Drivers in danger – Who will not be back in 2009 ?

Nick Heidfeld

Nick Heidfeld

Back in July I posted my prediction for the 2009 drivers line up. At that time I did not predict too many changes. Since then there was no announcement that would contradict my prediction. There were few that confirmed it – McLaren will keep both their drivers, Ferrari semiofficially stated that both Massa and Raikkonen will race for them next year, “sources” also say that BMW Sauber took up their option on Kubica and will keep him for another year.

There however have been some summer developments and several drivers may be in danger of loosing their current Formula 1 seats.


The most talked about is Nick Heidfeld as his departure would create a vacancy in currently the 3rd best team on the grid. It looked for a while like he might be getting over his difficulties in qualifying that often destroy his weekends. But then it went wrong for him again in the last couple of races. While Kubica returned BMW Sauber to the podium the only positive on Heidfelds perfomances is his 100% race finishing record this season. But that was something even Tiago Monteiro managed with Jordan in his rookie season few years back (until he retired in the last race of the season). Mario Theissen seems to have enough and sent out an open warning to Heidfeld. With the team ready to announce their 2009 drivers anytime between now and end of the season Nick Heidfeld can’t afford any more failures. It does not look like he will get 6 races to prove himself… If he looses his seat it will not be easy to find a new one … Comparisons with Ralf Schumacher are springing to mind. I have been wondering if this is not a case of Kubica overachieving rather than Heidfeld underperforming. But even if it was the case, how would that help Heidfeld …

Rubens Barrichello may have scored Honda’s only podium in about 18 months but he does not have his F1 future in his own hands anymore. Unfortunately for Rubens Ross Brawn and Nick Fry have their eyes set on Fernando Alonso and perhaps would even consider one year deal. Ferrari likely will not have room for Alonso till 2010 at least and so the double world champion may choose to do the one year waiting in Brackley instead of Enstone …

Force India seems to be in some sort of mess right now. I predicted some change in this team already in July. The difference between July and now is that I see both the drivers being in danger now.

Sebastien Bourdais might have had good time driving his Toro Rosso around Paris (see video) but the more the season progresses and the less he progresses himself the less I can see him on 2009 F1 grid. There are many candidates for the Toro Rosso seat with Bruno Senna being the big name, Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson the experience and Sebastien Buemi the Red Bull young driver programme product that Gerhard Berger can’t stop praising. Not looking good for Bourdais despite his top 10 performance in Valencia … He needs to start beating Vettel or at least finish very close behind him and bring few more points home.

Nelson Piquet jr. has been in danger more less since the race 1. There was not any dramatic improvement on his side (if we do not count the lucky podium) but with Alonso not performing too well either Piquet’s recent races did not look that bad. Unlike Heidfeld I think that Piquet still has 6 races to prove himself and unlike Barrichello Nelsinho still may have his future in his own hands. Renault however are not afraid to go into new season with 2 new drivers (see their disposal of Fisi and Heikki last winter) so even if Alonso moves on may not make Piquet’s future with Renault any safer.

At the moment we are in September and all the drivers that started the season (except of course the Super Aguri duo) are still on the grid

Photo: BMW Motorsports

5 Comments Post a Comment
  1. zblkhwkNo Gravatar says:

    Once again your spot on Wolf!

    Heidfeld, Bourdais, and Piquet have been dominated by their team mates. Poor Rubens is nearing the end of his career, and Honda must be looking for a youthful replacement in the mold of Hamilton, Kubica or Vettel, unless of course they are lucky enough to land Alonzo. Either way, Rubens is out of a seat.

    I would think Bourdais and Piquet will be done with F1. Nick or Rubens probably still bring value to a team needing a proven vet with lots of F1 experience, perhaps with Force India replacing Fisi.

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      I think that if Alonso does not come to Honda, then Rubens may have a role to play in 2009. It will be all about getting the new cars working and experience is what the teams will need. With this in mind I doubt that Honda would replace Barrichello with a young inexprienced gun for 2009 season. But as you said, if they lure Alonso in, Rubens will be out …

      NIck – well I would be surprised if any current team would take him if he becomes free … I just do not see why would anybody want to sign him

  2. zblkhwkNo Gravatar says:

    Don’t underestimate the experience that Heidfeld brings to a team looking to move into the upper tier. He has been with Sauber from being a lower second tier team to its current position challenging for the constructors championship.

    He may not have the skills of a Vettel, Kubica or Hamilton…but he does know what it took to move up the ladder in F1

    • F1WolfNo Gravatar says:

      It would be interesting to hear from BMW Sauber how much credit they would give Heidfeld for their climb to the top end of the grid. That is the work of drivers hidden from us and quite difficult to judge without the backstage access.

      But looking at Hedifeld’s options (in case BMW Sauber releases him):

      Force India – When it comes to development, they seem to be happy with Fisichella at the moment. He may not be doing much on a race day, but as Mallya said he hired him for car development and there Fisi is doing great job for them. His position may not be safe, but I am not sure they would let Fisi go in order to hire Heidfeld (the same I would say if the roles were reversed – why would anyone let Heidfeld go and bring Fisi in). If Mallya one day decides he has enough of Fisi, I think he would replace him with some aggressive young gun.

      Toro Rosso – Over there there are dark clouds hanging over Bourdais – a driver whos problems are very similar to Heidfeld’s this year. I do not see Heidfeld high on Berger’s wish list

      Honda – Nick Fry already said his big No No when asked if he would consider hiring Heidfeld should he become available

      Red Bull, McLaren are all set for next year. Ferrari , Williams and Toyota seem to be set for 2009 too. All that is left is Renault.

      So without underestimating Heidfeld’s skills I am not sure where could he go if he looses his BMW seat. The best option for him is to impress his current bosses in every single race starting with Spa

      I still however wonder whether what we see is more about Kubica taking BMW Sauber where it does not really belong rather than Heidfeld underperforming …

  3. zblkhwkNo Gravatar says:

    You are probably correct. If Heidfeld looses his Sauber seat, he is probably done.

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