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Barrichello takes the hard road

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Barrichello takes the hard road
May 13, 2011, 10:23 AM

F1 drivers these days tend to keep strong opinions to themselves, not wishing to stick their heads above the parapet.

F1 drivers these days tend to keep strong opinions to themselves, not wishing to stick their heads above the parapet.

Like all professional sportsmen they will speak out if another driver cuts them up on the track, or about a rule change which doesn't suit the drivers, but when it comes to big issues they clam up. This is especially true in issues such as whether F1 should go to race in Bahrain in the current climate, for example.

It is rare for a driver to have a go at his own team these days, as Rubens Barrichello has done this week, following the announcement that Sam Michael is leaving at the end of the year to be replaced by Mike Coughlan. Barrichello says that the team lacks "a leader" and has effectively said that unless they shape up he will not renew his contract next year.

This puts other teams on notice that he's looking around, but as the most experienced man on the grid with 18 seasons of F1 racing under his belt and turning 39 later this month, he will have to be very skilful anyway to secure another seat in F1 to continue his career.

So it's not as if he is criticising the team because he feels he has nothing to lose.

"Williams must improve a lot for us to reach an agreement for next year," he said. "Things are standing still. It's not worth going on this way...I'm at the top of my game and I'm quite happy with that. Having said that, I need the team to start to shake up and I need to see differences. We need a leader.

"Right now, it is almost like we have too many but not enough. A lot of people are trying to say something but in the end that is not the point. They need to focus on what they are doing.

"I can possibly recruit more people, look at other teams. I can. I am a top-10 guy in the paddock who has been around the longest. I know a few people and I am calling them."

This is interesting because Rubens is here positioning himself as a solution to Williams problems, rather than a problem in himself.

He knows what it takes to be successful in F1 and he's disappointed with the way Williams, which appeared a couple of years ago to be a team of the future in the Resource Restriction era, has not fulfilled its potential.

Williams invested a lot of resources in the low rear end and the tiny gearbox and is playing catch up on the other devices like the Red Bull-style blown diffuser. The car was more competitive in Turkey than at the first few races and when the complete car is together with all its new bits it is expected to be half a second faster at least. But Barrichello is looking more at the bigger picture.

There have been times in his career when he probably wishes he had said more, particularly in his Ferrari years. Now a mature driver, he clearly feels that he can speak out and hopes that it will have a galvanising effect within the team. It also puts teams on alert that he might be looking for a team role beyond driving in future, if the right offer comes along.

The comment about lacking a leader is surely aimed at chairman Adam Parr, with whom Barrichello does not enjoy the most cordial of relations. Parr has already started the process of restructuring the technical side of the team, which has brought about the departure of Michael and the arrival of Coughlan. It has taken a direction - will it be going there with or without Barrichello in the future?

Whether any other team in the paddock hears his call and takes Barrichello next season will also be interesting to watch.
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Series Formula 1
Teams Williams