2009 F1 drivers: who will be dropped?

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Will Nelson Piquet Jnr and Sebastien Bourdais still be F1 drivers in 2009?
Will Nelson Piquet Jnr and Sebastien Bourdais still be F1 drivers in 2009?

Before the Italian Grand Prix ITV showed an interview with Sebastien Bourdais. The stress of knowing his F1 drive for 2009 is under threat was plain to see as he started crying at one point.

He’s not the only driver who’s place in F1 in 2009 is in doubt: Nelson Piquet Jnr is waiting to learn whether he’ll be driving for Renault next year. Which of these drivers deserves to keep their seat?

Sebastien Bourdais

Bourdais’ season began well as he scored on his debut at Melbourne. Without a late engine problem he’d have finished even higher, but it was a bright beginning.

Since then he’s had some problems – in fact four of his five subsequent races ended in retirement, and none of them due to car failure. Toro Rosso’s introduction of the STR3 also seemed to work out better for team mate Sebastian Vettel than Bourdais.

But he had some cruel luck in the last two races as well (as Christine noted here). Going into the final lap at Spa he was third, but as Nick Heidfeld blasted past him on the final lap using wet-weather tyres (Bourdais still on dry-weather rubber) Bourdais slithered wide and was also passed by Vettel and Robert Kubica, and then the flying Fernando Alonso got him as well.

At Monza his car stalled on the grid after he’d qualified fourth. He probably didn’t have Vettel’s pace over the race distance but without that critical delay a decent haul of points was definitely on the cards.

Vettel’s departure to Red Bull next year in theory eases the pressure on Bourdais. But with the team testing GP2 racer Sebastien Buemi and ex-Super Aguri pilot Takuma Sato this week, they may be considering an all-new line-up in 2009 (more on this from Wolf). There are even rumours Alonso could ‘return’ to the team next year (he raced for them as Minardi in 2001) but then, who hasn’t Alonso been linked to for 2009 at some point?

Read more about Sebastien Bourdais: Sebastien Bourdais biography

Nelson Piquet Jnr

Around the mid-part of the season Piquet seemed to have got on top of the problems he’d had earlier in the year. He raced well at Magny-Cours and nabbed a place off Alonso in the closing stages, and after inheriting the lead in fortunate circumstances at Hockenheim he did a commendable and mature job to bring the car home in second.

But he’s been knocked out in Q1 in three of the last five races. At Spa he spun on a wet kerb in practice – a forgiveable mistake in testing, but he committed exactly the same error during the race. Given his form in the rain at Hungary in GP2 two years ago I expected better from him in races like those we’ve seen recently at Monza and Spa.

Last year Heikki Kovalainen rebounded from a poor start to the season with Renault to end the year in excellent style – and still got dropped. Piquet hasn’t shown anything like that kind of improvement, but he does have a tougher team mate and a less competitive car. All the same, I think his financial backing will have a bigger say in whether he keeps his seat next year than his talent will.

Read more about Nelson Piquet Jnr: Nelson Piquet Jnr

Who else?

Kazuki Nakajima hasn’t been on Nico Rosberg’s pace but he has at least been consistent enough to score eight points – only one fewer than his team mate. But it will be his Toyota connections that keep him at Williams for another year.

If Honda lands Fernando Alonso, will Rubens Barrichello or Jenson Button face the axe? Presumably it would be Barrichello, given he has now been racing in F1 longer than anyone ever.

Force India seem likely to keep Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil.

F1 2009 season
F1 2009 drivers and teams

Which F1 drivers do you think will lose their seats in 2009? Could any of them, as Vee sugests, get dropped before the end of the year? Have your say in the comments.

Author information

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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50 comments on “2009 F1 drivers: who will be dropped?”

  1. The Spanish Press are reporting that Alonso will stay at Renault – http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jHsQVWAwYLeJKA9GUlkLFBQXQx8Q

    This could make Piquet less secure for 2009?

  2. MW – perhaps the opposite. Piquet brings in money they can use to pay Alonso.

  3. Bourdais should stay. He’s obviously fast, based on his past record, including the races in the old TR. He’s had problems adapting to the new car but I think he might be getting on top of those. He seems very thoughtful, which should help.

    Piquet also should stay. His relatively poor qualifyings have only been about three tenths back from Fernando and apart from Spa he’s raced strongly. Like Bourdais, he seems to have a brain and when I look at his progress in his second years of F3 and GP2 it gives me hope for greater success in a second year of F1.

    I’d like to see them both on next year’s tyres, too.

  4. As much as I’d like the Piquet name to remain in the sport, Nelson’s not done a huge amount this year to warrant keeping his seat – not on talent alone anyway.

