As usual for this time of year talk turns to who’s driving for whom next season, and it seems only fair that I do my now annual musings on the Williams team’s options in the year to come.
It seems pretty obvious that Pastor Maldonado will keep his seat for next year, despite all of the comments suggesting that he may look elsewhere, let’s be honest there aren’t going to be many teams looking at him considering the reputation he has built up even with the sponsorship he would take with him. I’m not too dissatisfied with that, he is fast if a little reckless, he has calmed down recently but more contact in today’s Indian Grand Prix left him with yet another non-points finish.
That is where things start to bother me, other than the fantastic drive to victory from Pole Position in Spain he’s only really earned a handful of points with two other finishes in the points so far, whereas his team mate, Bruno Senna has been a lot more consistent in getting eight points finishes. OK, they have been at the lower end of the points paying positions but other than the win, so has Maldonado’s. Yet it is Senna that is seemingly fighting for his seat within the team for next year.
The name that has been linked to the second Williams seat is the team’s third driver, Valtteri Bottas, who has driven in most of this year’s GP weekend’s by taking Senna’s car for the first practice session on the Friday mornings (which in many ways makes Senna’s solid consistency all the more impressive). Bottas won the 2011 GP3 Championship but strangely didn’t enter the GP2 Championship this season, instead concentrating on his frequent Friday morning drives for Williams. There is no doubt that the young Finn is fast, but he is inexperienced and frankly now out of practice in a race situation so I can’t understand why Williams would be considering pushing a regular points scorer out of the team to bring in an unknown quantity.
It may seem strange that I am sticking up for Senna so strongly when this time last year I was championing Rubens Barrichello’s case for retaining his position in the team, something that clearly fell on deaf ears at Williams who chose to run Senna instead, a move that has worked out well, but you can’t help wondering if Barrichello might have done a better job than either of the two current drivers – he has, after all, had not too bad a season in IndyCar in 2012. Last year there was no clear reason given as to why Williams chose to drop Barrichello, but I suspect that it was an issue of cash, something that Senna brings to the team in terms of sponsors, much the same as Maldonado.
So is it now a case that as Williams are doing slightly better financially, they don’t need Senna’s sponsorship dollars, so are happier to take a risk on an inexperienced driver that just happens to be managed by the team’s own Executive Director – who also happens to be married to the team’s other test driver?