in free practice.

          So, I think Senna can improve a lot in 2013 if he stays with a midfield team.

          • Everything should help Senna perform every single season…and yet…he never does raise up to the expectations. Don’t you find that a little bit peculiar?

      • Dan Brown (@danbrown180) said on 21st November 2012, 22:20

        You keep saying this and it’s simply nonsense. He has never performed to a high standard and he’s had plenty of time.

        • Fernando Cruz said on 21st November 2012, 23:04

          He has done at least has good in this year and a half (with Lotus and Williams) as Button did in 2000 and 2001 with better conditions, as Bruno entered only in the 12th GP last year and lost already 14 FP1 this year.

          We should compare what is fair, some people forget drivers like Button or Rosberg haven’t done any better in their former years in F1 and only won in their 7th year, while Bruno Senna is only in his 1st proper year.

          People also tend to forget Bruno Senna had better results than Damon Hill (another driver with a famous surname and a similar career path in junior categories) and showed more talent before F1, needing only 4 years in racing while Hill needed a decade (1982 to 1992) to get to F1. I have no doubt that B. Senna would do at least as good (and probably even better) than Hill did in F1 if he had the same conditions Hill had in his time (almost unlimited testing and a car that was by far the class of the field).

          Had Bruno Senna got the Brawn drive, as he deserved, he probably would have won races in his rookie year and surely he would be a much better driver by now, much more developed. However he can still recover the ground he lost these last few years (due to the effects of global crisis, with Honda’s withdrawal, etc.) if he is given a second proper season.

          • The Last Pope (@the-last-pope) said on 21st November 2012, 23:54

            +1. Without the economic crisis Bruno’s career would likely be much different.

            Hill would never have survived his early years in today’s F1. Even Hakkinen might have had the same problems that Kovalianen is having now

          • Kimi4WDC said on 22nd November 2012, 7:13

            Are serious? and the guy below. Comparing Hill and Hakkinen to Bruno Senna.

            Do you remember who they were driving against and what kind of team-mates they had?

            I know Bruno had it tough, but he is not even near Hill or Hakkinen.

          • The Last Pope (@the-last-pope) said on 22nd November 2012, 9:36

            @Kimi4WDC I wasn’t comparing them. I was only saying that the driver market in F1 is so tough now, a driver cannot afford to have a slow start to their career. They need to impress almost instantly or bring in a load of cash or they are gone. Hill did nothing in F3000 had one shocking season for Brabham and then finds himself driving the championship winning car the next season, would that kind of thing happen today?

            Also you can kind of compare Hakkinen to Bruno Senna in that they both were test drivers of a top team. Hakkinen replacing Andreti midseason at Mclaren and Senna replacing Heidfeld at Renault. The difference being Hakkinen had done tons of testing and was able to impress straight out of the box, While Senna had to learn the car in races under everyones eyes.

          • Fernando Cruz said on 22nd November 2012, 15:54

            Damon Hill has never been a great driver, while Mika Hakkinen has really been great. So, I would never compare B. Senna to a driver that beat Ayrton Senna in qualifying the very first time he had a race with McLaren, even if he entered with a lot of testing. But I can compare him (Bruno) with a driver that took 10 years to get to F1 (while Bruno took only 4 in junior categories) and took more than 1,5 second the very first time he qualified alongside Ayrton Senna, a newcomer to the Williams team, while Damon was already there for a year of racing and even more as a tester. I sincerely believe almost any driver of the current F1 grid could have done more or less the same Damon Hill did in his time if they had the same conditions – almost unlimited testing and driving a car that was by far the class of the field. Had Ayrton not died I doubt Hill would have won any more races on merit that those he won in 1993. As it was Hill had the advantage of the best car until late 1996, and took advantage of FIA help in 1994 and a rookie as a team mate in 1996 (and even so he was champion only in the last race). He was a good/average driver and in no way we compare him to a Mika Hakkinen.

  2. robk23 (@robk23) said on 21st November 2012, 18:25

    Someone said Capsicum Motorsport is involved with Marussia so this kind of points to Max Chilton replacing Pic, however I think Pic will find sanctuary elsewhere (Caterham?). Speaking of which, either one or both of the Caterham drivers don’t look safe, I’m expecting a Van Der Garde / Pic lineup there next season for budget reasons. I would also suspect Senna hasn’t done enough to retain his seat.

