Will Honda drop Barrichello for 2009?

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Rubens Barrichello may not be a Formula 1 driver in 2009

Rubens Barrichello became the most experienced F1 driver of all time earlier this year.

But that, his nine Grand Prix wins and a well-deserved podium in the rain at Silverstone this year may not be enough to earn him a place on the 2009 grid.

Should Honda keep Barrichello?

Rubens Barrichello is his third year with Honda. But the season in which he’s compared most favourably with team mate Jenson Button has also been the one where the team has performed most poorly.

The RA108 started the year as a slow car. Months of limited development as the team prioritise the RA109, built to the radically different 2009 regulations, have not made things better.

Last year if a Honda was doing conspicuously well it was usually Button’s. But Barrichello shone in the rain at Silverstone to score an excellent third place – the team’s only podium since 2006. And he was set to capitalise on the safety car deployment at Singapore when he suffered an untimely retirement.

Fernando Alonso and Bruno Senna have been linked with Honda for 2009.

Alonso’s prospects of joining the team were reported in some quarters as being a done deal earlier in this year. But having won the last two Grands Prix on the trot – something which seemed unthinkable even two months ago – Alonso might now be leaning towards staying.

Senna would be a far riskier choice: the GP2 runner-up has looked quick but short on experience.

Should either of these drivers get the nod from Honda many expect Barrichello is the one who’ll be moved aside. He had some critical words for how long the team has taken to reach its decision this weekend:

There is a lot of silence at Honda right now, and I think this is tiresome. I’ve never been in a situation like this, without a contract for next year this late in the season. I’ve made it clear that if someone offers me a good contract for the next three years, I’ll sign it. I see my future in a F1 car, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world.

Do you think F1’s most experienced driver should get another year in 2009? Is he aiming too high by asking for a three-year deal this late in his career?

Read more about the 2009 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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39 comments on “Will Honda drop Barrichello for 2009?”

  1. If they could get Alonso , yes , but to drop Rubens for Senna for 2009 will be a big mistake. There is no way Senna in his first year in F1 will do better for Honda than Rubens during a full season. As we know Button is slightly quicker , so with the same drivers and a better car , they could see where they are on the 2009 grid with the new rules , then progress from there. So with Alonso looking like he will stay with Renault , I’m hoping Honda keep the same drivers.

  2. If it is all going to change next year then it is worth giving him a shot.

  3. I’d be sad to see Barrichello go, but if he’s replaced by either Fernando Alonso — which I don’t see happening — or a promising youngster like Bruno Senna, Luca Filippi or, say, Mike Conway, that would be a good thing.

    Fact is that guys like Barrichello, Fisichella, Trulli and Coulthard have been in F1 for over 10 years. All of them did not live up to expectations people had at the start of their respective careers. I have the feelng they did, however, more or less block young drivers from making their debuts on a number of occasions, the past decade, so now it is time for them to say goodbye.

  4. Terry Fabulous
    14th October 2008, 8:13

    Good call Lustigson.

    Time for DC, Rubens and Fisi to move on.

    Still reckon that Jarno deserves another year. Like the wine he adores, he is getting better with age. Just always in the top 10, always up there, just a little under Fred, Kimi, Lewis and the like.

  5. Will all the changes happening for 2009, feedback to the team will be critical. And to have someone with 10 years+ of experience, through a number of rule changes, would be far more valuable to the team than having a youngster with zero experience.

    Give Bruno Senna a testdrive and get him to drive as much as possible and he’d be good to go for 2010.

  6. I think he should retire on his own, but if somebody should be droped it should be Button. If he is such a good driver he would do something, the easiest thing to say is the car is not goog.

  7. I hope he stays. F1 needs a mix of young hotshots and seasoned veterans, and he’s got a great personality that stands out from the po-faced corporate clones.

    However, rumour has it he’ll be testing for the IRL’s Team Penske soon.

  8. @ skova – well, the sad fact is that Honda car simply is not good … and unlike in Renault where they moved from midfield to the top of the podium there is not much done in Honda to improve the 2008 car …

    Honda clearly is ready for one new driver. And after Button stuck with them, paid millions from his pocket to keep that seat and wasted the best years of his career at the back of the grid, I do not think he will be the one dropped at the end of this season…

  9. If Alonso is staying at Renault, then the best solution is to keep Barrichello.

    While Button is generally the faster driver this year (and it is very close between the two) Barrichello seems to be perfectly poised when something unusual happens.

