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A weekend of goodbyes in prospect
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A weekend of goodbyes in prospect
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Oct 2009   |  4:25 pm GMT  |  42 comments

This weekend spells the end of one of the most extraordinary F1 seasons in living memory. The season was so packed with dramas, scandals, great sporting moments and unexpected outcomes, it feels like we have had five years packed into one.

BMW pits
With the final race inevitably come some departures from the sport; a few people know already that this will be their final weekend in F1, others will have it decided for them over the winter.

Each team will be shedding a lot of jobs over the coming months as the teams downsize from their bloated pre-credit crunch staffing levels. For many of the men on the shop floor, this will be a poignant weekend.

This will be BMW’s last race with the rump of the race team, minus the engine division, hoping to stay on as Sauber, under the new ownership of the mysterious Qadbak outfit.

I’m not sure if we ever will get to the bottom of which individuals within Qadbak actually own the team. I noticed this week that the the UK football authorities have accepted a deal with them whereby their identity is known to the Football League, but is kept confidential from media and public. Qadbak own Notts County football team. One would imagine that they will propose a similar deal to the FIA, if indeed the FIA feel inclined to ask. There is at present no ‘fit and proper person’ test for F1 team ownership.

There is also no place on the grid for the team, as things stand. Only 13 teams have grid slots and it will require one of the new or existing teams to drop out to make space.

For the ambitious Dr Mario Thiessen, the BMW pullout is a huge personal blow and this could well be his last race. If it turns out that way he will be the third team principal to leave the sport in 2009 after Ron Dennis and Flavio Briatore.

Thiessen steered BMW into F1 with Williams in 2000 but it was clear he always had team ownership in mind for BMW and they acquired Sauber in 2005, building up to an impressive level by 2008. This year it went wrong in every sense and BMW’s board pulled the plug in July,
“There will of course be a fair amount of sadness within the team, ” said Theissen. “After all, this will be our 70th and final race with the BMW Sauber F1 Team.

“Of course, the whole team is disappointed that we have been unable to build on this success (11 podiums last year) in 2009, as we had hoped to have a say in the title race. But we have never thrown in the towel, even after BMW announced its withdrawal from Formula One, which shows the strong character of our team.”

Although there are four new teams coming into F1, which will radically alter the feel of the paddock if it happens as planned, we are likely to lose a few of the drivers. No-one knows for sure whether we will see Kimi Raikkonen behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car again. Current Ferrari team mate Giancarlo Fisichella will likely be making his final GP start. The Italian took the chance to drive Felipe Massa’s Ferrari from Monza onwards, after the problems encountered by Luca Badoer and with that came a tacit acceptance that he would retire to the third driver role for the team. It has been a very disappointing few races for the Italian, but he does not regret his decision to race for Ferrari.

Two older drivers hoping not to say goodbye are Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barrichello. Trulli is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but I expect him to stay on next year and 37 year old Barrichello looks set to prolong his career with the Williams team. It is unusual for a driver to survive for more than a season as the sport’s oldest driver. Barrichello is a mould breaker; he will break through the 300 GP starts mark at the end of next season.

Some of the younger drivers might not get their contracts renewed; I’m thinking of Romain Grosjean, who has struggled in the Renault since Valencia. He may get picked up by one of the new teams, as there isn’t a lot of new driving talent out there. Kazuki Nakajima will not be feeling overly optimistic about his chances, particularly after the spectacular arrival of Kamui Kobayashi at the Toyota team in Brazil. The way Kobayashi litterally drove Nakajima off the track was heavily symbolic. I’m not sure Tonio Liuzzi has done enough to satisfy the increasing ambitions of Force India boss Vijay Mallya.

With a new FIA president in place, there could well be some changes among the key FIA figures on site. It will be interesting to see whether Race directors Charlie Whiting and Herbie Blash as well as chief steward Alan Donnelly remain in their roles. It looks likely that the F1 doctor Gary Hartstein will be replaced by someone with links to Jean Todt’s close medical friend Gerard Saillant.

Let’s just hope that we don’t find ourselves saying goodbye to the British Grand Prix in the aftermath of Donington’s failure.

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42 Comments
  1. KP says:

    What about Kimi? Could this be his last F1 GP?

  2. So in F1, a nameless conglomerate of $ holding people can buy a team.

    In NHL hockey being a billionaire apparently disqualifies you from owning a team.

