F1 Winter Break
Who will fill the final seats on the F1 grid?
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Jan 2012   |  6:40 pm GMT  |  120 comments

With a month to go before the start of the new car testing season and two months to the first race there are still two race seats available. Many seats were filled in the weeks leading up to Christmas with Lotus Renault, Toro Rosso and Force India filling in their entry cards.

But what of Williams and HRT?

The contenders for Williams seem quite straight forward; Rubens Barrichello is the choice of the Williams engineers, who rate the Brazilian highly and were pleased with his performances in the closing stages of last season. Meanwhile Adrian Sutil has experience, is fast and brings some sponsorship budget. He had some strong performances in the closing races of the season.

However Auto Motor und Sport in Germany is reporting that Sutil wants only a one year contract to keep his chances open of taking Felipe Massa’s seat at Ferrari in 2013.

Whether those chances are realistic time will tell, but it does seem likely that there will be a seat alongside Fernando Alonso in 2013, with Ferrari likely to want someone who is fast and consistent enough, but who would keep the seat warm in anticipation of a bid for Sebastian Vettel at the end of 2014, when his Red Bull contract expires.

According to AMuS, Sutil’s position makes Barrichello’s Williams candidacy pretty strong, but time will tell. The Brazilian has not always seen eye to eye with team boss Adam Parr. Meanwhile veteran technical boss and team co-founder Patrick Head has stepped down from the board and will henceforth focus his attentions on Williams’ hybrid power business.

HRT has a space to fill alongside Pedro de la Rosa. The team which is becoming increasingly Spanish, appointed Luis Perez Sala as team principal just before Christmas, cutting ties with Colin Kolles. Sala is a former Minardi driver, who has been acting as a consultant since the summer.

It’s clear that the team will need a driver who brings a budget in the seat. Jaime Alguersuari has a father who is a powerful figure in Spanish motorsport circles but whether that could lead to a budget big enough to trump others will have to be seen. Bruno Senna had an unhappy time with the team when Kolles was in charge and it’s not clear whether he would see a return there, even under different management, as a worthwhile step to stay in F1. His name has been linked with Williams too, but not so much in recent weeks. Narain Karthikeyan also has some budget.

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As much as I like Barrichello, I don't think he should be in F1 for another season. He comes across as a genuinely nice guy, but when you've done as much as he has, then find yourself having to find a budget to keep a seat - that should be a signal it's time to leave.

Sutil has shown flashes of brilliance, but it always seems to be when he's under most pressure - much like the Toro Rosso drivers last year. A testing role, perhaps with Ferrari, would appear to be his best option.

Personally, I'd like to see Senna at Williams. I know he's not rated by a lot of people, but so far he's either had a dreadful car, or been thrown in at the deep end. People should also remember that unlike most drivers, he didn't race for a long time in his youth. I'd love to see him complete a 'proper' season to show what he can do.


I beg to differ. As long as Barrichello beats young talents like Maldonado and Hülkenberg, there is no need to replace him with one of those. What stupid move would that be? Losing a vastly experienced driver in echange for a slower rookie? Come on, you must be kidding, aren't you?

Sutil has proven to be fast and he also has some experience on his hand so if I was the boss at Williams, I would think about Sutil and Barrichello, period. Having said that: I would still opt for Barrichello since I want to have reliable statements about the new car compared to the old one. So if I had to decide at Williams and if it wasn't so much about the money, I would fire Maldonado, give his seat to Sutil and see if he's any worth against Barrichello as a reference point.


Hmmm I think there's a double problem with the suggestion of Senna to Williams. (a) you said yourself he lacks past experience, which struggling Williams need in a driver right now! (b) Therefore a struggling Williams car is the last thing Senna needs to boost his career and show what he can do!! So neither would do the other much good.


Unfortunately right now the Williams is a total unknow quantity. Id love to see Bruno have another go on a team with, at least, the expirience if not the speed.

Isnt Williams "tied" to Maldonado because PDVSA money he brings in? What if Bruno can bring money too, that might help the team decide for Bruno. Sure, 2 young drivers is never good, but sometimes teams need a clean slate, and this might be Brunos chance. I hoping...

I can not WAIT for the season to start and see the new cars, hopefully Williams can pull itself out of the gutter and at least run in the upper midfield


I agree about Bruno Senna.

I think his problem as far as many fans go is that they see the Name Senna & then somehow think he's not good enough purely because they immediately start comparing him to Ayrton.

When you studio Bruno's career its actually solid & comparitive if not better than some others who have driven in F1 & done well in the past.

As you say he doesn't have much racing experience compared to those around him who have been racing go-karts since they were kids. He did a bit of karting, mostly for fun with Ayrton when he was a kid but was then banned from racing after Ayrton's death & didn't do anything racing related untill 2004. Since then he's contended for championships in British F3 & GP2 & won many races in both categories.

TO even have done as well as he did as soon as he did after so little racing experience is indication that he has a fair bit of natural ability & a lot of potential going forward providing he's given a proper chance to hone that potential.

If Bruno was given that proper chance with a full testing program pre-season & then a full season with a team like Williams Im confident he would change the opinion of many of his critics.


I don’t agree with this argument for keeping Barrichello because he’s good for the development of the car because he hasn’t done that at all. As the experienced driver why in 2011 did Williams have their worst season in the history of the team in his 2nd year? Surely being his second year there should have been improvement in the 2011 car?