    Giving Bruno a test drive so he can build up experience for 2010 will be good, but with Wurz in a testing role too, I don’t think he would get much track time.

  10. As I’ve mentioned before (why don’t Honda listen to me, dammit?), Honda need to get a designer before they look at altering their driver line-up. You can put Alonso into a bad car but you won’t win the championship that way.

    Apart from McLaren and Ferrari, Honda are the only team with two race winners in their cars.

  11. Fresh rumours today Petrobras are to replace Eneos as Honda’s fuel partner, and will bring Bruno Senna to the team.

  12. I really hope Rubens gets to stay in the team, but I fear he won’t, even given his strong ties to Ross from his Ferrari days. I suspect we’ll see Jenson with a new teammate next year, which is a shame.

    There’s only one driver I’d rather see in that team than Rubens and that’s Anthony Davidson…but I doubt that will happen any time soon, though I could see them bringing him back as test-driver.

  13. Vlad the Inhaler
    14th October 2008, 10:18

    More to the point, will Barrichello drop Honda next season….. What a woefull car….

  14. I for one would love to see Senna behind a Honda wheel today rather than tomorrow, but, and her it goes,

    Alonso is most likely to stay at Renault seeing that he’s been winnig recently, and the whole team has been performing on championship capable stadards.

    getting Senna would be great, but i think honda needs some consistency, especially due to the fact that almost everything in the car is changing. Barichello is an old geiser in F1 terms, but precisely that will give him an edge in developing and refining a brand new car over the year that has much to share with F1 cars of the days when barrichello started racing. a second positive is Ross Brown’s familiarity with Barrichello, they formed a good team with Ferrari, and will definetly do so with Honda.

    finally in my opinion, Senna would be the choice in terms of a new driver to Honda, but i think they should stick with what they have got, or at least Barrichello, run the 2009 season with Senna as a test/reserve pilot and give Barrichello a decent exit then by replacing him with is countryman.

    Barrichello is a very cool guy, it would be very sad to see him be flushed away, even if replaced by Alonso. it’s a shame that he has been left to hang so far this season, afterall he is the most experienced, and should be treated as such, with utmost respect.

  15. Alianora La Canta
    14th October 2008, 10:36

    Keith, who’s Eneos? I’ve not heard of them before, which is a bad sign for an F1 sponsor. The general idea of sponsorship being that people hear of the sponsor being advertising…

    I can’t see Barrichello dropping Honda next year because he enjoys F1 too much. As for Honda dropping Barrichello, I can see that being possible, but not if the alternatives are Alonso or Senna. I think both of them will be at different teams (Renault for the former, STR for the latter) and that Honda will therefore lack choices for any replacement. Changing the driver line-up wouldn’t help either – it is the car that’s causing the team to be stuck and blaming the drivers would only perpetuate their stuckness.

  16. Mussolini's pet cat
    14th October 2008, 10:38

    One of my highlights of the Singapore GP was of Rubens mistakingly lobbing his gloves into the water instead of the crowd….

  17. Mussolini's pet cat
    14th October 2008, 10:39

    Alianora, If no ones heard of your company, then a bloomin’ good way is to plaster your name on the side of an F1 car……..

  18. Eneos are quite big in Japan, lots of gas stations everywhere

  19. Alianora La Canta
    14th October 2008, 10:47

    Mussolini’s pet cat, if we were talking about Petrobas (the incoming fuel company), I’d accept that. But Eneos is leaving Honda, which is why I was wondering how well the fuel sponsorship was functioning. But if milos’ point that Eneos is quite big in Japan resulted in a Japan-orientated advertising campaign, then it makes sense again.

  20. Till around Valencia, Barrichello position looked safe. There were the ghost of Alonso, but I doubt anyone at Honda ever serious expect the spaniard to land there. Ross Brown likes him and even Fry made some noises about the drivers not being Honda’s problem. Then, he leaked to Brazilian TV that he was talking to Williams which of course everyone with some real info knew was non-sense and the buzz around brazilian press about he been dropped started. The reason ironically seems to be Petrobras arrival. Petrobras never made any mistery about wanting a brazilian driver during their 10 year stint at Williams (they manage to give Pizzonia a shot which he blew it and got Bruno Junqueira a test driver seat), but Barrichello image here in Brazil is unfairly negative (he is a regular punchline for TV comedians) and so he adds little for the company. Rumors around here is that Petrobras (whose deal with Honda seems to be larger than the one they had at Williams) hopes to get Piquet at the driver seat and Senna as the test driver (I guess I don’t need to point why a brazilian company would love to have both the names Piquet and Senna linked to them).