    Hey Jim Balsile, buy an F1 team, put Paul Tracy and Jaques Villeneuve in, and then Rubens won’t be the old guard. If Walter Wolf could, you could. Midland guy notwithsatnding, Canadian billionaires are few and far between.

    Looking to see a familiar face at USF1 just hope its not Danica or Scott Speed, as pretty and fast as she is, f1 isn’t where she should be. Speed already proved he’s not qualified.

    1. Danica (apparently) has a contract with Andretti Racing, with some races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on the side, which should take her into her early 30′s at least.
      You’ll never see her in Formula 1

  3. googboog says:

    no mention of nick heidfeld?
    come on… if he doesn’t get that second seat at mclaren, something is seriously wrong with f1.

    1. George says:

      I thought he was supposed to be sticking with the BMW team?

    2. Adam Tate says:

      I could not agree more! Heidfeld deserves a top drive next year, one that can finally get him that first win.

  4. Axel says:

    Let’s hope we don’t have to say goodbye to Heikki and/or Kimi…

    1. Chris says:

      I cant imagine next season without Kimi. If he goes there will be a massive gap in the line up. I also really hope Kobyoshi gets the 2nd Toyota seat. Blokes a nutter.

  5. Stephen says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for another great blog. Just wanted to say that this site has been a real highlight of the year for me – i really enjoy your insights.

    You mentioned in an earlier blog that McLaren was actively thinking about building its own engines if the partnership with Mercedes ends in 2011. Any chance that McLaren might acquire the rights to the BMW engine unit and recruit any of its staff. I’d love to see McLaren as a full chassis and engine manufacturer. Is that feasible? Could the team afford it?

    1. Kenny says:

      I read somewhere that McLaren have already started planning for an in house engine unit, for street and race cars.

  6. Darren says:

    James, any news on the rumour this morning that Gillet had mangaged to deposit the funds to Bernie/FOM? Does it mean Donington might still happen?

  7. grunge says:

    hi james..

    u mentioned,no one is sure whether kimi will be racing next year in f1 or not.
    do u know any updates relating to his mclaren deal..plus the reason behind haug’s recent comments ”we dont need a greedy driver” in you opinion..
    thanx

  8. Mario says:

    To me the most heartbreaking, so to speak, of all those possible goodbyes you’ve mentioned is the departure of the Bayerische Motoren Werke team. It seems this season would be the bottom reaching one for them, so it feels like things could only get better for them from now on, and as Martin Brundle said: “you are only as good in F1 as your last race and this cuts both ways”; But there you go… they are done and gone.
    I thing there ismore damage to the brand from pulling out like that rather than staying and trying to fight back like McLaren did.

  9. Glen says:

    I’m glad this season is over; for me the repeated scandals and cheating have been too much to enjoy being a fan this year.

    I hope next year the authorities and big guns step back and allow the natural competition and rivalry to thrive within the sport.

    I’m looking forward to a great battle between Hamilton and Alonso.

    1. Patrick says:

      I agree about the scandal rubbish. I would prefer the drivers to be scandalous off the track.

      Would love to see Kimi lined up with Lewis at McLaren.

  10. Stephen says:

    Hi James,

    Problems viewing your website:
    1) If I view through Firefox the first story I get is the Abu Dhabi story (currently the 3rd story you have). But if I view with Opera, I get the correct story.

    2) Unable to comment on your website with Firefox. It goes through the motions then ignores what I post. Which is kind of annoying when you’ve noticed something no one else has and think it worth commenting on :-(

    Stephen

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks, We will look into that.

    2. casey says:

      Thks Stephen. Same. All I got was Abu Dhabi for the last few days. It had not occurred to me to change to another browser. Firefox is all I ever use.

      1. Swayze says:

        me too (Also using firefox)

  11. LMW says:

    Don’t forget Anthony Davidson.

    Although I think his and Croftie’s partnership on R5Live is great, I hope he gets a drive next year.

  12. Simon jones says:

    Massa, Hamilton, alonso, jenson, maybe rosberg. Shld be a good scrap for the title next year

  13. yos says:

    Hello Alen, how about kavalainen? Will he be around next year?

  14. PaulL says:

    I’ve said it before, but I just haven’t enjoyed this year as much as 2005-2008.

    F1 with it’s new-look cars, KERS vs non-KERS, the diffuser debacle, Jense vs Rubens (as opposed to: Schu vs Alonso vs Kimi vs Hamilton vs Massa) and more squabbling between the FIA and teams.