For the development of the car I think Williams should look to Bruno Senna despite his lack of time in F1 given that Williams have the Renault engine supply for 2012 – I’m sure the experience Bruno has had at Renault/Lotus for the past 12-months would be of significant benefit to the Williams team, over what Barrichello could provide.

Plus, I don’t think that Barrichello is much of a team guy or someone to boost the morale of the team which is something Williams desperately need too. We have all seen what he is like when things aren’t going his way (dummy spit at Brawn is the classic example) and he hasn’t been gushing praises on Williams either (by contrast, look at Hamilton; when he can do nothing right and his car is a dog, he still always credits the team back at the factory).


Carlo, the answer to your question is quite simple: When a team makes a wrong technical decision in a car's design, that cannot be fixed in a few races time, a driver input can be as good as can be, it won't fix the car's basic problem.

Bruno Senna may have had some decent qualifying results, but what does that mean? He could have (unintentionally) set his car up in a way that it was better in qualifying, but not better in the long run. He might be fast on one lap, but he didn't impress me in any race and this is where points are won. Also he didn't seem to impress any team enough to sign him for one more year. That should ring some alarm bells. If I was in charge at Williams, I wasn't interested in signing Senna. I'd opt for an experienced driver. If it was on me: I'd keep Barrichello and replace Maldonado with Sutil, even if that meant I had to breach Maldonados contract and have to pay him a small fortune to get out of it.


Haha Hamilton praises his team while paying Horner a visit.... 😉


Barrichello didn't exactly design the car himself - as a driver he could provide feedback (which he is rated very highly on) and make suggestions, but it's down to the design team to implement them effectively. That was Williams' Achilles heel last season, and unfortunately both the team's management structure and Sam Michael have to take some responsibility for that. For the record, I put more emphasis on the former rather than the latter, but he still bears some responsibility for how the FW33 turned out.

On Senna as a development driver, aside from providing information on engine installation (which is admittedly important) I don't see what he can bring except an insight into how NOT to develop a car. Renault/Lotus were hardly a shining example themselves last season, and I have not seen anything to suggest he possesses particularly strong engineering acumen or other skills required for development.

Finally, on Barrichello's temperament I agree he wears his heart on his sleeve and that doesn't always work out well - but arguably that is better than someone sugarcoating a dismal performance and if used in the right way can drive people on. The fact the engineers want to keep him, as James alludes to, suggests he has a more positive influence than you give him credit for. On a separate note, I'm not sure Hamilton is the best role model considering he has himself complained about his car and last season gave his team a thinly-veiled ultimatum...most of the time he is very good as you say, but like the rest of the grid he is by no means perfect.


Really Hamilton giving praises to his team when he had a bad car I beg to differ.


I also agree about Bruno. While he hasn't ripped up the tarmac with his f1 performances to date his composure and maturity on and off track suggests a driver with a lot more to offer. He is not out of the same mould as most of the drivers which makes him refreshing. Having recently watched the clip of Jamie A getting his wings clipped by Herr Doctor Marko a new cast of characters is warranted.


Depends how you view Barrichello's role. The last thing Williams need is another rookie in the seat. Torro Rosso will go backwards next year, so a wise head like Barrichello would be useful for moving the team forward.


I would like to see one piece of evidence apart from his Spa qualifier that Senna belongs to F1. For Christ's sake,he was humiliated by Christian Klien in space of one weekend even though Klien had not driven an F1 car for almost 4 seasons. He could not beat someone like Pantano in GP2. Excellent record, isn't it??

The fact is quite contrary to what you said. If Senna has been able to get sponsors interested in helping him through till F1; that is because of his last name. If he still has some people willing to see him in F1, that's because they still want to find out if he has even a 10th of his uncle in his gene.


I remember watching him in F3 at Oulton Park five or six years ago. He won by a country mile and looked the class of the field. He may not be world championship material, but he looked like a pretty decent driver to me that day.


Senna had beaten the ones like di Grassi, Grosjean, Maldonado, Buemi, Pietrov or Kobayashi in his lower formulae career, so Pantano argument dismissed.


I hope no more Barrichello, and maybe Trulli will go into retirement as well, so youngster can get a chance... Sutil had his seasons and di not prove anything specil to think about a Ferrari drive. I would personally like to see Bianchi, Van der Garde, Wickens and other promising youngsters from GP or WSR to had a chance.


Well, he outqualified Petrov during his 8 races more than NH did over the first 11 races. his Brazilian qual was impressive too.

About Christian Klien, what a lot of people seem to forget or ignore is that HRT did not have 2 equal cars, and Bruno was given the lesser of the 2 as he was the only driver who was not paying for his seat (contract signed with Campos), which was also the reason c.Kolles wanted to get rid of him as he wasnt bringing any money. He outqualified Klien also in abu dhabi, so I dont get the 'humiliated' part.. for the BRazilian gp 2010 he was denied a final run in qual by the team, whilst CK did have a final go... not to mention all the issues at HRT (reliability in the race and qual).