    Last weekend Barrichello made his unhapiness about “Honda’s silence” very clear to the brazilian press. I know he got a meeting with Fry and looked much happier on saturday. Then, on Monday there were the news about he getting a test at Penske (which might drop Helio Castroneves due to his problems with american justice). I guess Fry made clear that if he gets dropped Honda would help him land a good seat at Indycar.

  21. Filipe – I’d really like to see Barrichello in the Indy Racing League, if he doesn’t stay in F1 I hope that happens. Thought it might make their wet races a bit of a foregone conclusion…

  22. Given how Honda’s development of their 2008 car has made it slide back down the grid, how hopeful can anyone be that their 09 car will be any good? Perhaps Rubinho would be better off in the US after all…
    @ Filpe: Please, not another year of Piquet Junior’s comedy driving…

  23. Rubens Barrichelo, I always liked this guy, but it’s time to leave space for newcomers.

    BTW, I made some weeks ago an analysis of how many Kms David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello have raced during his hole carrer (up to Singapore GP).

    For those interested on it, you can find a table in this link:


    (The table has been composed taking in account all laps they made in each race and the Track lengh in every year from 1993 to date.)

    Ruben is in fact the most experienced driver of the grid, and the only one who has raced in Kyalami (South Africa) in 1993 GP. Long time ago!

    Both, David Coulthard and Rubens, have made more than 125.000 Kms!!!!

    Kimi, Felipe, Robert and Lewis all together.are not even close to that figure!!!!

  24. Don’t forget that Rubens isn’t THAT old – he was very young into F1 and he didn’t start having bad results last year simply because he was no longer dressing in red. He’s also one of the few drivers left who’s driven an F1 car with next year’s regulations.

    I reckon there’s plenty of mileage left in him. He’s a very safe pair of hands and he’s a very team-oriented guy which is good for both Honda and their sponsors.

    You’d give that up for Alonso? The only result of that would be more Honda logos in Spanish papers.

  25. You’d give that up for Alonso? The only result of that would be more Honda logos in Spanish papers.

    Ha, ha, ha. Nice one Alex!

    You’re wright, but why Honda were going to increase their brand awareness in Spain.

    Car’s sales are falling down more than 30% this year!!!

  26. Every year since they re-entered F1 we’ve heard Honda say “Next year will be the year” and roll on the following season and what happens……? They produce a Donkey of a car flapping about at the back of the grid – If I were Rubens I’d get out while he can before the 2009 car is trumpeted as a world beater and then falls flat on it’s face again.
    Does Rubens really need another year of trying to keep Force India cars behind him?
    Go to IRL and show them just how good a driver you are R.


  27. @Alianora La Canta hahahahahahahhaha…. the whole point… wait, i have to laugh again haahhahahahahha…

    the whole point of marketing in f1 is to create brand recognition – the exact case in point. almost no one knows who the company is, and they want to be a global brand, so f1 is a great launch pad for it.

    who the hell is alice on ferrari? an italian telco, people in asia or america know nothing of them.

    hahahaha ahhhh bad sign, it’s a great sign, more sponsors coming into the sport keeping teams funded. after all the tabaco sponsors were kicked out it’s a big void to fill cash wise.

    the lower teams really need more sponsors, so fresh companies looking for global branding – f1 is a great place to market.

  28. The year to have dropped Rubens was this year. The car was already very slow and hardly ever going to disturb the guys in front. That is the perfect environment in which to bring a new young driver, to develop his talent.
    With the new rules for 2009, an experienced had would be of great value. Although Honda have Wurz for testing. There is still the need for an experienced race driver.I think in terms of car development, Rubens may be better than Button.

    He should go voluntarily and not wait to have the door shut on him.