    I wonder in fact if F1 has ‘souled’ out with the new look..(?)

  15. shaun says:

    “This weekend spells the end of one of the most extraordinary F1 seasons in living memory. The season was so packed with dramas, scandals, great sporting moments and unexpected outcomes, it feels like we have had five years packed into one”

    Sure, but what about the actual RACING?
    Brazil & spa aside, painfully boring.
    Am i the only one seeing this??

    1. James Allen says:

      ..that’s the unexpected outcomes bit. Don’t you think it’s been fascinating not knowing from race to race which team was going to be fastest? I can’t remember the last time we had so many variables. Not sure what you want from your racing if this doesn’t do it for you?

      1. Jim, Belfast says:

        Yea i think too many of us forget about how good this year has been. Consider this:

        - Seeing Ferarri/McLaren in the midfield early on
        - Seeing Brawn jump to the front and Williams and Toyota for the first quarter
        - Then Red Bull Coming to the front
        - Then Mclaren and Ferarri starting to find form
        - Then Force India jump to the front
        - Then Torro Rosso make progress

        Normally most sports are dominated by the best, but this year we have had nothing but variety. Its been great for the sport: e.g. the last 10 races we have seen a different winner race to race and have seen 6 different winners overall this year.

        Even the fact that we have had Force India’s on poles and podiums, and Torro Rossos in Q3 – basically from 1 race to the next its hard to know who will be up there and who will struggle.

        Add to that next year with 3 new teams and a bit of “driver cleansing” i.e. getting rid of below average drivers e.g. Nakajima and the fact that the field will be full of top drivers and emerging talent…what more can you ask for.

        Next year could see a championship battle between Hamilton/Kimi v Alonso/Massa v Button/Rosberg v Webber/Vettel

        Id actually prefer Kimi to go to Toyota to bring them into the equation. And being from Northern Ireland id put Adam Caroll in the McLaren!!

      2. Glen says:

        This year has been a revolutionary year for formula one. The Brawn story is incredible. I’m sure wheel-to-wheel racing will evolve from the 2009 regulation changes. For me though I’ve not enjoyed the very rich and privileged squabble and then hang their dirty laundry out for everyone to see. This narrative is not interesting and has dominated the season.

      3. shaun says:

        “that’s the unexpected outcomes bit. Don’t you think it’s been fascinating not knowing from race to race which team was going to be fastest?”

        I agree, this was a point of interest and it did make the season interesting from a team development / technical aspect. it all served to make saturdays qualifying of more interest than the racing to a large degree. is this right? to my mind sunday’s race should be the “main dish” of the gp weekend. the circulation of cars behind one another, unable to pass because of dirty air makes for bad racing. and we saw plenty of that this year.

  16. Sydneysider says:

    Hi James,

    Quick q: Are the testing restrictions to be relaxed at all for the new teams (and new drivers) for next year?

    if not, give that there are so many new places on the grid, and given the massive leap in skill required to drive an f1 car (Grosjean’s struggles as exhibit A), I imagine drivers with recent f1 experience would be highly sought after, and thus I can’t imagine seeing many, if any, of the current drivers (other than Fisi)disappearing from the field. Unless they allow a few rookie-only testing days perhaps…

    Also, congratulations on the success of this website this year. As the number of exclusives you have posted will attest, this site is becoming one of the leading authorities on F1 news and comment. Good luck for next year, I hope the momentum continues to build!

  17. Dominic J says:

    I did a mock-up of next year’s grid on my blog and wondered if Hamilton in lucky number 5 would be the man to take Button’s crown. No idea who’d be driving for the new teams though, especially Manor and USF1. Any ideas?

  18. Mr G says:

    I think this season will be remembered as a transition season.
    Manufacturer leaving F1 after trying to make F1 a marketing tool.
    Indipendent teams had the capability to outfox the big guns in F1.
    The mega budget of the 90′s era are disappearing fast and finally F1 will become a business in itself.
    Creativity in the drawing phase of building a F1 has become once more an important part of the season, remember Brawns at the beginning and how much Red Bull changed after the double diffuser was introduced.
    But one thing that it will remain for everyone to appreciate is that finally we have been witnesses a real racing season with all the ups and lows, with all the dramas for drivers and machines and most of all, we had a fantastic season that has changed how we will see F1 in the future.
    With the budget cap looming, new blood has come to F1 with new and old names, the circus has stopped to look like a close shop for big ego and hopefully will become what it used to be when Colin Chapman or Ken Tyrrel started.
    Enzo Ferrari started as an indipendent using Alfa Romeo chassis and now Ferrari is the most famous brand of cars.
    I hope Jean Todt will make sure that we, the spectators, will see F1 as a racing circus and not as a poplitician heaven or, even worst, an ego trip for some executives in high power places.