Bruno was also the only hrt driver that year who managed to outqualify a Virgin car (on more than 1 occasion).

considering the fact that he never really had any test session (1 with Honda, and 1 with Renault), I am quite impressed with his learning curve, he only started racing in 2004-2005 (was banned by his family after Ayrton died), and he won races in F3, won races in GP2. you don't win races with no talent, and Bruno is Bruno, nobody is comparing him to Ayrton... in fact, there is hardly any driver in history you can compare to Ayrton 🙂


"I would like to see one piece of evidence apart from his Spa qualifier that Senna belongs to F1."

seriously impressed ross brawn in his 2008 honda test in which he was only 3 tenths off jenson buttons lap times (and faster than barrichello's prior test times), matched petrovs pace through 2011, scored points at monza last year having had to come from the back (due to avoiding the turn 1 crash) & from what i read on another website really impressed the renault engineer's while he was there.

you bring up him not beating pantano yet failed to mention that pantano was in a better team, that isport made a couple poor strategy calls (including missing the pit windows twice), that bruno lost a podium when he hit that stray dog at istanbul & that he got taken out due to someone else's mistake at turn 1 at spa (in a race pantano didn't start).

you say bruno doesnt deserve to be in f1 & use pantano beating him as a reason yet fail to mention that Grosjean, Maldonado, buemi & kobayashi also failed to beat pantano, guess none of them should be in f1 either?

also looking at gp2, bruno was more impressive & did better than kobayashi who many fans seem to love & were hoping would remain in f1 when toyota pulled out at the end of 2009.


Also agree with both points.

Give a youngster a try, not Barrichello.

I think that Senna has shown skill and big potential. Totally not his fault that the end of season Renault was a dog supreme.


Thanks for all you do James, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Echo that!


Whatever happens, some decent drivers will miss out. Will be very sorry if Sutil doesn't get seat. Perhaps we need a couple more teams to accommodate everyone!


About that. James, what ever happened to the 13th team?


In my mind three drivers who don't currently have a seat should have one in 2012... Senna, Alguesuari and Sutil. But there are only 2 seats available 🙁

I think that Sutil thinks a bit too much of himself if he's holding out for a Ferrari drive. He's been in F1 for a good while now and we've rarely seen the flashes of brilliance that usually marks a top line driver.

HRT should take Alguesuari - He deserves a seat, he's only yound but has proven to be quick and consistent + he's Spanish so pretty perfect for them.

I would love to see Senna at Williams even if at the expense of Sutil... He would surely get a third driver role with a decent squad and would be snapped up for a full time race seat somewhere in 2013 I should think.


Rubens Barrichello is the choice of the Williams engineers, who rate the Brazilian highly and were pleased with

his performances in the closing stages of last season.


Hahaa so this is what Formula 1 has come to? Mediocre engineers standing up for and patting mediocre drivers on the back.

So it's like that, huh???

I really don't see what else Rubens wants, he has the record for most races by any driver & it's not like he has another shot at the WDC. So what exactly is he doing in the sport at 400 years old.

Anyway, am rooting for Sutil to get the Williams seat & if he has hopes for a Ferrari drive too, well good on him.

But this situation with Ferrari's second seat is rather a muddy picture for isn't that Kubica's seat?

It seems F1 insiders know something about the true condition of Kubica & hence you have people like Montezemolo telling Massa to pull up his socks for his future & now we have other drivers scheming for that same seat.

As for HRT, won't Torro Rosso throw money at that problem thereby keeping Jaime in the wings incase one of their new drivers doesn't perform just like they did with Ricciardo.

If not that, then Petrov's millions will secure that seat. As for Bruno, it's off to DTM am afraid.


Mmmm... Kubica? He was at his prime 2 years ago. I don't think he will come back any time soon. And if he returns, he'll find out how much an F-1 has changed. Nothing against the guy, he was bloody quick, but it is time for the F-1 fraternity to think twice before riding a bike, a snowmobile or a rally car. In those levels, you have to prioritize.

Next year Ferrari will be following closely Sergio Perez. I don't see Bianchi talented enough for a red seat. Maybe he's only Sauber material for now.

Happy racing!


"I really don’t see what else Rubens wants"

He loves being an F1 driver, so he wants to keep driving in F1 races. It's not a job easily filled with something similar; you can hardly blame him for wanting to hold on to that amazingly rare experience.


And as long as a team is willing to sign him, there is no reason why he should end his career to make room for anyone else.


I agree with your view on Rubens. Hes had his shot, he was mildly succesfull andhes gettin old, the same goes for Trulli. These older guys need to retire and let some of the younger drivers get their shot, same goes for Webber, Schumi(yes I said it). Let the new generation of drivers have a go.

I dont think the insiders know anymore than we do about Kubica, not nessesarily at least, but F1 teams cant wait around to see if a driver gets better, they need to fill a seat.


I don't know why people here hate Barrichello so much I mean I'm not his fan or anything but you can't say he should go just because he's "old" specially if he is an important part of the team in terms of helping development, same for De la Rosa and Schumacher.

Having just young drivers might help them start their careers but what would happen to the team in the long term?? people seem to forget F1 is as much about the drivers as it is about the teams.


Have I missed something?

Barrichello 47:22 Hülkenberg

Barrichello 4:1 Maldonado


I guess so, you see it in other teams. Mediocre McLaren engineers have been standing up for a patting mediocre drivers like Lewis Hamilton.


Sutil is kidding himself if he thinks he'll have a shot at driving for Ferrari one day.


I was thinking the same but they did take Massa when he hadn't done anything special so I wouldn't rule it out.