  3. Adriaantje (@sutil2013) said on 21st November 2012, 18:40

    Sutil should come back next season. Very underestimated driver.

      • Adriaantje (@sutil2013) said on 21st November 2012, 20:54

        I know. It does not sound very much like a certainty, but he knows what he gets. A rock solid driver that can sometimes perform miracles (in Monaco or in the wet). I would sign him right away.

        Im a bit worried though that Mallya will put that French crash kid, Bianchi, in the car. Di Resta and Hulkenberg both followed the same path of friday testing to a race seat the next season.

        Btw, I dont really see why FI should hold on to Di Resta. He has no charisma whatsoever, drives pretty solidly every now and then, but was beaten by Sutil last year and is overclassed by Hulkenberg in the recent races. He can be missed imo.

        • The Last Pope (@the-last-pope) said on 22nd November 2012, 0:00

          You mean he won’t be missed.

          IMO Di Resta has had an unlucky year. Force India like splitting the drivers race strategies and usually Paul ends up with the wrong one, and when he is on the right strategy it gets ruined by a safety car.

          • Adriaantje (@sutil2013) said on 22nd November 2012, 10:31

            Thats what I meant indeed. (No edit button)

            Last year they also split the strategies quite often. The fact that Paul mostly ends up with the alternative one is often the result of him being outqualified by his team mate. Also, I never saw him do anything really special.

  4. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 21st November 2012, 19:00

    My bet is
    Staying: Heikki and Pic
    Leaving: Senna, Kobayashi, HRT (and its two drivers).

    It’s always sad to hear impending closure for a team, but HRT never really went anywhere. Still, you gotta feel sorry for such an underdog team. Hopefully both Caterham and Marussia can finally start fighting in the midfield in 2013. A more competitive grid would greatly compensate for a smaller amount of teams.

  5. from that list of drivers i think that kobayashi, and senna are the only ones that would be a lose for the sport the rest are interchangeable like Grosjean lol

  6. Kobayashi and Senna are one foot out the door if you ask me. Same for Petrov. Kamui will probably lose the seat to the Carlos Slim-backed Gutierrez, Senna to Bottas and Petrov to either Pic or Van Der Garde (I for one am hoping for the latter).

    Frankly I think Kovalainen will stay at Caterham. No matter what he says, he simply doesn’t have a better option. And neither does Fernandez. He’s the closest he can get to an uber-experienced driver. And with those prospects for an intensive partnership with Renault next season in sight, Heikki will stay at least for another season. Pic has a chance of sliding alongside him at Caterham unless Van Der Garde beats him to the seat, case in which, I reckon Pic will be gone as well, getting replaced with Chilton at Marussia.

    And that leaves the two HRT drivers. Now, to be honest, I think both drivers are already gone. HRT either gets sold to someone who will completely refurbish the team (incl. staff, drivers etc.) either it doesn’t and that means it’s the end of their motorsport adventure. I reckon De La Rosa could go back to McLaren as a test driver or perhaps take the same spot at Sauber alongside a very young Robin Frijns. Karthikeyan will probably try to have a go in IndyCar.

    The last big question mark is over the remaining Force India seat. Besides that it all looks quite clear to me.

  7. Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 21st November 2012, 20:32

    Bit surprised that you didn’t include Petrov in this Countdown to Doom, Keith. Surely his time has come as well.
    In truth, there’s two or three more current drivers that I’d say have reached their sell-by dates, but they’re being retained. Glock is one of them.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st November 2012, 23:10


      Surely his time has come as well.

      In nineteen racesthis year, Petrov has out-qualified Kovalainen six times, including four times in the past six or seven races. In the sixteen races they have both finished, Petrov has out-raced Kovalainen in nine of them. He’s proven himself to be a much more even match for Kovalainen than Jarno Trulli ever was.

      • Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 22nd November 2012, 8:09

        You may well be right about their respective results. But as Kovalainen *is* included in this article and since Petrov is allegedly out of sponsorship money, I am still surprised that Petrov isn’t in the article as well.

        • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd November 2012, 10:55

          @timothykatz – According to his manager, Oksana Kossachenko, Petrov has agreed in principle to a deal for next year, but because of the eleventh hour nature of his Caterham deal this year, he can’t actually sign anything until after the Brazilian Grand Prix.

  8. Pedro Costa (@pnunocosta) said on 21st November 2012, 21:24

    Drivers that I wouldn´t miss much:
    – both HRT drivers
    – Glock (got beaten by a not very highly rated rookie)
    – Petrov (normal driver, only in F1 for his sponsorship)
    – Senna (normal driver, only in F1 for his sponsorship)
    – Webber (though I aprecciate a man that is not afraid to speak what he thinks)
    – Schumacher (the last 3 years Michael)

    • Fernando Cruz said on 21st November 2012, 22:39

      Petrov and Senna were both second (and race winners) in GP2, so they got to F1 on merit and not only for their sponsorship. The difference was that the Russian had 2 proper seasons with a midfiled team while Senna had only this year and losing 14 FP1, hurting qualifying and results as a consequence. He can improve a lot if he he is given a second proper season.

      • Pedro Costa (@pnunocosta) said on 21st November 2012, 22:52

        I partially agree with you they were GP2 winners (which for me doesn´t tell much, many have been and that doesn´t mean that they deserve to be with the best) and Senna was extremely prejudiced for not doing any FP1 (Austin is an example, he did FP1 and qualified easly and near his team mate) but the bottom line is that I don´t see them as race winners, they just don´t seem to have the skill to become great drivers.

        • Fernando Cruz said on 21st November 2012, 23:47

          Bruno Senna’s career was affected even more by the time he lost without a proper development, after losing the 2009 Brawn drive. Anyway I think he can still recover and become a race winner if he stays in F1 (at least in a midfield team) for the years to come. I reckon I like Bruno and I really believe he has a lot more to offer that what he could show until now, but he needs a second proper season to prove it in a more convincingly way.

          Well, your name being Pedro Costa I guess we are both Portuguese, am I wrong? In autosport.pt I use a nickname (Senna_f1) and in any other blogs I use my own name.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd November 2012, 11:02

            If Senna was as good a driver to cut it in Formula 1 as you suggest, then missing out on the Brawn seat would not have had any effect on his career.

            And I doubt he would have thrived at Brawn the way you seem to think he would have. Button was in a league of his own in the BGP-001 – but Barrichello wasn’t.

          • Fernando Cruz said on 23rd November 2012, 19:35

            The main problem was missing the Brawn seat too late, at a time there were no seats available in GP2. That and not having (at the time) the sponsorship teams asked young drivers to get following the effects of financial crisis (thus missing to enter in 2010 with an established team) damaged his career massively, as he couldn’t develop at the same rate of other young drivers. I never thought he would be a great driver, but he was good enough to have a solid and good F1 career had he started at the right time with the right car. He surely would be a much better driver by now, much more developed.

            At Brawn he would be at the peak of his confidence and motivation, at 25, coming from a season with wins in GP2 and learning from a good and experienced driver like Button, a guy with a similar driving style. So, if the Brawn BGP 001 suited so well to Button, I guess it would suit as well to Bruno.

  9. sato113 (@sato113) said on 21st November 2012, 22:03

    @keithcollantine keith how do you know hamilton will be car number 7 next year? seems like mercedes are presuming him as their no.1 (i know it doesnt really mean that…) rosberg must be surprised.

  10. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 21st November 2012, 22:36

    RBR: Vettel, Webber
    McLaren: Perez, Button
    Ferrari: Alonso, Massa
    Lotus: Raikkonen, Grosjean
    Mercedes GP: Hamilton, Rosberg
    Sauber: Hülkenberg, Kovalainen
    Williams: Bottas, Maldonado
    Force India: Senna, Petrov
    Toro Rosso: Ricciardo, Vergne
    Caterham F1: Di Resta, Wickens
    Marussia: Pic, Glock
    HRT: Probably won’t be on the grid next year.

  11. TED BELL said on 21st November 2012, 22:50

    I wonder if Formula One will celebrate Michael Schumacher in some fashion at the end of this weekends race. I wasn’t old enough to see Fangio, Farina or Ascari race. Didn’t see Moss either but was fortunate to see Jimmy Clark and pretty much everyone since then. We are living at the time when the greatest of them all is now ready to step aside and let this next generation of very good race car drivers scratch their own marks into the history books.

