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Barrichello back in Williams frame

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Andrew Benson | 12:58 UK time, Monday, 2 January 2012

Formula 1 always goes a little quiet over Christmas, but one team that has been making waves - both publicly and behind the scenes - are Williams.

The team that dominated F1 for much of the 1980s and 1990s are one of only two outfits still with an obvious vacancy in their driver line-up - the other being back-of-the-grid HRT.

And it seems that Rubens Barrichello, the veteran who has driven for the team for the last two seasons, is back in with a chance of staying with them for 2012.

Rubens Barrichello

Rubens Barrichello had been tipped to vacate his Williams seat. Photo: Getty

Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado is staying on in one of the cars after an up-and-down rookie season in 2011 - his position in the team is secure thanks to a multi-million sponsorship deal with his country's national oil company.

But the second seat is still up for grabs, and while Williams are not the attractive proposition they were in their glory days, they are the only decent choice for a whole host of drivers wishing to continue their F1 careers.

These include Barrichello, German Adrian Sutil, Brazilian Bruno Senna, Toro Rosso rejects Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi and Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Sutil, who had an impressive second half of the season for Force India, has been the favourite for some time, but the situation appears to have shifted recently.

My sources tell me that Barrichello, who appeared to be out of the running as his 19th season in F1 drew to a close in November, has come back into the frame and now has a reasonable chance of a Williams drive in 2012.

Barrichello has been arguing for some time that, with the huge ructions going on at Williams through 2011 and over the winter, it would make sense to have a known reference in the drivers.

"With all the changes for next year on the engine side and engineers," he said at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix, "it would be clever from the team to keep the drivers and keep on going. I'm not pushing them, I'm just trying to show them that is the way to do it."

You can see his point. The team are changing engine suppliers, replacing Cosworth with Renault, and have undergone a wholesale restructure of the design department, with a new technical director, head of aerodynamics and head of engineering.

New tech boss Mike Coughlan is admired as being very clever, but his last role as a technical director was with the now-defunct Arrows team, who collapsed in 2002. As chief designer of McLaren after that, he was involved in the spy-gate scandal that engulfed the team in 2007 and for which he was sacked.

The technical changes at Williams were made even more seismic when it emerged on New Year's Eve that not only was co-founder Patrick Head stepping down as director of engineering, he was also resigning his position on the F1 team's board, thereby cutting all his ties with the sport.

It had long been known that Head, one of the most respected engineers in the history of the sport, would no longer have an active role in the day-to-day F1 operation, but it was a surprise to hear he was not going to be on the board of directors.

Head has insisted that his decision to end his day-to-day F1 role was based on feeling his relevance in F1 was diminishing.

In Brazil, he said: "I certainly didn't have an ambition to stop my involvement in Formula One with a season like this last one we've had behind us.

"But when I have a look at what specifically I can do to assist Mike Coughlan and (chief operations officer) Mark Gillan and (head of aerodynamics) Jason Somerville, I came to the conclusion that it isn't really enough to justify me carrying on doing the same thing."

He will still be involved at Williams through their subsidiary company Williams Hybrid Power and remains close to team boss Sir Frank Williams, who will doubtless be turning to him for advice on a regular basis.

All the same, many will consider it unwise that a team in such flux, and with such a grave need to improve, will not have on their board the guidance and wisdom of a man who not only co-founded the company but who was directly responsible for seven drivers' championships and nine constructors' titles.

Why will he not be there? Williams and Head were both unavailable for comment on Monday. I'm told, though, that his difficult relationship with chief executive officer Adam Parr was a part of Head's decision to step down.

Ironically, Head's departure may ease Barrichello's path to a return.

Head is forthright character and I'm told he had grown tired of the Brazilian's complaints about the team's difficulties.

With the 65-year-old no longer involved, that on the face of it is one less barrier to Barrichello being in the car again.

It seems, though, that all the driver hopefuls will have to wait. Williams are in the process of sponsorship negotiations with the Gulf state of Qatar, and they take primacy over a final decision on drivers.

With more than a month until the start of pre-season testing on 7 February, there is plenty of time to sort out drivers. After all, it's not as if Williams are struggling for choice.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Barrichello! Why not wheel out Nelson Piquet? There are plenty of young talented drivers out there.

  • Comment number 2.

    It's a massive shame Patrick Head who is held in such high regard and who has done so much for Formula 1 should end up leaving Williams because of someone like Adam Parr who I will refrain from saying anything about for fear of being moderated.

    There is some people pretty sure that Bruno Senna has already got the drive because of obtaining some big sponsorship. Any word on that Andrew??

  • Comment number 3.

