Rubens Barrichello’s seat at Williams F1 is gone, that is what everyone seems to be believing despite Barrichello claiming that he can bring Five Million Euros in sponsorship money (there are some die hard Barrichello fans who believe he is safe at Williams). It looks as if the fight for his seat is between Adrian Sutil now with Sahara Force India and Valterri Bottas. Barrichello has been making repeated entreaties to the Williams F1 team through the media as to why he should be retained claiming that his rich experience of 19 uninterrupted seasons in F1 will be direly required by a team that has made sweeping changes on its technical side. The response from his team has only been silence and in a couple of weeks time everything should be clear. What is clear right now is that Kimi Raikonnen’s negotiations with the team have come to an end after the greedy Finn who has been out of F1 for two years has been demanding high wages, something that is usual with him.
Sahara Force India is in a very bad position, with both their existing drivers Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta doing quite well this year and ensuring that the team finished sixth in the championship, the first among privateer teams (McLaren is not a privateer team, they have works status with Mercedes Benz and not customer status). Their problem is that they also have Nico Hulkenberg, the talented German waiting in the wings for an opportunity to race. Force India’s problem stems from the fact that Di Resta is actually a Mercedes driver who has been placed with them since Mercedes are engine suppliers to the team and are waiting for Michael Schumacher to either shine or quit at the end of 2012. Nico Hulkenberg is someone who cannot be allowed to go since he represents the future. One can therefore understand Sahara Force India’s predicament.
Kimi Raikonnen has entered the fray for a seat in the Lotus team (presently Renault) which could well get rid of both its drivers, Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna. It will be a while before things could emerge clearly at Lotus but it does appear as if Robert Kubica’s position at the team is compromised, something that was evident in the fight between the team and Kubica’s manager in public about the fitness of Kubica and his ability to race in 2012. There is speculation now that Robert Kubica, who is a good friend of Fernando Alonso may well be preparing to sign up with Ferrari from 2013 when Felipe Massa’s contract runs out. There are rumours about Heikki Kovalainen who is contracted to Caterham F1 being contacted by Lotus, even though Caterham boss Tony Fernandes wants to retain him. So along with Scuderia Toro Rosso, Force India and Williams, the Lotus team has the cards for next year and these are the three teams that will drive the market for drivers.
Marussia F1 will soldier on with Timo Glock and has decided to drop Jerome D’Ambrosio and has signed on Frenchman Charles Pic to partner Glock. HRT has recently signed Pedro De La Rosa recently and Vitantonio Liuzzi has a contract for next year. However, his seat is not safe with Red Bull Racing keen to place Daniel Ricciardo or Jean Eric Vergne and could help HRT buy Liuzzi out of his contract to place its burgeoning pool of young drivers. The irascible Franz Tost at Scuderia Toro Rosso in conjunction with Helmut Marko are very clear that neither Jaime Alguersuari nor Sebastien Buemi need to believe that they are safe for next year. So as things stand what could happen at Toro Rosso is a mystery, though one should say that both their existing drivers have done enough to justify another season at the team.
It is sad that while there are so many talented youngsters desperately looking for seats, oldies such as Pedro De La Rosa are being signed by teams. There is no reason to believe that younger drivers do not have the abilities to develop a car, Michael Schumacher displayed that in his years at Benetton and Ferrari. He is yet another driver who has no business being on the grid, but unfortunately is sitting there thanks to business interests taking precedence over sporting interest. Many young drivers could do what Michael Schumacher is doing and more ( and this is without taking away any of the achievements of the great driver that he is) and perhaps Paul Di Resta should be in the Mercedes GP car straight away. In the same breath one can perhaps argue that Rubens Barrichello should retire gracefully rather than put himself in a position where he is unceremoniously forced out. And he should be forced out since at his age and given his ability (he is no Michael Schumacher, despite all his protestations to the contrary) there is no value that he is adding to F1.
In all this mercifully we hear the news that Jacques Villeneuve has given up his attempts at a comeback into F1. We don’t want F1 to be a sport of geriatrics do we, it is bad enough that the management is a gerontocracy. Anyway since Luca De Montezemolo is always talking about third cars, a series could be organized for all the have beens of F1. It could feature a grid of Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve, Rubens Barrichello, Nick Heidfeld, Pedro De La Rosa, Kimi Raikonnen, Narain Karthikeyan, Christian Klien, Jarno Trulli and Vitantonio Liuzzi. This could run as a support race before the main event. This is the ideal solution for all these drivers who want to drive and for Luca De Montezemolo who wants to have third cars. A ten car veterans grid to support the main grid.
We shall wait and hope that the places are filled with younger drivers and that old and overrated drivers like Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikonnen are kept out of F1 for good.
P.S: Caterham F1 for 2012 is this years Team Lotus which raced in green and yellow colours and will do so next year as well. Lotus for 2012 is this year’s Renault team that raced in black and gold and is likely to continue to race in those colours and Marussia F1 for 2012 is this year’s Virgin F1.