Massa was a Ferrari developed driver, raced with Sauber and was mildly impressive and tested for Ferrari in 05. He was managed by Todt's son and was part of the team. That's A LOT more things going for him than Sutil.

And don't forget that Massa was pretty impressive against Schumi and Kimi. It was only post-accident that he got wiped out by Alonso.


totally agree he can't be anywhere on the Ferrari dream list including:



Massa ish





Totally agree about Sutil. I couldn't stop laughing with the suggestion he or any representative thinks he should just get a 1 year because Ferrari seat will be free!!!

Obviously too much vino consumed over the festive period.

He is mediocre at best and has had plenty of time and the machinery to prove himself.

It always seems he puts in a slightly better performance when his contract is under threat.


To be honest, even Kubica is a risk. Massa is a prime example of what an injury can do to a driver and this is only apparent after proper Grand Prix driving. Wasn't Massa back to his "old self" during testing? His flaws were only highlighted once it came to trying to match Alonso.

I think Ferrari should pursue Rosberg or Vettel. Perez is alright but not at that level. Bianchi needs time but not impressed with him either...


Barichello hopefully as that should ensure Mr. Schumacher doesn't get yet another F1 record...


Interesting about Sutil wanting to keep his chances open for a Ferrari seat in 2013, I like him a lot but would never have thought Ferrari was in his league. Do you think he has what it takes James? keep up the good work.


As far as the 2nd Williams seat goes im torn between 2 drivers, Those been Alguersuari & Senna.

I think when you look at Alguersuari he was thrown into F1 at 19 with no testing & I always felt before he was ready. Since then he's shown a lot of improvement & finally looked like he had F1 figured out when STR dropped him. Given a chance to carry on in F1 I think he's only going to continue that trend.

I also feel we've yet to see just how good Bruno Senna could be. I don't really think he's had a fair shot at F1 yet but he did show a lot of potential last season. He showed speed but also showed some lack of judgement when racing, Which may not be totally surprising since he hasn't really done any proper competitive racing since 2008 (In 2010 the HRT wasn't often around other cars so there wasn't much racing to be done).

I never really get why some fans seem to dislike Bruno, Regardless of what he does they still seem to dismiss it.

He qualified 7th at Spa & his critics had reasons for it, He scored points at Monza & his critics went on about how he should have got more & took too long to pass the STR etc.... It always seems that regardless of what he does they always expect more & use that as a reason why he doesn't deserve to be in F1 & I've never got why that is.


Sutil could well get the Ferrari seat, most likely just a year.

However, I can't see Vettel joining Alonso just yet, realistically Red Bull are still the team to beat.


And so were Williams in 94/95, or Benetton in 96/97...

Teams cannot keep their top form for ever. What Ferrari achieved between 1999 and 2004 is simply exceptional and an anomally. I doubt we'll see a team dominate for as long as Ferrari have.


maybe you need to sit down and watch well redbull has been the team to beat since 2009 if not for the anomaly that was the Brawn car.

So i don't doubt the very clever people there would keep up the good work.

It is actually possible as people say others would catch up but that is assuming Redbull would stand still and not develop there cars as well it was the same with Ferrari everybody said season after season Ferrari would not sustain it.

Also I think fans should be happy mclaren blocked redbull getting the mercedes engine if not that car would have been a beast.


It would be presumptuous to think that any team goes on unchanged and unchallenged in this sport.

No one really saw Williams coming on strong before the start of the 91 season and challenging McLaren who have been in a league of their own since 88.

The same happened with Benetton (94/95), Renault (05/06), BrawnGP (09) and now Red Bull Racing (mid 09 onwards).

Who knows where Newey will go next or what the Concorde Agreements bring to the plate. This sport is far too complex to assume that by looking at the immediate past, you can predict the long-term future.

I have been watching since 1989 and I would not at all be surprised to see a change of the guard when the new regulations kick in as it happened in 98, 05 and 09.


James, do you really think Ferrari would bid for Vettel in 2014? I personally think Alonso would be number 1 there till he retires (2018 perhaps). Vettel would fulfill the all German dream of driving for Mercedes alongside Rosberg (Sorry Michael) and then move to Ferrari at his peak (30-31).


Vettle moving to Ferrari is not just about having two top drivers - it's also about weakening Red Bull.

Even if it doesn't come off, all the talk about Vettle moving de-stabilises the RB team and delects their focus from racing.

PS Sutil is dreaming if he thinks he will get to Ferrari - he'll be lucky to get a drive this year.


Wouldn't be surprised to see Rubens stay on for one last year, helping move the team forward and making the most of the publicity the marketing department can tee up for his final year in F1. His experience and technical know how are imperative for the team considering they are sticking with Maldonado. Sutil is fast but I don't see him as a long term prospect whilst Senna is trading on name alone.

Buemi and Alguesuari would be more likely to end up at HRT to my mind. Jaime is the more promising looking driver, especially given his age. The fact he is spanish and his dad is a player in the Spanish motorsport scene would seal the deal for me. That said, i wouldn't be too surprised if the seat went to the driver who pays the most.

What third driver seats are still available?

With a matter of weeks until the first test, I wonder what will be the must have technical tweak or gizmo this year? Think we may see some KERS innovations and some aero that is close to the limit of the regulations.


Driving abilities aside. If its true that Williams has lost AT&T sponsorship, they're going to be looking hard for a reasonably good driver who brings money with him.