    Re the rumours about Bruno Senna already landing the Williams drive - these are doing the rounds in Brazil but are not accurate at this stage, I understand. In fact, he's not even really in consideration for now. But there is a long way to go and, as I say in the blog, Williams are in no hurry to make a decision.

  • Comment number 4.

    Williams should be looking at losing Maldonaldo rather than rubens. If this new investment comes through surely he should be got rid of as he struggled badly in a weak car and only thing of note was his road rage act on Hamilton in qualifying at Spa. Williams have lost Sam Michael who will be a greater loss than Head. McLaren would not employed him if there was nothing left in the tank with Sam

  • Comment number 5.

    Ruben's makes a really good argument for the seat and I can see that having consistency in drivers may help Williams in the new season. I'd love to see Senna in a competitive car but there are no drives available this year, who knows, maybe he'll be partnering Alonso in 2013.......

    Experience v young talent. I'd have to go with Barrichello, just for one more year

  • Comment number 6.

    Having Bruno Senna and Maldonado would be a disaster, neither driver is quick enough based on their race pace, they also don't know what they need when developing the car. Sutil or Barrichello is the only realistic choice for 2012, Buemi doesn't have a long term future in F1 and I suspect that Alguersuari will end up at HRT. The only other interesting choice would be Petrov, he's not as good a driver but if they want to abandon 2012 in favour of the larger rule changes for 2013 then they could do with the money he would bring.

  • Comment number 7.

    Barrichello is a multiple race winner and he's a joy to work with apparently. In my view it would make perfect sense to keep him on and see how he gets on with Renault power under his right foot. Williams need stability and consistency, two things they have in Barrichello.

  • Comment number 8.

    Well, Andrew, I can see Barrichello's got a point but I don't think he's all that relevant to a successful Williams next year. Of course Maldonado is there due to the sponsorship he brought to the team and I believe the second seat should go to someone relatively young and with a proven talent to perform. My pick would be Adrian Sutil. He did really well in Toyota a few years back and had a strong season last year. And he brings some sponsorship as well. So, in a "package", I would consider that he's the best value proposition. I'm a Brazilian but I see that Barrichello and Senna would be interesting to the team only if Renault decides to have a Brazilian in one of the cars (and pays for it, of course) due to the huge car market in Brazil. Performance, in those cases, usually isn't in the top of the list of priorities.

  • Comment number 9.

    3rd paragraph from the end: "With the 65-year-old..."

    I (genuinely) initially read that thinking that was referring to Barrichello!

    Incidentally I'm all for Rubens to keep his seat at Williams - a solid, immensely experienced driver with top flight insight. With so many changes at Williams he would be invaluable for the team's resurgence (similar to how Coulthard helped establish Red Bull). Mad to choose any of the other contenders for the seat.

    Either Sutil, Senna, Buemi and Algersuari for the remaining HRT seat - we haven't seen the last of Sutil in F1 whatever happens.

  • Comment number 10.

    Well maybe i am not alone after all in wanting to see Rubens with a drive. There are arguments for young drivers with money. That is in place with Maldonado who really needs a lot more practice before being let loose in an F1 car again.
    What Williams really needs is experience with all the changes going on internally. Who better than Rubens? He hasnt moaned & shouted in public has waited to see what will be decided. Couldnt have been his best Christmas & New Year this year so how about a belated New Year present of the seat at Williams?

  • Comment number 11.

    I really hope Rubens gets his seat back for 2012. When he and Schumi were both rookies and considering their respective equipment, I reckoned Rubens was his equal. I still reckon that Rubens can do anything Michael can do on a level playing field.

  • Comment number 12.

    there are 3 who i think deserve the seat: barrichello, senna and sutil. so test them out and see whos the fastest and hire him

  • Comment number 13.

    In the county where I live we say that every season has its fruit and, unfortunately for Barrichello, his the season is over. I agree with FatFreddysCat statement to leave the seat to young talented drivers.

  • Comment number 14.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 15.

    At the moment Williams are in desperate need for development on its car and one of the key things is to have good feed back from the drivers to help this process. Which means you need experienced drivers and Rubens is the most experienced driver in the history of the sport so Williams will be mad not to resign him. Go Rubens!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Who would want to drive for Williams a failing team only getting worse. Frank and adam should leave and let someone young take over.. Rubens should drive for them they should be team OAP maybe they could be sponsored by a stair lift company. Every decision at Williams is a step in the wrong direction, why can everyone except them see that . Even Patrick is having to leave the team he founded because of this.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    I understand Rubens point about keeping the drivers as reference point, but can that point be countered by a driver who is potentially far better? Sutil would get my vote, but I'm a fan, not someone both trying to keep and income and get up the grid :)

    I know this time of year is quiet for F1 so its always good to have a good old forum elsewhere to keep my F1 side ticking over.