    To have seen MS from the beginning and now as the end nears makes me wonder how we as fans, the media as the teller of his tale and those who with keen interest have witnessed what this one man has accomplished during his time behind the wheel and how all of us should say thanks for all he has done for our sport. His records should stand the test of time. His accomplishments will forever be a marker on how to get the job done. His rivals know that he presented challenges that no one else ever had. Some got the best of MS too, but that was few and far between.

    I would love to see at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix all who were still running stop at the start finish line off to the side and let Schumacher have one final parade lap alone so that those who were there, those watching at home and all of the teams collect themselves and wait for Schumacher to come back to the start finish one final time as a tribute to the man himself.

    I think it would be a great moment for Formula One and I am confident there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. We are so fortunate to witness this guys career and to recognize him in this fashion could be the PR move of the year. Bernie loves the PR and this one could be an all timer….

    Thank you Michael

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd November 2012, 0:04

      Seeing as he’s already retired once I doubt they’ll lay it on too thick.

      • (Tongue-in-cheek) I think the Interlagos guys want to stress on the word ‘final’ in that farewell, because they don’t want to bid him a third goodbye, it would be hard on their resources.
        P.S.: I am a Schumi fan.

    • Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 22nd November 2012, 8:19

      Ooh dear. I don’t really think so. Schumacher has also left a fairly bitter taste in the mouths of a few people and fans, so I don’t think there will be a sort of valedictory parade. Some people might rejoice along the lines of “Thank goodness he’s finally going”, and “Why did he ever come back anyway?”.
      One last thing; are you sure he was “ready to step aside”? I thought he got binned.

    • I doubt they’ll do it but that would be brilliant to see.

  12. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 21st November 2012, 23:21

    I’ll really be very sad if this will end up being Kobayashi’s last race. :(

  13. Blog Sexta Marcha (@blogsextamarcha) said on 22nd November 2012, 1:30

    Kobayashi to Force India! Why not?

    • At this stage, I would prefer he leave Sauber and join Lotus, Force India or Williams. I think he would do well with a change. We will find out the situation by Sunday as Sauber plan to announce their 2nd driver during the weekend.

  14. No, Petrov on this list..that is strange, although there is next to no chance he’ll start next season on the grid. It might not be a final farewell though because Oksana Kosachenko seemed certain that they would participate at the Russian GP in Sochi due in 2014. Vyborg ‘Rocket’ is probably taking a financial sabbatical.
    Kovalainen and Kobayashi are in big trouble. Pic is less so possibly because he has been in talks with another team, whereas the above two are trying to stay in their own teams next year.
    Thing is, Caterham want to go places next year, but how will dumping Heikki and replacing him with van der Garde help? The latter has taken several years to win a GP2 race and is a contemporary of Hamilton, so he’s not young either. And anyone can outperform Rodolfo Gonzalez, it doesn’t take a Herculean effort.
    Also, di Resta’s seat is yet to be confirmed and it gives me a feeling that his recent bitterness and under-performing streak is not just w.r.t. his teammate or the lost opportunity to sign for McLaren, I think that his seat is TBC as well.

    • Kimi4WDC said on 22nd November 2012, 23:03

      Oksana Kosachenko is one of the worst managers there is. If she actually did do some work instead of relying on their childhood connection, Vitaliy would have been enjoying PDSVA or Telmex like backing, and would be getting podiums as he already proved he can, instead he is in Caterham…..

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd November 2012, 11:00

        … I’m sorry, what?

        Why would PDVSA or Telmex want to sponsor a Russian driver? They’re from Venezuela and Mexico – they want Venezuelan and Mexican drivers.

        Petrov had the option of entering negotiations with Williams this year. But he chose not to, because the team was talking to Raikkonen, Sutil and Senna, and he didn’t want to get hung up on negotiating with them and neglecting other teams where he stood a better chance of joining up. If he had known that his only real competition for the seat was Bruno Senna, then he might have pushed harder – but since Renault didn’t let him go until they knew they had Raikkonen in the bag, he had very few options once he finally became a free agent and had to work with what he was given.

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