  19. Jon Wilde says:

    Dear James,

    It seems increasingly clear that Brawn will become the A team for Mercedes over the next few months, with talk now of sponsors (or technical partners) moving from Mclaren to Brawn this coupled with your own comments about Mercedes management potentially placing themselves in the Brawn camp for 2010, should we expect Mclaren to drop its silver arrows livery for 2010 and something similar be picked up by Brawn? Mclaren have a huge sale on 2009 merchandising implying significant changes in the look of the team for next year, also the latest deal with Samsonite brands the team as Mclaren Sport not Mclaren Mercedes.

    Surely if the split on the cards it makes sense for both parties to do something sooner rather than later? Who benefits from dragging out the partnership for a further 2 years if Mclaren ultimately want to use their own engines (well BMW engines) The basis for the BMW engine is sound and under the freeze rules cannot be too far off the pace, if reliability can be assured, surely they should just look to introduce the engine for 2010.

    With all these changes going on, should we expect to see Mclaren remarking about 2010 becoming a transition year? (I sincerely hope this isn’t the case, Lewis is possibly the only driver I would rate as being able to take the fight to Ferrari next year) but if this is accurate they can’t really be well placed to make a move from Kimi. So maybe Abu Dhabi will be his last F1 race.

    Who do you think is really pushing for the Mclaren Mercedes split? Is it Mercedes still concerned about the damage the team may have had on the Mercedes brand? Or is it Ron pushing for the British Ferrari dream?

    I sincerely hope F1 is the winner from these possible changes, with 2 strong teams emerging but I have my doubts

    Thanks

    1. James Allen says:

      I think it’s a multi headed situation, but Mercedes want to have control over a team and it doesn’t really make sense to own just 40% of a company. The costs are now under control in F1 and there is a chance to do a lot with a team with all the media value.

  20. Jon Wilde says:

    James

    Another quick question relating to the end of the season.

    Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber have all year had +0 embroidered onto the belts of their overalls. I thought this could relate to number of points or wins, but the number hasn’t changed all year. Could you provide some insight into what this number means?

    1. The Kitchen Cynic says:

      Could be blood group – this used to be common but would be a bit retro these days.

      Speaking of which, am I right in thinking that a bottled air-supply to the helmet in case of fire is also a thing of the past? I haven’t see any likely looking hose connections in recent years.

    2. Trevor says:

      The O+ on their belts will relate to their blood group. i.e. what blood they would require in the event of a bad accident.

  21. john g says:

    didn’t alan donneelly (oops did i spell that wrong ;) oh well) do some campaigning for todt? can’t see him going anywhere (unfortunately)

    i like silverstone playing hard ball with bernie. it’s absolutely ridiculous that they have to stump up for the same deal that donnington originally agreed to, when donnington has not been able to come up with the goods. why should silverstone put themselves completely out of pocket just for bernie’s unrealistic demands. it’s crazy when a 190000 sell out crowd (many of them having to save up all year, and paying several hundred pounds for a ticket) only just cover bernie’s hosting fees. it’s completely insane that they should want to be locked into a 17 year deal with a 7% year on year increase in fees. and why should the BRDC be bending over backwards simply to deal with someone so blinded by greed that he couldn’t even see that donnington didn’t have a hope of working out.

    as an aside, i think liuzzi has redeemed himself. with so many seats up for grabs next year, i don’t see too many drivers on the current grid being too disappointed next year (grosjean perhaps…)

  22. Steve says:

    So James is that trap door in the pit lane tunnel really there or is it Urban Legend?

    1. James Allen says:

      Couldn’t see it last night when I walked through there.

  23. Carl M says:

    I don’t want to admit it but it’s looking like Kimi’s last formula one race.

  24. Silverstoned says:

    Raikkonen will not retire. He will sign for McLaren.
    Raikkonen will not retire. He will sign for McLaren.
    Raikkonen will not retire. He will sign for McLaren.

    please

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