Adrian Sutil is due to stand trial on the alleged attack on Lotus F1’s Eric Lux, in a night club in Shanghai during the race weekend. This means that he’s out of the picture for Williams for a number of reasons. The trial will take place in Munich and it’s unlikely that Sutil will be allowed to travel for as long as the trial is going on. Furthermore, Williams will be reluctant to hire a driver who’s accused of attacking a member of another team; lest not forget that Lotus is the old Renault team, and Williams will be running Renault engines this year too.
It’s a shame for Sutil because he has clearly demonstrated over the years that he belongs in F1 and deserves a break with a bigger team. Admittedly, the Williams seat would be a step backwards from Force India (who could have imagined that we would be writing such comments a few years ago…), but it would keep him in the game in preparation for 2013, when the driver market breaks open.
Williams, on the other hand, remain spoilt for choice. Between Barrichello, Senna and Petrov they have a number of drivers that cover a wide range of options. Senna seems to be the better sponsored driver, with an alleged cool 16m$ waiting to bulge the pockets of his future employer. Barrichello will bring nothing to the table, in terms of sponsorship, but he’s liked within the team and is considered by many engineers as a key element in ensuring continuity and proper feedback. He may not be the driver he used to be in terms of raw pace, but he’s driven numerous winning cars in the past and he can identify the areas that need improvement. Petrov seems to stand somewhere in the middle. He may not be able to bring the amount of cash that Senna can, but with two full seasons under his belt he is considered as a “safer bet” than Bruno.
If I were Williams, I’d be willing to give Bruno a chance. He’s demonstrated respectable speed during his Renault stint, and needs more mileage to hone his racecraft. The fact that he was (marginally) faster than Petrov in qualifying says as much about Bruno as it says about Petrov, actually, so I don’t see any reason for going with the Russian. Senna’s millions will definitely help Williams strengthen their team and develop the car. Yes, Barrichello is an experienced driver, but he’s feedback cannot outweigh the extra boost in car development that 16m$ can provide. Williams can get the money from Bruno, build and develop a better car, and in the process they may discover a diamond in the rough in the face of Ayrton Senna’s nephew.
And in case this doesn’t work, they always have Valtteri Bottas for 2013, so it’s a one year bet.