  • Comment number 19.

    While I'd love Rubens to race just one more year and think in many ways he deserves it, it would be a sad state of affairs if Adrian Sutil didn't get a seat. He beat Paul Di Resta, 'rookie of the season' and 'future world champion?', pretty convincingly, but because the entire Venuzuelan economy is now centred around Pastor Maldonado's racing career, he might leave the sport.

    Alguesuari has also earned another chance, but theres just too few opportunities. With oldies like Rubens, Schumacher and even De La Rosa!!! hanging around, and drivers out of form like Massa and Webber still seen as better options than fresh talent, its hard for new stars to emerge. Ideally you'd want qualifying to be just that again, and have 20 teams battle for a starting place but aint never gonna happen.

    Just hope, in the nicest possible way, that if Maldonado carries on being nothing other than 'alright', Frank sees sense and swaps him for someone who might push the team forward. Coughlan could build the best car in the world but without good enough drivers they're going nowhere fast.

  • Comment number 20.

    This is a good thing, it will mean if he does go at the end of the season we can give him a proper send of, a true legend of F1!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Barrichello and Sutil should be their 2012 line-up! Barrichello has the experience to aid Williams through the transition period as they try to find their footing again (Brawn 09), whilst Sutil has the speed to score good points. If this deal with Qatar comes off, there is zero reason for Maldonado (with his 'dodgy' state sponsorship which had be put into question) to be wasting a seat as he did nothing to suggest he deserved it from last seasons results...

  • Comment number 22.

    I find it very hard to believe an argument as simple as Rubens puts it is really going to convince anyone at Williams to keep him on. If it was a simple case of keeping someone important at the team for the sake of continuity, surely Head would have agreed to stay on for a further year, although it seems his relationship with Parr was always going to be an issue there.
    The reality is, presuming potential sponsorship isn't enough to get Maldanado out of the other seat, they need to appoint the best driver out there and that's Sutil. He's got progressively better his whole career and it's very hard to argue he's not experienced at 28 and having been in F1 since 2006. In addition, if as pointed out above, Williams are going to be aiming more at 2013 than 2012, it would make sense to get a driver in now who can help them gradually adapt rather than giving Rubens one more year.

  • Comment number 23.

    Looking forward to seeing Rubens back in the Williams seat this year.

  • Comment number 24.

    Sutil looks like the best choice to me. He just had a good solid season (with the edge over di Resta in the end), and has plenty of experience now. If they decide against Sutil, then it surely has to be between Barrichello and Algesuari. There are some good reasons for sticking with Barrichello. He has huge experience, would maintain continuity and is a solid (if unspectacular) performer. However, he's hardly "one for the future". Algesuari put in a decent season, performing well in numerous races, despite being under heavy pressure at times. I feel he was a bit hard done by to lose his seat in the end. Even though he's hardly set the world alight, he's still very young and could yet have a bright future. He really needs to improve his performances in qualifying though. I wouldn't fancy a gamble Senna, and I think the other drivers I mentioned above should all be higher on the shortlist than Buemi, Petrov or Liuzzi. Whoever they take will surely be going there as the team's number one driver after Maldonado's very ordinary first season. Indeed, with the drivers that are all fighting for that seat, I think Maldonado is very lucky to have his seat confirmed.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ andycarroll_smashed_ur_granny wrote:
    Yes to Rubens, yes to Sky,not sure why someone has been upset by this and referred to the moderators!

    Because your boring?????

  • Comment number 26.

    One of the Greatest Engineers Formula One has EVER seen has left the Sport. Patrick Head designed cars so good the FIA banned them! But, we all see active ride on road going cars now, and ground effect has been muted for a return. I for one, hope Patrick stays in the background, and pulls another genie out of the bag, to reinvigorate Williams.

  • Comment number 27.

    Sad to see Patrick Head leave the sport, I have the utmost admiration for this top engineer. There is a certain irony that the once great Williams now have to employ rent a drivers of the quality of Maldonado given the way they used to discard their drivers to take on the next big thing.

  • Comment number 28.

    Enough of this!!!! Six times Rubens has been in a championship winning car, both drivers' and constructors', and of those times he has come second in the drivers' championship twice. TWICE!!! Out of 6 times in, statistically, the best car!! Experience is useless if you're pants. Oh, and he didn't "develop" any of those cars, either, so that argument's out the window straight away - if he had, maybe he would have done a bit better; MS did the Ferrari and the Brawn car was awesome out of the box thanks to their ingenuity.

    Sorry, but Rubens should have bowed out with his dignity in tact. time to let Williams do what they do best and let the newboys have their chance.