    It’d be a “crying” shame if Bourdais lost his seat at Torro Rosso though. Throughout the whole of the debacle concerning the result of the Belgium Grand Prix, the tears that Seb held back reminded us all that this sport has a human side. I don’t think he’s done *THAT* bad a job this year – many from US Racing have done worse.

    Kazuki Nakajima must be big in Japan, or he must keep those Toyota revs in the back of the Williams hitting the high notes because as far as I can see the only progress he’s made in the last 12 months is to stop running his mechanics over.

  5. First of all, I think D Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello have been in F1 for a long time. Enough time to leave this sport, at least as drivers.

    It seems David has done the proper thing, should Barrichello follow the same way? IMHO yes. New blood have to come in, so, old ones should leave.

    For the rest, well, just wait a see, except for Kazuki. I agree with Alex Cooper, we would like having more exciting in F1, but not the kind of excitement Kazuki brings to us!

  6. I’m sure Piquet will be dropped, his performances have been pretty woeful. 7 DNF’s out of 14 is an awful record, especially during a season when retirements have been curiously absent in general.

    And i’m sure STR would have confirmed Bourdais by now, if they were going too. it’s not a very good way to instil confidence in poor Seb! So i have a feeling he might be on his way back to America.

  7. Kazuki and Piquet Jr. have not been up to pace, I wont be surprised if both are out. But Williams might have to keep Kazuki due to Toyota link with Williams, and Renault might keep Piquet Jr. because he has got sponsorers with him.

  8. I don’t think its wise to change drivers so fast. Thing is, maybe the driver is having trouble adjusting, but at least the team know him, his work attitude, style of working, how to translate his feedback into technical improvements. With a new driver you are looking at the first half of the season being spent just on getting the human interface issues worked out.

    Ferrari believe in Kimi despite his lousy performance and want to keep him on for another 2 years. I wonder if this belief in the driver and a nurturing attitude is what differentiates the top teams from the others.

    So unless a driver is looking like a complete waste of time, I think they all should stay on for another year at least.

  9. I really hope Bourdais is still driving next season, it’s nice to have a Frenchman who dominated Champ Car over a four year period in F1.

    I think his chances of staying are very good after reading the recent Autosport Q&A with Franz Tost. He said “The next point are the drivers, although both drivers are nearly new in F1, they are doing a fantastic job and Vettel’s performance curve is increasing tremendously.” That’s a pretty good endorsement for Bourdais right there.

  10. Yes, I think its time to think of new blood for the sport, with the new rules and new cars. Coulthard is going, and Barrichello should be thinking about it, and even Button. Honda must have some GP2 Asia or other young drivers under their wing….
    Its a shame Raikennon is staying put (and or Massa), its about time Ferrari cleared out their old stagers and brought in the younger generation. I was very surprised at the beginning of this year that there was no Red ‘Rookie’….
    We complain that the teams don’t bring the top drivers from GP2 into the cars soon enough, but without a ‘Rookie’ Championship alongside the main show (as in other series), what incentive is there?

  11. I like bourdais, and whilst his performance may have been marginal I find myself won over by him personally and am rooting to see him stay.

    Nelson and Kazuki, on the other hand, haven’t won me over either with their driving or their glowing personalities, and I’ve no objection to seeing them depart.

  12. Ron said that GP2 doesn’t have good enough talent this time. And it seems to be true. After all, an ex-F1 driver beat them all.
    So, that means the only good driver who doesn’t have a race seat is Takuma Sato ! ! And his only plus point is a free ticket to Honda engines.

    I doubt he will come back to racing. He might get a test seat.
    All the other drivers should be safe, but a merry-go-round is definitely on the cards.

  13. Agreed with Alex (Post #4), when you know what the Frenchman’s gone through to get to F1, how much he’s been patient for it and not get a car he may (or may not) deserve, it’ll be a shame not to keep him for at least another season, give him a chance. He’s not outshone this season, but he’s not been absolutely diabolical.

    That interview said it all, in an age where F1 drivers are so image conscious and many have some bravado exterior (imo), it’s nice to know that they are just human…well, ok, super-human all the same :)

  14. I see Kaz Nakajima’s name making round in the comments here. I am lifelong Williams Fan, and while it hurts to see the team not progressing. To be very Honest , If posters feel Kaz has not done enough, they need to compare him with his more Illustrious(!?)/Hyped team-mate. If Rosberg is considered to be prodigy and his best has extracted only these many points from FW30, Well Kaz has not done bad then. So let us not have “personal perceptions” cloud our judgements.