I fear you are right but hold out hope for the team that was the one to beat when I was growing up. It is the way of Formula 1 though, teams go through highs and lows and it only takes a breakthrough in design one year to have them right back at the front. Tough times ahead for the team but I believe they would do better with a driver of experience who can feedback and provide consistent data than somebody trying hard to impress. If it is a pay driver I wouldn't be surprised to see someone from another country where F1 needs promotion.


It seems that I've been hearing for years that Barrichello is great at car development and all the engineers love him and so forth.

So let me ask this: if he's so good why is the car so awful?

Is he great and the engineers awful?

Are the engineers good but he is awful and they don't realize it?

Are they *both awful?

Something just isn't right here because the results don't match the "both are great" scenario.


It amazes me that people still confuse car design and develop with car setup. Drivers are not engineers. They work together, but ultimately the engineers draw and develop the car's core mechanical and aerodynamic features.

The driver gives certain directives, but there's nothing he can really do in this stage if just sit and watch. With the car ready, he'll go out and test it and give feedback as to whether the car is driveable or not and if it can be faster by just adjusting the things that can be adjusted (ballast, wings, tyre camber and toe, etc, etc).

If the car is a stillborn (like the 2009 McLaren or Ferrari or the 2011 Williams), there's nothing the driver can do but to try and extract the most out of the car. As far as I'm concerned, no one can really say whether Barrichello drove the car as fast and thoroughly as he could although I'm pretty sure he did as he have been doing for his whole career.

Once and for all, drivers DO NOT guide the design direction & development of the car, but rather, give some input and ultimately uses the equipment that has been designed by a TEAM of capable people.

Also, Rubens is the most succesful driver on the grid as far as WCC's are concerned alongside Schumacher.

He helped his teams to six WCC, five with Ferrari and one with Brawn. How's that for a driver who needs to step aside for 'younger blood'?


whatever happens 2012 will be , at best , a development season for williams

consequently even the fastest driver in F1 would struggle to get great results , so it is more important to have a driver who can tell the designers what they have got right , and what they haven't ; not how to correct problems , that's an engineers job

consequently reubens would be good value for 2012 , and happy with a one year contract

2013 would therefore be the time to employ younger , and faster , blood ; a better car would then attract better talent than currently


I believe Reubens is noted for his highly accurate feedback which many drivers sutil for instance are not great at. As an engineer the best you can expect from a driver is generally consistency and very detailed feedback on the changes made and how they affect the car handling. It's strange that this pinnaccle of technology relies a lot on feel and guesswork but it does. Reubens is well known for this consistent feedback even jenson button - now praised by mclaren for his feedback - used Reubens to help set up the 2009 brawn as it was well known barrichello has the better feel. Unfortunately a driver doesn't 'invent' the aerodynamics - they are simply able to better help the engineers know what worked and what didn't and guide the process. One engineer explained it to me as a driver being a great singer working with a great songwriter - the singer can't make a great song out of rubbish material but they cam help shape it so it works. The Williams is frankly stuck in a total rut and they've acknowledged this by restructuring everyone in most departments. It's down to money and leadership. Reubens may no longer be the best racer but I think his technical feedback is still valuable and as noted he's the only gp winner they can get.


You're mistaking a driver's technical ability for the ability to design a decent car. The criticism of 'if Rubens is so great technically, how is the Williams so sh*t?' is rolled out but misses the point as to what his role in the technical development of the team is. In fact, if you look properly, you won't find a better example of a driver's technical input having a beneficial effect on the competitive position of a team than Barrichello/Williams 2010, specifically in the developments made at the Canadian GP.


Rubens doesn't have the power to decide Williams Politics, or budget. I bet he's had plenty of ideas about improving the car but the Management structure, decisions, and economical limitations have not allowed them.


My thoughts exactly...


I REALLY hope Williams keep Rubens Barachello as opposed to some young no-name! I believe it's important to keep established drivers in F1 as long as they wish to be there, as fans/general public take a few seasons to begin to identify with the individual drivers. After a while we begin to know their personallities/famillies/interests/skills, etc etc which gives us closer ties with F1.

I've read where some people have said "the old drivers should go to make way for the young ones", well I don't agree with that, there's plenty of other classes/formulars for the young guys to play in till they grow up, and untill natural progression provides openings for them in F1.

Come on, Frank, give Rubens another go!



"Whether those chances are realistic time will tell, but it does seem likely that there will be a seat alongside Fernando Alonso in 2013, with Ferrari likely to want someone who is fast and consistent enough, but who would keep the seat warm in anticipation of a bid for Sebastian Vettel at the end of 2014, when his Red Bull contract expires."

Are you saying that Ferrari intends to have both Vettel and Alonso driving for them in 2014? That's impossible. One of them would surely leave after one season together.


The fact that James bothered to correct the above comments means something rather significant...


The article does say "at the end of 2014".


When is Williams expected to make an announcment?


After they announce their title sponsor, surely. AT&T has gone from their website and attwilliams.co.uk now redirects to williamsf1.com.

They've been talking with the Qatar National Bank late last year. They might want to have a say in the driver line-up if they become a major sponsor.


When someone with a huge pot of money to help them out, makes the decision for them and tells them to 😉


When a deal is signed and sealed LOL........


Ferrari could have a Plan B here. If Massa has a stellar 2012 season, then why not keep him for 2013 too - then presumably boot him for Vettel in 2014.