  • Comment number 29.

    Half of the young drivers currently looking for seats won't be in F1 for long, so why keep them guessing. If they haven't got the message, hopefully when Mr B, with his proven track record, can still give a good performance and show them why he's a far safer bet.

    Given equal equipment I'm sure Ruben could still outperform a lot of the back-end and mid-range drivers of today. I don't see the harm in keeping drivers going if they are a genuine benefit to a team.

    Last season had too many poor cars, and weak drivers on the track. It's a highly paid, highly competitive job and each year there must be dozens of potential candidates to fill the seats of the previous years failed rookies. Sadly, sometimes having a famous father or name seems to be considered more beneficial than realistic potential.

    Maybe they ought to change rookie drivers half way through season. Or alternate each race... sounds familiar! I wonder if this will ever take off on TV!?!?! No to Sky... yes to searching for a 'cheap' online alterative!

  • Comment number 30.

    I may not over-express my respect for Mr. Head.
    However, he and Mr. Williams were what Enzo
    Ferrari rightly called 'garage teams'. With a solid
    Cosworth engine, and and magic design from
    Mr. Head, the team won in spite of the skills of
    Alan Jones.

    With a brilliant design from Mr. Head, the team lost
    due to Nigel Mansell.

    It was not until the hiring of Adrian Newey that Group
    Williams began to dominate. Add to this, pilots such
    as Prost and Senna, and the Team was set.

    Bonne Chance in one's endeavours Mr. Head.

  • Comment number 31.

    Interesting that the blog effectively ends in a way reminiscent to EM Forster's 'A Passage to India' in that it's what's known as an 'open ending'. It seems as if Mr. Benson is not ruling out any of the drivers in contention for the last seat at Williams which puts into question the main substance of the blog content! I feel no more informed about who is going to claim the second spot as I did before I read the blog!

  • Comment number 32.

    If Williams want to play it smart either Sutil or Rubens will get second seat.

    No to Sky.

  • Comment number 33.

    @19 Jack 'sad state of affairs if Adrian Sutil didn't get a seat. He beat Paul Di Resta, 'rookie of the season' and 'future world champion?', pretty convincingly'

    I don't know which parallel universe you watched the 2011 season from but this statement is 'pretty convincingly' nonsense. After having just watched the first half of the official season review, rookie di Resta got the better of Sutil the majority of the time. Though your judgement seems clouded as it appears you have beef with di Resta, what is it, anti-Brits?, anti-Scot?, anti-all Brits but Lewis, anti-all Brits but Jense, anti-rookies?

    Sutil, with his years of experience and reputation should have dominated Di Resta but didn't. He is quick and may deserve to be in F1, but Sutil only seemed to wake up when his seat was in danger at the end of 2011. Not good so I think Williams should go with Rubens for their development year of 2012 that they so need to improve on.

    Williams would be better getting rid of Parr, he seems to be pretty wet and uninspiring as a leader and may be contributing to the loss of focus in the team. He also repeatedly comes out with nonsense comments when he should be head down trying to sort things out.

    With their financial issues, Williams should do a television deal grand prix weekend style shootout with Rubens, Sutil, B Senna, Buemi, Alg and Luizzi in Quatar. They could have lap shootouts and mini races in classic Williams cars and a race for the seat showdown on Sunday in the 2011 cars. Sell it to ITV or Ch4 and slap loads of sponsor adverts on it. Heck there's not much else on TV, why not? Just don't give it to the BBC as they'd only cover half the action :(

    No to the BBCSky dealings, yes to RTL TV with 5 Live for 'free' LIVE F1.

  • Comment number 34.

    I would have thought that the people at Williams aren't stupid. it doesn't matter how much money you throw at something, bad drivers will ruin all your hard work.
    Fine, have one pay driver, but then use that money to get a high quality team mate.

  • Comment number 35.

    Williams F1 will miss Patrick Head, the teams fortunes started to fall when he took a less hands on approach to the running of the team and handed over many of his duties to Sam Michael, only now is it obvious to the team Sam was not anywhere near as good at the job as Patrick.
    Patrick is a icon in F1, respected and looked up to by almost everyone in the sport. He is going to be a huge loss to F1 and Williams F1, if there was any problem between Patrick and Adam Parr then it should have been P45 time for Parr.

    No To Sky, F1 to stay Free to Air, No to highlights and half a season.

  • Comment number 36.

    I like Reubens, i think he has been brilliant for F1, his attitude and personality has been nothing less than inspirational to all new F1 drivers, howver i think his time in F1 as a driver has come to an end. Personally I would employ either Petrov or Sutil, to be honest I think both drives should have gone to those to, Maldonado has no place in F1 as far as i'm concerned, in my eyes he was the worst performing rookie of the season and his antics in Belgium was a disgrace. maybe Barrichelo can have a more influential role behind the scenes, sort of like what schumacher was doing at Ferrari before his return to F1.