    Of Piquet and Bourdais. Bourdais has needs another season. and maybe French team needs to take another look at their “Home” driver this time…

  15. DG (post #10) – you really think Button should retire??
    He’s only 28! He’s also highly marketable as well which at the moment is all Honda can lean on.

    He’s shown remarkable loyalty (for him) over the last couple of years when he’s been given a dog of a car to tour round in. I’m not a massive Button fan, but his attitude has impressed me recently. I really hope for his sake that his gamble pays off next year and Honda give him something worthy of his talent.

  16. Hey Mahesh – I stand by my comments about Kazuki Nakajima, although Rosberg’s not been brilliant either for that matter. Can’t help feeling he needs a team-mate to push him…?

  17. Keith – Isn’t it to soon to burn somebody’s name and work. I’ve posted here sometime ago about rookies and midia and stuff.
    It’s TOO soon to say something about Piquet Jnr, Bourdais, or whoever. If you look at the standings who is around him or even under him? the likes of Glock and Rosberg, and they haven’t done anything so different or better than Piquet Jnr or Bourdais.
    Besides his career background, titles all over it, his father trusts him and Piquet Snr is very hard on words about everthing and was never easy on the sons. But he believes Piquet Jnr is really good and i do agree with him.
    On one thing i am pretty sure about is that Piquet Snr. would never let people burn Piquet Jnr. on a first year of F1. He will support him and he has means for it, not talking about money, connections are more important on this matter. Piquet Snr. has mates like Briattore and Bernie(he gave 2 f1 tittles to this man), was the main importer and dealer for BMW in Brazil for years(don’t be surprise here in the future, he is still very well connected with the factory-f1 title here), to mention a few of them.
    But if Junior spoils a second year, no one need to ask for his head. Piquet Snr. will be the first to tell his son to find another job.

  18. Concerning Piquet – I think he will remain at Renault next year, but if he doesn’t do well next year, he’s out.

    Concerning Nakajima – I think he will remain as well.

    Concerning Boudrais – I’m not too sure, Buemi looks really handy in the Red Bull cars at Jerez, so he will get Vettel’s seat. As to whether Boudrais will stay or Sato will replace him, I’m not sure. I want Boudrais to remain though.

  19. Bourdais > Sato.

    As for Nelson, if Renault decide to pay Alonso’s salar he’s out.

  20. For me Bourdais is by far beter driver than Piquet. However , whoever stays I would like to see Anthony Davidson back in a racing seat, he really is a magnificent driver, highly underrated

    GO Ant !!!

  21. Sebastien Bourdais, Nelson Piquet Jnr & Kazuki Nakajimaa are overrated…

  22. Nicho in every case I don’t wanna loose Kazuki .He has this special ability of holding your interest in a gp even if Hamilton is leading by 1 min , a safety car ,some debris , spectacular entries in the pits stops who knows??

    He would be a very good adition in the grid in Shumacher years…

    Keep going Kazuki!!!

    ‘If you can’t drive a suzuki
    you should hire a Kazuki’

  23. Does anybody know what happened to
    Pizzonia ???

  24. I think there is a constant media pressure in order to discredit us open wheel race. An Bourdais is a victim of this attack. Whenever he did something good this year he has not been potentially lifted as Vettel. I really think it is a shame because he is European, he has won F3000, f3 and this is his first season in a team which has changed dramatically from poor to great. And at this time of the year when he is demenonstrating good results and he deserves good support to continue improving he even gets the oppossite and does not receive a vote of confidence from his own team. Sometimes I feal Berger has a lot of pressure from Marko to change drivers and he tries to discredit Bourdais publicly so then leaves the team to decide to keep him. But this could be a double edge knife because I am sure he will demonstrate good results in the last 4 races and he would probably be in a position to decide between other teams to go.

    As for Piquet nothing impressive but he probably needs another season.

    Nakajima started well but he has dropped in the last races

  25. The only reason for keeping Piquet is to see if he will do his dads karate kick if he is takin out of a race by a back marker, however seeing as he doesn’t stay in the race long enough I doubt we will see this.

    I think Barrichello will be going mainly because the other teams have got there own youth development schemes so they would be cheaper and possibly be abit quicker.
    I also think Fisichella should retire because he just isn’t that good, he was routinely beaten by Alonso when in the same car and I think that Sutil ia already much better than him.

  26. Any word on whats going to happen with Red Bull/STR engines? Will they be switching or would Ferrari like to keep them away from a Webber/Vettel duo?

    Obviously RBR would like to take them but that may hurt Ferrari over the course of the season. If Seb B does come back but gets stuck with the Renault engine his pace may look that much worse.