  29. If I was one of the Japanese Bosses at Honda HQ, I would have scrapped the whole Honda F1 operations.
    If One carefully has followed history of the team. Its all about British Management, taking Japanese backers for a ride.
    a) First it was Building car to Suit liking of their Brit Driver Button, heavy on understeer , making his Japanese team-mate look miserable moron, with all those off track excursions. butt of all jokes, by Fans most of whom hardly have clue what goes inside F1 car.
    b) Second, they got Gil De Ferran on Board who is turn lured Barichello from Ferrari, Next we see Ferran was marginalized by Brits (Nick Fry) and he moves out of the setup leaving Barichello in precarious position
    c) Any F1 follower can put hand on heart and check , what has the team given the driver in last two seasons a trash of a car, like the wheel barrow they show in their ITV advert, they expect the drivers to make those throttle braking noices and make the car move to sharp end of grid do they (some environmental friendly car)
    Now that they see a new party to fleece (Brazilian Senna and Petrobras), they have started smacking their lips in hopes. Systematically they have flooded the team with Brit Personnel.
    d) Side story of this whole saga is Super Aguri, Fry’s involvement in deciding fate of this team was murky to be honest. It was for Aguri San and Japanese bosses to decide who should be funding this outfit. Nick Fry blocked the Indian backers who were ready to fund the outfit for Narain K to partner Sato. Fry Statement ” NK doesn’t fit Our scheme of things was outrageous” once that deal failed. Couple of other agreements were blocked by Fry and Aguri had no other choice but to fold up.

    e) when Aguri Folded, Brit Journalists I know were confident of Ant Davidson to partner Button next season.
    To find Conway, Rositer in Development driver program of “Honda” is wierd are there no drivers to Develop in “Japan” I wonder ??:D

    Nick Fry must have “Amazing Hold” on Bosses at Japanese HQ to run the team of the Brits , by the Brits and For the Brits.

    Personally I have Loads of Brit friends and most of us find the way this team is run dodgy. Can you imagine If it was case of British Backers supporting French/Italian managed team and the team management running the team French/Italian way with all French or Italian Personnel at all levels of Team. Wouldn’t have happened.

    Barichello must be cursing the day Gil De Ferran got him in the mess

    With all respect Brunno is not ready for F1 and by the time he comes to “Age” Age will be against his, This is just a marriage of convenience to get Brazilian Sponsor to fund monies to run Brit Setup

  30. Todd…. Isn’t Alice on the Ferrari of kimi just his wife’s name? That’s what I always thought anyway :)

  31. Rubens – great guy, driver btw – should go at the end of the season. He’s had a decent year this year but i think since Silverstone his performances have gone downhill and if we’re being honest that 3rd at Silverstone which shud’ve been a 2nd given the fueling rig issue was down to luck anyway.

    Honda need freshing up and its clear that they want Button to partner Alonso should the fiery spainard go to Honda (which is looking less likley by the day even with his 2 wins in the last 2 races). Rubens for still has the passion but i think deep down he knows its time to go.

    In all honesty Fisi should have quit last year, yes he can offfer F/India gr8 help but so cud a Klien/Liuzzi who have experience.

    Rubens has had a gr8 run and if it wasn’t for a Michael Schumacher being his teammate at Ferrari, Rubens wud’ve had the talent to be a world champion.

    I think his replacement is hard to choose. Guys like Piquet, Senna, Di Grassi and Ant Davidson could all be worth a shout. Then there’s some1 like Klien whose had experience with Honda testing in the past. Its a tough one to call.

  32. I’m afraid Honda will “let him go” in the end. He’s a great chap and compared to all the young and arrogant ones we have these days I’m definately going to miss him if he’s not there next year…
    Why is Barrichello’s image negative in Brasil ?

  33. To axe Rubens and bring in someone like Bruno Senna would be a great mistake on Honda’s part. Rubens has the potential to win races as does Jenson, they just haven’t had the car to do it in. I could see bringing in Alonso, but Senna? He has the name and that’s all. Ayrton said himself, if people think he’s fast wait till they see his nephew. Well, I’ve seen him and I’m not to impressed. His place is in a team like Toro Rosso or Force India, but not a team like Honda. Atleast not yet. He needs to pay his dues like everyone else. Rubens has the experience and the know how to win races, just give him a car to do it in Honda.

  34. Hmmm..interesting one.

    First off, whenever Rubens hangs up his helmet, he can do so with pride and look back on a great career. Sure, he will always be compared with guys like Senna and Piquet Sr. in Brazil, but when you consider how many guys come into F1 and do nothing, he’s had a splendid run overall. Second, if he dose wind up out of F1 one way or another, it would be great to see him in the IndyCar series- he’d be an instant boost to the sport’s credibility and would probably be at the top of the grid week in and out. And don’t forget that Honda supplies the engines in the IndyCar series, so they have a ready-made link in place.