  • Comment number 37.

    I feel that Rubens has done a good job and has had a good run but if Williams are after money it needs to be either Sutil, Petrov or Senna as they all bring some type of sponsorship.

    Saying that, Senna does not deserve to be at Williams just yet as his performance isn't what Williams need right now.

    If i was in their shoes i would go for Petrov as he is young with money behind him.

    Get rid of Maldonado and have two good drives with money behind them and use the joint knowledge that Sutil and Petrov could bring to start getting points.

  • Comment number 38.

    I hope Barrichello does get another year at Williams, he had some strong races last season and frankly deserves the seat more than Maldanodo.

  • Comment number 39.

    I wished it did matter who drove for Williams. To the fans it matters but the gulf in funding between Williams and the other big teams is so huge it could be any of the drivers. Keep the current line-up and get Pastor and his oil company sponsor to pay more. At the moment cash = points.

  • Comment number 40.

    Williams and Barrichello have been making up the numbers in F1 for awhile and the combination has been of your typical journeyman team. Hulkenburg proved that a fast driver can do things at favourable times. Sutil, Petrov or Senna are the likely choices.

  • Comment number 41.

    I feel that it is a big shame that Rubens feels as though that he has to fight for his seat for 2012. As unpopular my view could be, I believe that Rubens should have retired last season while he sill had his dignity. It is clear that the team would rather be without him. I'm sure he is a nice guy but lets be honest, he is not going to win anything. It is time to give his seat over to a potential young rising star such as Jaime Alguersuari or even Sutil. Rubens has had a career so far spanning over 19 years. Some people just need to know when to call it a day in my opinion.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    @39
    Only thing that matters in F1 is cash no one has been bothered with the fans or the good of the sport for a very long time.

    The gulf in funding is only going to get bigger now that fota is all but dead and gone.

  • Comment number 44.

    @2. mr-big

    Yes, you can follow Williams' decline along with Adam Parr's ascent within the team.
    Maybe after Parr's anti FTA speech in Canada last year and his subsequent ascent within FOTA, we will soon witness the decline in F1 viewing figures, and then the sport.

  • Comment number 45.

    For the once domineering Williams to hand a 2012 seat to Maldonado, the worst F1 driver on the grid, when there is such a pool of talent & experience waiting in the wings is a disgrace.

    I for one hope Williams fall further behind because of this.

    F1 used to be the best drivers in the world in the best cars. Unfortunately it's become the richest drivers, not the best, who get the seats.

  • Comment number 46.

    Sorry but I have to say @8 - I think you're confusing Sutil with Glock - Sutil has only ever raced for Force India / Spyker / Midland...

    As for who should get the second seat - Honda (just before they left the sport) tested Senna against Rubens for the seat alongside Jenson Button for 2009. Senna beat Rubens comprehensivley in the 2008 Honda, and almost matched Button's times. When Honda pulled out, Ross Brawn chose experience over youth, as the team needed all the help development wise it could get. Had Honda not gone, Senna would have had the seat.

    Yet I would love to see Rubens have a 20th season (rather than Schumacher's "20th" this year if you don't count his three years out) and bow out properly.

    So hopefully, Rubens for the Williams seat, and hopefully Senna could get a test drive with a contract to race in 2013, unless Caterham really do drop Trulli...

  • Comment number 47.

    Rubens always seems like the nicest guy in the paddock but his time has gone, if it's his development skills you want (and frankly I see little evidence in his recent past that he's that helpful especially with a car that isn't up to scratch to start with) then offer him a Friday drive. The race seat should go to Sutil or Algesuari.

    @45 F1 has always had pay drivers, there are probably less now than in the early to mid 90's as anyone who watch the efforts of such mobile chicanes as Ricardo Rosset who's "talent" allegedly contributed to Ken Tyrrell's decision to resign from his own team and the inimitable Jean Denis Deletraz who once memorably managed to fall 40 seconds behind the leader in just 3 laps at Estoril and was lapped after 7 can attest. Indeed pay drivers go back to very earliest days of the sport when many moneyed hacks bought their own cars in order to race.

    Williams used to go through up to 10 drivers a season in their early days, pay drivers are nothing new for them either.

  • Comment number 48.

    No Barrichello has had more than enough time to prove himeself and hasn't..so it's time for someone else.

    As an aside why did McLaren sign Sam Michael, all they are doing is signing mediocrity, when they need an 'Adrian Newey'.

  • Comment number 49.

