Which drivers will say farewell to F1 after Brazil?

Debates and polls

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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