Is It Time for Rubens Barrichello to Exit Formula 1?

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Is It Time for Rubens Barrichello to Exit Formula 1?
Clive Rose/Getty Images

After 319 Grand Prix, there is no denying the consistent talent and raw pace that has kept Rubens Barrichello in the sport. While he is never really considered a title favourite, he evolved through his time into a well-respected and celebrated Brazilian hero.

His victory in Germany in 2000 highlighted his reputation clearly. He was the underdog we wanted to succeed. His 18th to first triumph in that race set a precedent, encouraging him to finish runner-up in the 2002 and 2004 seasons with Ferrari.

It could all have been so different. If he had not survived his horrific crash on the black Sunday of 94, he may not have even had the choice. 

A slight resurgence with Brawn GP in 2009 with additional victories in the European and Italian races meant he wasn't gone and forgotten. 

Yet as his years advanced deep into his 30s, many began to wonder how many years he would remain in the sport.

Asides from his comeback at Brawn, his results had taken a nose dive. He was unable to reacquire a team-winning seat in seasons after his most influential time at Ferrari. 

Any driver who finds themselves in decline is then asked the same question: Should I continue and risk tarnishing my hard-earned reputation, or should I further seek to live the dream in the role that I adore?

Rubens has clearly always swung towards the latter ideal, and his passion for the sport and his part in it are inspiring. Here is a driver who idolised Ayrton Senna as a young Brazilian fighting David Coulthard in Formula 3 before being given a Jordan drive in 1993. Although he did not replicate the success of his idol, he certainly kept local interest within Brazil. 

Of the old school boys he raced against in his early days, only Michael Schumacher now remains. In Schumacher, though, you have another driver who many are questioning his continued participation in the sport. 

What you can't help but feel it coming down to is whether the likes of Barrichello and Schumacher should prolong a career in Formula 1 at the expense of a young driver attempting to thrash their way in. 

Is Rubens taking the opportunity of a new generation driver who could possibly perform at a greater level than the Brazilian? With results at Williams this season you certainly can believe so. 

Maybe it is that Barrichello knows how lacklustre the season has been and wants to claim the drive for 2012 to at least go out on a high and subvert this. 

The powers that be seem to be in the driving seat, however, as reports that financial benefits are what Williams are in desperate need of. 

Pastor Maldonado brings a large amount of revenue from his Venezuelan backing, and the rumoured replacement is Force India's Adrian Sutil. Sutil can bring much-needed funds to the Williams team through his multiple sponsorships. 

Such a move, in my opinion, would be a major step back for the German driver, but a Williams team with more ammunition could allow him, in the long run, to progress further. 

When it comes to Barrichello, you can admire his tenacity and his desire to remain in the sport. Yet others of his generation, like David Coulthard, knew when it was logical to retire. Maybe Barrichello should take note. If he follows suit and quits at the end of this year, then he can be remembered more fondly.

What you don't want him to do is switch to a team like Hispania or Virgin if they are not going to get results. Similarly, you cannot see him moving forward or into a team that can. Therefore, inevitably, a prolonged existence would begin to cause damage to his well-respected career. 

You can admire his want to carry on. But in the end, it all becomes about what is realistic.  

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