    The best solution would be for a Sutil/Barrichello line-up but since Williams sold one of the seats to Maldonado, I feel Rubens should get the other one.
    The Toro Rosso rejects are what they are: rejects. Sena carries much more on his name than on his ability to drive. He got the chance @ Renault and did nothing with it. Be fast on a test is one thing; be consistent on a race is another and it is sad to say but he is simply not good enough and relies too much on this name.
    Sutil? what can I say? if he was really that good, would he lose the seat to Hulkenberg (hopeless...) and to Di Resta (has a future...)?
    i would stick to Barrichello this year and let him know that it is the last one. As for maldonado, I would desperately try to find a deal where money was enough to avoid selling seats to drivers that have only money and no talent.

  • Comment number 50.

    Does make me laugh when reading peoples comments, Rubens, Senna etc should do this that and the other, We all know how great a driver Rubens is, in a great car - he can match and beat the best of the drivers, with Williams going back to Renault powered engine, Rubens is the best man for leading the team

  • Comment number 51.

    I am going to keep this on topic, Rubens doesn't think he is ready to hang up his boots just yet. I do hope he gets the 2nd seat at Williams, but I am biased, I had the great honour with talking to him at a few races over the 18 or so years he has been around. Even without the press around he is a very nice bloke. Good luck Rubens.

  • Comment number 52.

    Williams down fall began when they fell out with BMW, and they have made some silly decisions on the driver line up for example dropping Damon Hill and then ditching Hulkenburg who i think would have got Williams more points this season Maldonado is disparately slow is moneys has only got him a seat. Id go for Rubens and Stuil they know how to develop a car and will be consistent points scorers. The Renault engine will bring more power, but in the end its the areo and design of car that makes dictates the pace.

  • Comment number 53.

    Like others have pointed out unfortunately these days some drivers have their lofty position in F1 not through superior skills but because they come with a large wad of ready cash, Maldonado was unimpressive and his driving at Spa will stick in other teams and drivers minds ( heres a guy who will gladly ram you off the road, destroy your car and his and who knows what else could happen). its a real catch 22 for the less experienced drivers especially with the testing regulations now.

  • Comment number 54.

    Everyone wants to bow out on a high so Rubens will fight for this drive and a chance of a 'good' season a lot. Whilst he seems a nice guy Williams have to do whats best for them.

  • Comment number 55.

    The safe choice would be Sutil, the high risk/high reward choice would be Senna. I can't see anyone else being in the running. I've nothing against Rubens, but Williams really are spoilt for choice.

  • Comment number 56.

    Personally, I think Rubens has had his time and should've walked instead of what's happening to him now, being pushed out the sport. Sad to see but I feel his Formula 1 stage of his career is over and maybe he should look elsewhere if he isn't already.

    Sutil would be the better driver choice for me, got time on his side if stability is what they need and has been a team leader so has some experience to bring. He's a consistent performer and could probably steal them a good points haul if the heavens opened on a race weekend given he's not half bad in the wet. Can't see Senna or Petrov being given anything other than a testing role next season.

  • Comment number 57.

    Why don't they do something tactical go for Maldonado and Petrov for the money and then do a Brawn and so have lots of money and lots of development and then give him a seat for 2013 season ?

  • Comment number 58.

    @57 I do agree with what you are saying with having Maldonado and Petrov being in the car but I think I remember Rubens saying in Brazil that if he doesnt get a drive he will go back home and we will never see him again so someone needs to keep him racing. Why dont Williams do what Red Bull did last year and pay HRT to have rubens in the car for a year? Then with that it could be a win/win??

  • Comment number 59.

    Rubens Barrichello has always been a good driver without being a great driver, and is universally loved as a nice guy. Even in a good car, he wasn't a consistent winner. (Anyone see a parallel here with Mark Webber?) I vote for Sutil and Petrov.

  • Comment number 60.

    Rubens is a good driver, and we know that with a competitive car he can win races. I think if Williams can find a way to put him in a decent car, they should keep him on board for another year. But if they're going to field another FW-33 type car, give the seat to Sutil or Petrov.

  • Comment number 61.

    I kind of agree with views about having Petrov+Maldonado = cash -> car development
    Though with emo stuff Petrov pulled on Renault I doubt Williams need a cry baby to mess up their PR. And to be fair he was so unimpressive having finished his second season now. Only managed to rack up similar amount of points what Heidfeld did in half a season. Heidfeld might just pop back on the radar dont you think?

  • Comment number 62.