    I assume any engine improvements made by Renault would not be shared with a close competitor.

  27. Bourdais alongside Alonso would be a great combination.
    Bourdais just needs another season to find his feet and I think we’ll see his real talent shine through

  28. Keith
    I dont see Piquet bringing a money to Renault. Perhaps I´m wrong but there is no new sponsor that come in with him. A sponsor with cash that would help to pay the Alonso would be very noticeable.

    I think that Briatore will replace him by one of the Renault program. Someone said that Di Grassi had some money too…

  29. I really hope STR keep Bourdais. I think he’s done well enough to earn at least a second season in F1. To drop him and go for a completely new line-up would be foolish of STR, in my opinion. If STR do drop him, I hope he can move over to Renault and replace Piquet, who hasn’t really done aything at all to impress me.

  30. Piquet Jr. hasn’t done anything to impress really,but I think Bourdais deserves another season.He kicked some serious butt in Champ car,just wait till he gets back on those slicks that he is familiar with.Plus I think he has just had a difficult time adjusting to the high profile fast game of the F1 world.(maybe a sensitive chap)…hopefully he can hang in there.

  31. Come to think of it, how likely is it that Bourdais could drive for Renault? Didn’t he already turn down a drive for them a few years ago, because of Flavio Briatore?

  32. Dropping Bourdais for Sato would be rediculous.

    Maybe he could get into Renault, seeing how he is french.

  33. Are there any rumours about Davidson? That guy showed so much promise and outdrove Button in the Honda on test days half the time. Who is going to take him?

  34. I always liked Bourdais in Champ Car and I honestly think he’s showing potential and should keep his seat. He’s commented before that he thinks he’ll can race better on slicks and I’m interested to see what he can do with the new rules for next year.

  35. Bourdais won several consecutive Champ Car champoinships. STR expected he would be competitive in F1 and at least be on par with his team mate. But he hasn’t done that. His experience has not shown in F1. Crying or emotions are not what the team is looking for. The team wants results.

    Renault must be wondering what to make of Piquet. Should they give him another year to mature? or do they just do away with him. He has got almost a complete season in F1 and he is still throwing the car and valuaable points away.
    He and Nakajima are both rookies, but often its Nakajima who is bringing the car home. Piquet’s car quite often, needs to be towed back at the end of the race. And what is even more mystifying is that, he’s accidents are mainly happening while he is not under any pressure.

  36. If I was Red bull i’d hire Sato, to get the Japs drinking that ChuckNorris in a can they call a drink.

    and I’d keep bourdias for his talent on slicks next year.

  37. Keith,I dropped you a note, asking whether I could join F1 Fanatic as a writer and have received no reply so far… Does this mean that I’m an unsuitable candidate?

  38. the rumor has it that KUB is going to Toro Rosso next year. any comments?

  39. Piquet has also had difficult time adjusting to F1. He has a very quick teammate and, therefore, we cannot judge how bad the R28 is. May be it’s the ninth-fastest car on the grid, and Piqeut and Alonso are doing the impossible. Somehow, I don’t see the Renault as one of the fastest cars on the grid…

  40. I said this last season, around this time, and with the exception of Coulthard ALL are, unfortunately, likely to line up for the 2009 season … Get rid of Barrichello, Webber, Button, Fisichella and Trulli … All over-the-hill has beens … Unfortunately, Honda won’t relinquish both drivers. Toyota have NO chance, irrespective of driver line-up, Force India? Well, someone has to make up the back of the grid.

  41. KingCobra – I would definitely have replied to your email, but I’m afraid I don’t remember receiving it. Perhaps drop me a line again on the contact form (which had been playing up so I’ve just installed a new one) or if you use Facebook I’m on that as well.

  42. Piquet funding Alonso´s money?

    Waht sponsor does he bring to renault?

    ING was before and no connection
    ELf, french, another time no connection

    Mutua Madrileña: Spanish it goes werever Alonso goes

    Pepe Jeans: english, maybe i don´t know but i think they were there last year

    the rest are so small that i don´t think they will bring many money but non of them are brazilian, mabe even southamerican

    No sponsor comes with Piquet as far as i know, last winter there was especulation Telmex (mexican) would pay alonso as long as theere was a south american partner in the second car but finally no agreement was reached.

    And to the most of it all if Somebody would be paying for having a brazillian maybe di grassi could be keeping happy wahtever it would be,

    So i´m betting for piquet out and di grassi in

    And the force india drivers, i wouldn´t be so sure, maybe somebody with the cash could make the spot

  43. Piquet doesn’t bring any money to Renault. I’d guess the second Renault seat will be between Piquet, Di Grassi and Grosjean. I suspect Renault will let Grosjean (who is still a little green) run another GP2 season, drop Piquet, and keep Di Grassi.