    Now, in regards to his F1 future, Honda is clearly waiting on Alonso to make his decision final. With that said, I don’t think Fernando leaves Renault after this season, and perhaps Honda will keep Rubens around for one more run. His experience would indeed help in developing the new car, and after this season he could ride off into the sunset. Perhaps that could include an IndyCar drive in 2010, or a ride in Stock Car Brazil, which I know you all love :)

    In terms of the other names you mentioned, I would love to see Davidson back in F1 but as long as Button is with Honda, I don’t see either he or Conway latching on with the team. Senna is a real possibility- someone is going to scoop him up sooner or later- but I don’t know if they would bring him in until he’s shown more in GP2.

  35. While we’re at it, two other quick realted notes…

    – Having won the hugely-popular TV series “Dancing with the stars” but now being brought up on tax-evasion charges, Helio has gone from hero to zero in the eyes of not just race fans here, but the mainstream American public as well. If Rubens ever did directly replace him, it would be a golden deal for Honda and for the IndyCar series, as well as team Penske. Hopefully, though, he woulden’t wind up at any under-attended K-Mart autograph sessions in the way Mansell did when he came to Indycar :)

    – In terms of future Honda drivers, I know many of you have laughed at me when brining up versions of this theory in the past, but if either of them shine in other series in the next season or two, don’t be suprised to see either Marco Andretti or…gasp…Danica Patrick wind up at Honda.

    Now, before you run me out of the building, let me explain for a moment. Nick Fry is the best friend of F1 in America, as he is always pushing the imortance of this market for his company. As I said earlier, Honda supplies the engines for the IndyCar series, and already has a link to both drivers. Also, both drivers are currently employed by Andretti Green Racing, and AGR just took over as the seat-holders for Team USA in A1GP, with the aim of getting Marco and Danica more road course miles in the series.

    I personally think Danica has little to no substance as a true racer, but if either of these drivers build on their one win apiece in IndyCar, I have a hunch that Honda will want one of them in a race seat. Sure, there are more plausable theories, but crazier things have happened, so let’s see what works out :)

  36. Von, the thing is when Barrichello get his F1 start brazilian fans were very spoiled, between Piquet and Senna, a brazilian driver had won WDC 6 times in a 12 year period and everyone expect Senna to win some more. Barrichello was seen as our next great driver, I guess everyone expect that by the time Senna retired, he would already be placed in a major team, but then Senna died. The Brazilian TV turned the F1 coverage into the Barrichello show only he was still driving a Jordan. Rubens had some really good seasons at Jordan and Stewart but people only notice the high amount of DNFs. When he arrived at Ferrari people got their hopes up and we got Barrichello every year going to TV to tell that it would be his year, that everything would be different, that he could finally race Schumacher despite that around 2002 even the most blind fan could get that Ferrari would never let him, but Barrichello keep making the big promises and people start get more and more tired (and it certain didn’t help that he got replaced by Massa who is much better at dealing with the media, despite being a much weaker driver, and only got to be Schumacher distant 2nd driver for one season).

  37. Much as I like Rubens, the case for retaining him at Honda is not watertight. But replacing him with Brunno Senna would be an enormous mistake, for 2009 at least.

    If Honda manage to sign Fernando Alonso (or, if certain Alonso/Ferrari/Santander rumours comes true and Kimi Raikkonen finds himself out of a job) then Rubens is the obvious driver to ditch. He can’t seriously see his long term future in F1 and has surely only got 1-2 more years in him at the most.

    But the fact remains that Honda is in a pretty dire situation and they need a driver with Rubens experience. F1 rookies often struggle to perform in unsorted cars. Lewis Hamilton was an exception, not the rule. Very few drivers will get to make their F1 debut in a car as well sorted, quick and reliable as the 2007 McLaren. A lot of folk in F1 seem to forget that.

    Bruno Senna in a Honda is a great PR stunt but that could be the only good thing if Honda gets its sums wrong.

  38. Rubens Barrichello’s contract should be renewed!

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  39. i agree that honda just needs to improve their car, their drivers are 2 of the best we’ve seen.. and as for rubens, i think his experience is indeed the most respectable among the group and he proved he’s really quick when he was 2nd driver for ferrari. Just check the circuit records and you’ll see that rubens has got what it takes if only he has a fast car. Only 4 names made records on the f1 circuits and these are really quick guys. Honda should keep him and get senna as tester.

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