    Its sad to hear patrick head has decided to retire from f1, but then he is more than man enough to admit that he is past his sell by date. F1 is a very complicated game but he has vast amount of experience, not only as an F1 player but in a team that knows how to win world championships. Now is not a good time to retire as he could pass on his vast winning experience on to the new breed of engineers and designers which have not remotley won anything in F1 yet. As for rubens he talks a good talk but makes sense regards stick with the drivers you know, as there is enough disruption in the fabric of the team. Rubens is a class driver and is better than people give him credit. As for rubens moaning about the direction the team was heading like a ship without a captain, with rubens moans the team has to listen patrick might not like it but the driver wants to see the team do well and rubens is still fantastically ambitious. Frank you need a safe pair of hands thats rubens......

  • Comment number 63.

    Rubens Barrichello was a good driver, when he is in Ferrari and Brawn GP and He is now aged. I think Sutil will drive 2012 Williams.

    I think this link useful for 2012 F1 - 2012 F1 cars launching dates
    http://www.formula1onlive.com/2011/12/2012-f1-cars-launching-dates.html

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    I wonder if these posts get passed onto him (frank) ?

  • Comment number 66.

    I would love, like many others here, to see Rubens in the seat. He deserves a better year to bow out gracefully from. I think if he was going to be dropped we would have heard by now. Whilst it would be nice to see Senna in the Williams, the team need Rubens' experience to get the FW34 in the right direction.

    As for Sutil, I'm not impressed. I think if he was going to go somewhere big it would have happened by now. I don't deny that he has had a good 2011 season but I think he may only ever be a mid-field driver (just my opinion, don't shoot me)

  • Comment number 67.

    Sometimes a change from top to bottom is what is required. As good as Patrick Head has been and as much as we all want to see Rubens bow out gracefully, there cannot be any room for sentiment in F1. Williams have been surpassed by new kids on the block Force India and even Torro Rosso, therefore, the need of an injection of new ideas and thought processes maybe what's required, after all what is there to lose...

  • Comment number 68.

    I think keeping Rubens on is the sensible thing for Williams to do. It is clear next year's car is not going to even be seeing the back of Mercedes and Lotus (Renault that is!) so they need a driver who can grab points when the opportunity arises as he has done this year.

    Maldonado deserves another season but so did Hulkenburg and I'm glad the latter is getting another opportunity at Force India. People forget the value experience brings in F1. Especially when you aren't in the quickest car.

  • Comment number 69.

    What you need to remember is that a Williams chassis with a Renault engine and the same engineering company ruled F1 in the 80's and 90's, Rubens experience and any new up and coming driver will have a great potential to make an impact this year.

  • Comment number 70.

    Well BAR might be in, but F1 does seem to be a cruel world for drivers who are chucked out as per team's whims and fancies. Read an interesting link here http://bit.ly/sB1BX4 which states that. However, interesting choice from Force India to let go of SUT and bring back HUL. Let us wait and watch on Williams.

  • Comment number 71.

    Whilst keeping Maldonado is great for the bank balance, it is clearly a conscious decision that money equals or is greater than, the need to win points.

    There is nothing new in pay to drive contracts, but surely the prospect of picking up points means more to a team than having someone who will fund the Christmas party.

    I think Rubens seems like a great and gracious bloke, but his time has been and gone, and Sutil or Petrov should have his race seat. Keep him on the team as he will be a positive influence but not as a driver. He has already said that he is not interested in that, so, so-long Rubens, it has been a pleasure.

  • Comment number 72.

    Williams are going through a fundermental change in everything,a shift in team culture and leadership.Williams will come out stronger and better as a result.It is not clear if sacking Rubens will be of any value with this change.Clearly he is consistant and did well in 2011 for the car he had over his team mate.Clearly most people understand Maldenaro is a pay driver his drive based on cash not talent.So the driver line up has been one pay driver and one experienced driver.clearly D'resta and Rubens would have been a great choice from the team and PR angle.However you look at it they need an experienced driver this year with a better car.

  • Comment number 73.

    Many are forgetting the Sutil incident in China.

    And I think for that reason Sutil is a non starter by having a potentially damaging court case hanging over him. For that reason No F1 team would want to take a risk with him right now, and possibly why he was side lined by Force India.

    I don't think we have seen the end of Rubens in F1 be it with Williams or HRT.

  • Comment number 74.

    I totally agree that Reubens has a lot of experience, and as a team facing a lot of changes, they cant afford to lose this - but I dont think they should keep him on as a driver. I think some of these younger drivers would do much better in the seat - with Reubens being kept on as a consultant for the team.

    Redbull did this with Coultard when he retired, and I truely believe they wouldnt be where they are today without him.

  • Comment number 75.

