Is Rubens under threat from Sutil or Raikkonen?

Williams has hosted separate visits from Adrian Sutil and Kimi Räikkönen in recent weeks, with the Grove squad set to review its current driver line-up ahead of the 2012 season.

Coupled with a rather woeful package in 2011, the Williams team has been undertaking something of a wholesale clean-out, and its driver line-up could be another area needing a revisit.

The team could elect to continue with the status quo, and it will undoubtedly retain the services of F1 debutant Pastor Maldonado, not least of which because of the sackfuls of cash he brings in sponsorship from the Venezuelan government. Williams is not a team with a particularly great cash flow at the moment, and the more money it can get on board, the better.

Which brings the focus to Rubens Barrichello, the veteran who has scored four of the team’s measly total of five championship points this year. Barrichello doesn’t bring a cent in sponsorship and the team could well elect to hang on to him because of the wealth of knowledge he has, but the Barrichello-Williams marriage has been both uneasy off-track and unsuccessful on it.

An ever desperate urgent Barrichello has been, of late, more vocal about wanting to re-sign with Williams for next season, no doubt sensing that his position in the squad is vulnerable.

In looking at the candidates, Sutil would bring some much-needed extra cash in the form of sponsorship from computer group Medion. But the German is not renowned for his ability to set up a car (neither is Maldonado, for that matter), and that is itself a significant handicap.

Turning to Räikkönen, he won’t being any sponsorship with him, but his profile is strong enough that it could serve to attract more vital stickers onto the car’s flanks in 2012. Having left the sport at the end of 2009, Kimi has seemingly been chasing new ventures or more money, depending on who you care to believe.

He’s only 31, don’t forget, and still has plenty left to offer if he wanted to commit to a return. Let’s equally not forget that he threw his hat in the ring at Renault after Robert Kubica’s rally accident, and was a strong candidate for the drive that eventually went to Nick Heidfeld.

The fundamental question will be about his motivation. Certainly, there seemed to be plenty of occasions where Räikkönen looked utterly disinterested in his last year of F1 competition, and there are few who will have forgotten his moody disposition with the passage of time.

A return to F1 is always a challenge, and there are certainly attractions and detractions to hiring a driver like Räikkönen.

[Original images via LAT and Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.