Off topic, but how can we start a poll on the pros and cons of the new blocking/braking-and-changing-line rule? (Which I believe requires more thought/discussion!)



Yes, James, not sure if a poll is the best way, but that topic may be good for more exploration. What do you reckon?


If FA wins the championship in 2012 then Vettel will sign with Ferrari in 2014....


If FA wins the championship in 2012 then Ferrari won't need Vettel for 2014 - they are one of the teams which like the clear number one situation and looking back at Alonso's history with another young and talented driver, noone would take a risk of pairing him with Vettel, thus potentially destabilizing the team.


Rubens is a great driver! Williams need more capital for R&D to produce a faster car. Can't blame Rubens for that. It will be interesting to see if they can outscore Caterham next year!


Sutil for Williams , Ive had a gut full of R.B


Now that it looks like Buemi has landed the reserve driver role for the Red Bull teams this year. Could we see Alguersuari get a second chance and go to HRT with Red Bull backing? As I seam to remember him saying that he is still contracted (owned) by Red Bull for 2012 and goes where he is told too. Going to HRT may not be as bad as it sounds for Alguersuari because if he can pull off a few great drivers here and there and beat home both Torro Rosso's home once or twice. Then that could be enough to put him back in the running for a Red Bull seat again in the future.

BTW... What other motorsport teams do Red Bull have a hand in for Alguersuari to race in this year or did he cross Dr. Marko one too many times and will be punished with a year on the sidelines?


Surely Jaime will end up as reserve driver for Mercedes GP.

Cepsa (Spanish Oil company) came onboard with Toro Rosso last year, I think as a sponsor only (despite speculation of part ownership), with Jaime's departure I doubt they will continue with Torro Rosso. The revenue may instead be placed with Mercedes GP, who are part owned by Aabar, the majority shareholder of Cepsa. Cepsa branding may be seen on the Mercedes GP car (provided it is not seen as conflict to the Petronas deal) in return for Jaime's reserve role.

2+2= 5


This situation is very unusual, with the engineers voicing an opinion as to who should be contracted by the team!

Especially this team, Williams, where Sir F is not just pricipal but owner as well, I wouldn't expect any employee to dare declare for any driver..

Have you come across this before, James?

I've never heard of it


"Never heard of it before"

There's your answer. I bet if you want to build a TEAM and make valuable staff members feel even more valuable then you ask them before they have to tell you what they think.

Rather have their say than a sponsors!


They aren't voicing an opinion publicly, but internally.


Money issues aside, retaining Rubens is surely the only sensible course of action when so much else at Williams has changed ?

Unless money is the overiding issue, I can't imagine Sir Frank going against the wishes of his engineerting team and opting for two young guns with little experience of setting up and developing a car.

Every British f1 fan wants to see Williams return to the front of the grid and if their new engineering squad can produce a competitive car, they could then attract a really top flight driver to replace Rubens for 2013.


"Every British f1 fan wants to see Williams return to the front of the grid"

Speak for yourself! I certainly don't while Adam Parr is there.


Jonathan : what has Adam Parr done to upset you so much ?

It seems a bit unkind to condemn a whole team just because of one person.

I have never been a fan of the way Ferrari is run as a team - particularly in the Todt era - but I was still pleased to see them win their 60th anniversary race at Silverstone.

I've always found the Williams guys great to talk to and quite upbeat which, given their circumstances, is quite a surprise !


To understand why I am so unhappy with AP you have to understand the pain I have been through for the last few months. I have been a dedicated F1 fan for a long time, it has been an important part of my life. My wedding night was cut short because it was the Chinese GP the next morning, and I always stayed up for the 2am and 3am races - and I know I am not alone.

Now this is all being taken away from me, it is like going through a divorce. Don't get me wrong, I'm not on here claiming poverty with a begging bowl for a Sky subscription. I could afford it - I could cancel my family's holiday, take my kids out of private education, etc. But what kind of a father would I be then? I have been forced to choose between my love for the sport and my love for my family - and my family has easily come first.

To be honest I'm disgusted with the general lack of support for the British fans from the British teams in general, but Adam actively supported the Sky deal, even more than Whitmarsh. Their greed means they prefer to take the extra dollars even though it is going to decimate support for the sport in the UK.

Yes it is unkind to condemn the whole team, but that is what happens. It is not just one man - it is the guy running the team. Along with his boss too, as no condemnation was coming from there. My local MP has done a good job, but I voted against her because of the leader of her party - totally unfair to her. Also what I think is the least of these engineers' problems, the long term future of the sport in the UK is looking rather bleak without ground roots support in the next generation.

I do not apologise for the emotional nature of this post - you have to understand that to understand why I feel the way I do about these things.


A question for James :

What kind of contract is Adrian Newey on at Red Bull ?

Sebastian has a real interest in F1 history and that must make a move to Ferrari a possibility.

But I can't imagine him going to another team, even Ferrari, unless Adrian went there as well.

Could we see Ferrari opening a MKTO ?


It's a crying shame that such young drivers, with tallent, such as Sutil, Algusuari, Senna and Buemi have been ousted onto the discard pile like this, fighting out for seats which wont bare any fruit this year anyway. I realise that it's the nature of the sport, but it still isnt right. The likes of Trulli, Barrichello and De la Rosa are holding on to seats which is bloking the ever growing pool of tallent beneath them. (Yes, Schumacher should be on that list too...!)

