NOVEMBER 21, 2003
Why Barrichello is the best bet for Williams
With Juan Pablo Montoya moving to McLaren in 2005, Williams needs to find a new driver to partner Ralf Schumacher, assuming that Ralf is still there. BMW is keen to have a German on the books and with Nick Heidfeld failing to be truly convincing (although he has done a good job), Heinz-Harald Frentzen heading out to grass and Michael Schumacher not really likely to jump ship from Ferrari to join the Williams-BMW clan, there is not much hope of anyone other than Ralf being taken on. He is a proven race winner although thus far he has made too many mistakes to be a real World Championship challenger.
Williams has taken a look around the F1 scene and recognizes that the men he needs are all under contract elsewhere: Kimi Raikkonen is at McLaren; Fernando Alonso is at Renault and Mark Webber is at Jaguar. The plan at the moment is for Webber to go to Renault in 2005 and the French team (i.e. Flavio Briatore) says it will not consider selling him. However if Renault does not perform well in 2004, there is little motivation for Webber to go there in 2005 and Williams might then be able to do a deal. However Briatore is not known to be cheap when it comes to financial settlements (unless he is paying them) and Williams will no doubt argue that it is pointless to spend money buying a driver who has potential but is not a proven winner. It would therefore be better to look elsewhere. David Coulthard will be available but it is unlikely that Williams will do that. Giancarlo Fisichella might be an option but he is under contract to Sauber; and that leaves Barrichello as the only proven winner in F1.
Barrichello has had a very difficult job alongside Michael Schumacher and he has done it well. It is frustrating to have to be the number two but he has shown on several occasions that he is good enough to beat Michael in the same car. Thus of the options available Barrichello must start as the favorite. Rubens is still only 31 years of age, which means that he has plenty of racing left in him and he knows how to win.
The other option is to go for a deal with Jenson Button, who is under contract with BAR but can probably get out of the deal. Button is still the second youngest regular racer in F1, he is 18 months older than Alonso but he is still only 23, having started out in F1 at a very young age. He is now matured and a much better racer than he was when he started in F1 in 2000.
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