    From what I understand of the Toro Rosso situation, one of the seats belong to Red Bull and the other to Berger, with Red Bull announcing Buemi, I’m guessing Berger will keep Bourdais (unless BMW drops Heidfeld).

  44. Someone asked about Pizzonia he was driving the brazilian equivalent of Nascar (which is a true cemitery of former F1 drivers: Burti, Zonta, Marques). And he will be doing that F-Superleague till the end of the year.

  45. Pizzonia is “dead”. He´s driving in an awful brazilian car series, with terrible drivers. Probably the end for Rubens “the man” Barrichello.

  46. First off, I admire Bourdais for bucking the trend in F1 of having new drivers come in very young, after being developed by the team’s young driver setups. Bourdais is a case of a guy who is an excellent driver in many different series who earned his way into F1- not through sponsorship or name recognition, but through on-track results. STR should absolutley keep him- what would Sato give them that Seb dosen’t have? He’s a mature guy who will improve next season.

    Piquet will get one more year, and indeed having one of the world’s wealthiest men in your corner sometimes can buy you a place at the table in F1. If his name weren’t Piquet he’d be in real danger of being dropped, but he’ll be safe for another season.

    Nakajima hasen’t been the best driver but hasen’t been the worst either- he got the seat to keep Toyota happy in my view, and he’ll get another year at least. I doubt Button will retire anyitme soon- he’s still got alot left in the tank, but Rubens may indeed pack it in at the end of the season, as I’m sure he dosen’t feel very confident given the Alonso rumblings.

    As for Force India, Fisi will do one more year and then retire, which will make way for whomever Vijay has lined up as his first Indian superstar. After all, you don’t think he’d have Force India race at the new Indian Grand Prix without an Indian driver on his team, do you?

    And murray, you think Button, Trulli, and Webber should all be dropped? Three good drivers there my man- as good as most other drivers on the grid IMHO. Give them a good car and they’ll bring home the wins.

  47. I have a sneaky suspicion that Rubens Barrichello will be shown the door this year, and will be raplaced by the out of work Takuma Sato, who will inturn please the bosses back in Tokyo by having a Japanese driver back in the fold. Nakajima and Rosberg, lets face it, have been given a ‘mutt’ of a car by Williams. Williams really are stuck in the rut at the moment, and progress is slow to put in mildly. Both drivers are pretty compatible in terms of performance, and with the Williams still recieving Toyota engines, I can’t see them dropping a Japanese driver and risk upsetting their engine supplier.
    Nelson Piquet Jnr, who has his father’s millions behind him, may well escape the chop, but then again it will depend on what decision Fernando Alonso makes concerning his future. If Alonso stays, Renault may decide on keeping Piquet Jnr, but if Alonso walks, they may just decide on having a complete new lineup.
    As for Bourdais, I am confident he will keep his seat at Toro Rosso. He has not been blessed with a lot od luck, but he is experienced, and that does count, especially if his team mate is a novice next season.

  48. For me Sato has been given many oportunities to show what he can do. Not too much. And the test drive in Jerez was pure marketing so the headlines in Tokyo were Red bull gives him an Drive. I think next year the drivers will be Bourdais and Buemi

    Piquet did not impress but probably he will repeat his dish especially if Alonso stays.

    Nakajima will probably stay depending on Sato so one japaneese remains in the grid. I beleive he deserves more than Sato this drive.

  49. I think it”s wrong to drop them out after the only one season. Give them one more chance.

  50. Just a few points I’d like to make; in terms of car performance I think this is one of the most equal seasons for a long time. In terms of drivers, well there are a few who are not performing as drivers (ignoring whether the cars themselves have performed). Bourdais and Piquet could easily be replaced with some of the talent currently bubbling under in GP2 and to be honest I wouldn’t miss eaither of them. Strange though, Bourdais was such a great driver with the Champ Cars but he is maybe just a bit too highly strung for F1. This is one of the most competative and expensive sports in the world. There’s no room for teams to give chances to drivers unless there’s a very good reason (Nakajima / Williams for one). I’m a big fan of Honda and expect great things from them next season. It would be great to at least get an idea of how Barrichello would fare in the new car. Experience is a very valuable commodity and Rubens has often said that he doesn’t feel like retiring (but he has said that he’d like to write a book). However, maybe he’ll become Honda’s test driver and Alonso could end up with them. Stranger things have happened. And with DC retiring maybe Button will finally be able to get round circuits without colliding with a Red Bull ;o)

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