The sport needs revamping to prevent this somehow.


If the older drivers have greater talent than the younger ones, and are more reliable, why on earth should the young'uns get the seat simply due to being young?

Its complete lunacy as far as im concerned.


Yes, that's fair enough. But really, how much have the likes of Barrichello, Trulli and De la Rosa bought to the sport in the last couple of years?

Granted Barrichello and Trulli have been driving fairly substandard cars, but their presence is becoming annoying. They're constantly whinging and unhappy. They seem to be putting up with it, in hope that they may get one last chance with a team further up the midfield.

De la Rosa mean while was dropped by a team in 2010 because due to underperforming and being beaten by a younger and clearly more tallented team mate.

Meanwhile, there are drivers from the 2011 chop that have been left without a seat, without mentioning the GP2/F2 hopefuls.

I feel that more tallented younger drivers are going to waste because of drivers from yesteryear failing to call time on themselves.


Like many, I'm surprised at the mention of Sutil to Ferrari for 2013. I wonder whether this is being driven purely from Sutil's managment? I would guess so.

Massa is lucky to be at Maranello for 2012, let alone have a drive in 2013. I can certainly imagine Vettel going to Ferrari, with maybe 1 or 2 more titles under his belt, and potentially Hamilton at Red Bull. On this basis, a decent number 2 driver would work well for a couple of seasons. All the talk about Kubica and Ferrari has gone quiet?

Back on topic, whether it is Barrichello or Sutil, Williams will continue to struggle next year. For someone like me who started watching F1 in the mid-80s, it is sad to see such a great name go down so far, but maybe that's the price for keeping your independence for so long...


I think Sutil offering himself as a short-term, fit for Ferrari is pretty wise, but perhaps he should do that through a reserve driver role for them. That frees up the Williams seat for someone else.

I like Barrichello, Trulli, and de la Rosa, but I would not like to see a younger driver miss out if they have shown some potential.

So, all three should step aside for the likes of Alguersuari, d'Ambrosio, and Senna.


Hi James,

Last time I looked the FIA entry list showed Williams as AT&T Williams. Their website has changed;it was attwilliams.com it is currently williamsf1.com and the logo on the home page has changed to a plain AT&T free Williams logo.

Have you heard anything about the Williams sponsorship deal with AT&T or do you think that it is just a temporary change before the launch their new car?


Happy New Year James and all the readers here!

FI has steadily progressed up the grid in the past few years with Sutil driving for them all these years. James, what do the engineers have to say about Sutil's setup skills, technical feedback and ability to develop the car?


It's a shame that Williams seem to have been forced(for financial reasons) to "waste" a seat on Maldonado next year. I do think they need at least one experienced driver to help them improve but maybe it's time for some new perspective so perhaps Sutil would be a good option especially if he can bring some much needed funds too, although pay drivers don't usually pay(off!). Williams are up a bit of a "Gum Tree" as they need to stop the rot quickly or they will sink without a trace.


Sutil is not renowned for his feedback.


Hopefully Sutil will end up at Williams. He deserves the chance.

James, have you ever read Senna versus Prost by Malcolm Folley?

I'm currently reading it and am half way through it. It is very interesting.


Yes, very interesting


the williams team/brand find themselves in a very shaky postion for the start of this season. the loss of att money along with personel departures, i would think that retaining rubens and his sponsors would be first and foremost. as all teams need, a decent budget for chassie design to start off with makes the drivers job a bit easier.


I think Adrian Sutil deserves a seat in F1, & Williams should hire him. But his Ferrari dreams look a bit too optimistic, unless he cherishes a No.2 driver tag.

Barrichello may be good for engineers, but he has had a long long stay on the grid, and should have retired gracefully at the end of last season.

Jaime Alguersuari looks to be a decent bet for the vacant HRT seat.


Does anyone actually know what the situation is with Kubica? Renault's option on him/contract expired on the 31st Dec 2011. Have Renault released him? Is he a free agent? Has he already signed for Ferrari?


I don’t see Ferrari having 2 top drivers in their prime at the same time. Alonso is doing a fantastic job at the moment and building up well for the coming seasons. So it won’t make sense for Ferrari to bring Vettel now and cannibalise Alonso’s championship points. The fact is any okay driver can score good points in a great car (like Webber on 2011 car, Barrichello on the Ferrari and Brawn, Heikki in the McLaren). This is what top teams want, great driver for the championship and a okay or good driver for the points. Occasionally the roles swap we’ve seen that in 2008 with Ferrari, major part of 2010 in Red Bull and 2011 in McLaren. So in my opinion Sutil for Ferrari is a better bet than Vettel, forget what Ferrari says in public about Vettel. They are not about to pursue him, not until 2018 at least, but that’s just me thinking loud...


It would be sad to see Rubens just disappear from F1 due to lack of a drive. After all his time it would be best to see him make a planned exit; maybe he should have seen the writing on the wall and announce his retirement before the Brazilian GP where he could have made a proper exit in front of his adoring fans! That said; he is probably still the best driver in the pool left from 2011 without a seat.


With not much testing in season anymore then Barrichello has to have a chance with Williams again this year but Sutil would be my next choice there has he hasn't done much wrong not to be in Formula One.