    Might Maldonados' performance have put Rubens future at Williams in question, we are not privy to the levels of technical feedback the drivers give, but encouraging noises were made on Maldonados' ability by the team.
    I might be alone but Maldonado is a lot better than has been stated above, he should have finished 6th at Monaco, lost a lot of finishes due to unreliability, his brushes with Lewis weren't exactly one sided. He won the GP2 championship fair and square has proven his ability in lower Formula and wasn't blown away by Rubens speed, which had he been would have made Rubens current position look odd.
    Williams problem is one of going forwards, if they drop Rubens who of the available crop is quicker than Maldonado, looking at Maldonados' record around Monaco in lower formula and performance their last season then no one springs to mind. If they stick with Rubens then in a years time are they looking at dropping both drivers and starting again, a decision which Torro Rosso made only on the say so of Red Bull, which is odd, as neither Vergne or Ricciardo was particularly dominant over Robert Wickens in Formula Renault, who if we cast our minds back to A1 GP was particularly good even against Buemi.
    So to sum up if I was Williams I would sign Robert Wickens, as reserve to Rubens and like Hulkenbergs deal at Force India give him a drive in 2013 to put pressure on Rubens and Pastor in 2012, as it did with Sutil last season, and as a PS wasn't Heidfeld quicker than Webber when they were both at Williams, and wasn't Senna with hardly any testing at least as good if not better than Petrov, whos' performance lead to Heidfelds demise.

  • Comment number 76.

    Sutil has got to be the man. Last year there was Red Bull, then McLaren, then Ferrari, then Mercedes-Benz. Who was the best of the rest(a)? Adrian Sutil. He beat Paul di Resta by a big margin. He has experience now and ability.

  • Comment number 77.

    I think with a testing ban and computer designed, simulator tested cars, experienced development drivers are less necessary now than they have ever been. There is a case to be made for a couple of mad young chargers.

    However, looking at Ruben's performances last year, I don't think there's anyone in the alternatives list who is actually better, and his experience in both established teams (Ferrari) and rebuilding teams (Brawn out the Honda ashes) may well be a useful data point to Williams.

  • Comment number 78.

    I can't believe that after being with Force India so long (through many names), and helping them rise from the bottom team to a strong midfield team, Sutil is just tossed aside for someone like Hulkenburg- Who wasn't exactly spectacular compared to Barrichello in the Williams (apart from that one time in Brazil, of course). Not to mention that he comfortably beat Di Resta, maybe if Di Resta the rookie had outscored Sutil then a case could be made. I'm not even a Sutil fan- I just missed the blog on Force India choosing their drivers for 2012! Anyways, I digress. As much as I wish Barichello could make it to twenty years on the grid, there just isn't room. The seat at Williams deserves to go to Sutil in my opinion, but I think Senna or Alguersuari could also do a good job there, and I wish I could see these three drivers all on the grid next year. I mean, really, De la Rosa? Again? Why can't F1 get rid of you?! Let some young (and fast) talent have a shot. I beg of you.

  • Comment number 79.

    and a PS.
    I don't see why you are all putting down Maldanado so, he was faster than Reubens this season, and should have ended up with a few more points than him if reliability had been better and Hamilton didn't throw all caution to the wind everytime he came up behind a somewhat slower car.

  • Comment number 80.

    I've always had the utmost respect for Williams and their engineering pedigree...and I'm somewhat baffled by Patrick Head's decision to cut all ties with the sport - Frank Williams needs him more than ever considering the upheaval the team is facing.

    In regards to driver selection I find it incredibly disappointing that they have to go "cap in hand" to a mediocre driver who is being bulldozed with money from a dodgy Latin American regime.
    Since that seat had been bought, and considering the turbulence facing Williams, then I'd stick with Rubens, on the proviso that he actively helps groom a successor to his seat during the season - none other than Senna himself... He has been more than apt in taking over Heidfield midway through a difficult situation at Lotus. It would be unfair to judge him as to how much of his uncle he has in the way of god-given talent with limited experience at both HRT and his previous employers.

    Rubens as mentor could be a great partnership - and maybe somewhat cathartic to a team that will forever have the shadow of Ayrton hanging over them...
    I'd even go further, and this is no disrespect to Rubens, that he'd drive the Williams on races when it's shown on Sky, and those on the BBC given to Senna... !

    In regards to Sutil, it says much that a team, which he had countless opportunities to shine and be the leading driver, have decided to turn their back on him for new, fresher talent. A decent latter part of the season doesn't account for other years of indifference and a habit of finding himself on the wrong side of a crash far too regularly...

    I think the Toro Rosso drivers, in particular Alguersuari, have been hard done by. It's possible that Alguersuari could be lined up with Pedro De La Rosa in an all Spanish line up for HRT - and as a so-called basement team, they should be applauded in at least being on a better rung of the progression ladder than Virgin...

 

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