As for the others Buemi could go the same way as Neel Jani and never get another chance as for Alguersuari HRT could happen for him. But James i herd that Javier Villa has been linked with the seat any info on that ? As for Senna and Petrov i think they could be on the outside looking in.

Just a question maybe you James or could anyone else be able to tell me did Nelson Piquet ever get near a drive for Ligier Renault in 1992 i know Alain Prost tested for them. Or have i always dreamt this one up would love someone to give me an answer.

Many Thanks



I can't believe that Sutil is so arrogant to even consider he would get a Ferrari seat. I just do not see he has enough quality or consistency for the Italians.


In today’s market, a lot has to do with the new title sponsors, in Williams’s case. They are the ones putting in most of the cash to run the business. Yes the car has to work, and the drivers have to keep it on the tarmac. But in looking at the drivers and what they bring to the table, there is a fair amount of cross over’s, a part from Barrichello, who has said in the past, if it is money – sponsors then he will go get them for the team.

All the other drivers, looking at or mentioned for the Williams seat have conflict in there sponsor packages with the proposed new title sponsor that Williams needs – wants.

In the case of Barrichello, his feed back to the engineers is pretty good, where as the other drivers mention, no so good. Sure they maybe fast, but if you don’t understand why you’re fast, then what good is that for the engineers?

I have been a Williams fan since 1979, and in that time period I have seen a lot of “named” teams disappear from the grid, but would really hate to see that happen to Williams. It is a funny old word F1, just look at Honda – Brawn, stranger things could happen. We will know about Williams once the testing starts and if they’re quick out of the box or not


If Williams want experience.. dump RB and pick up Heidfeld. Its unfortunate Maldonado has the other seat, there are many better drivers, Sutil/Senna/Petrov/Alguersuari all come to mind.


I sorta got used to seeing Sutil do crazy things on and off track, it would be a shame for F1 to lose such a star name. Besides, he seems to do well at Monaco (my personal fav); he's got a decent helmet design and a crazy looking dad (F1 dads thread is needed). In short, he's a character and he's got character. Tired of Rubens myself, he should've called it a day after 2009, retire with pride and a couple of wins/podiums.

In my world, Schu and Rubens should take over HRT and rename it as Schumacher-Barrichello Racing, they'll be able to have some fun and their fans will be equally happy. Unless Rubens insists the team should be called Barrichello-Schumacher Racing, I can see it happening.


I would like to see Nick Heidfeld get a seat


I would really like ot get in touch with Mr Allen personally. Does anyone how to get in contact.




Dear Mr Allen,I have tried this email address however it has not worked.


I think there is another seat that will become available, one at Caterham.

Personally I believe Williams will keep Rubens and then if the car is better they can get a better driver in 2013, and at least Rubens offers continuity.

I can see Sutil going to Caterham for a year with his Medion money he has and Jamie going to HRT. All the others it looks like the US, DTM or reserve roles.

Personally I'd like to see the big teams all having 3 cars (As well as keeping the lower teams unlike Luca wants) but with young drivers (Under 25) and they do not count towards constructor points and could run with different sponsors etc. This way we get some good up and coming talent instead of the pay drivers. This is the problem at the moment, there is talent out there but they can't get a seat as the pay drivers get the job.


Hardly makes sense to have just some of the teams have 3 cars. They'd just be blockers for their team mates.

And if some teams need the funds a pay driver brings, then they probably couldn't afford a 3rd car and would be at an even worse competitive disadvantage.

Michael Grievson

Paying for a seat is definately strange. Is this unique to motorsport? I dont really follow other sports but I've never heard of a footballer paying for a place in a premiership team


Let's put it this way: Motorsports is not only darn expensive, it's the engineering side that has far more impact than the driver. In a football team however the players and the trainers make the difference, not any gear that is made exclusively for them. You don't see engineers buying into Formula One teams, do you?


My guess is that the title sponsorship will be QNB. But that the AT&T dropout might conveniiently let Embratel backed Senna into the drive.

I will stop following Williams if they go for Adrian sutil. He's had plenty of chances to prove himself in F1 and has been throroughly unipressive until put under pressure this year.

I'd rather they kept Rubens than go for Sutil. I still really think Senna has something to offer F1 and it would be a shame to never see him given a full season in a decent car.

I'm really hopeful of Williams turnaround next year, so hope they dont go for Sutil 🙂


If I were Williams, I'd be going for Sutil and a single year contract. Sutil will be keen to be on the free market in 2013, with his eyes on that Ferrari seat (Ferrari need a seat warmer for Vettel in 2014, so Sutil might well do), and Williams need a fast driver in 2012 to score some points and get them higher than 9th in the championship - they need constructors championship money, and a single year contract will do, since they want Valteri Bottas in for 2013 (provided Maldonado will translate his good quali pace into some decent race results and keeps sending those venezuelan checks).

My heart though would like to see Senna in that Williams. It would be fitting.


Bringing the name Senna back into a Williams brings bad omens!


True... But think of it as ...unfinished business! 😉


I don't see why Williams would be put off by Sutil wanting only a one year deal and then signing Barrichello instead. It's not as though they are going to sign Rubens to a multi-year deal or anything.

Fernando Goncalves

There was a confirmation on Twitter by Eike Batista, owner of OGX and richest man in Brazil, that Bruno Senna will race for Williams in 2012. If he said, it is pretty much true.

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