Rubens Barrichello's hopes of retaining his seat at Williams in 2012 could be scuppered if the team opts to take on a second pay-driver to ease its financial concerns.
Though the Brazilian, the most experienced F1 driver of all-time and winner of 11 grands prix, is highly-regarded by the Grove outfit, the combination of a poor 2011 season and increasingly critical monetary factors could see Barrichello out of his drive by the end of the year.
Indeed, Barrichello is believed to be costing the cash-strapped team $5m in wages this year, compared to rookie team-mate Pastor Maldonado, who is paying his way with substantial backing from Venezuelan petroleum giant PDVSA.
With Maldonado, who is yet to score a point this season despite qualifying inside the top ten on three occasions, tipped to remain on board for 2012, attention has turned to who could potentially partner him, with a series of promising youngsters with sponsorship money being lined-up.
That's the view of respected Brazilian F1 journalist Livio Oricchio, who commented in his column for O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, that the likes of Stefano Coletti, Davide Valsecchi, Sam Bird and Jules Bianchi are waiting in the wings with cash.
“There are young drivers on the market with a similar amount of money ($5m) to spend to make their Formula One debut, like the Monegasque Stefano Coletti, Italian Davide Valsecchi, Briton Sam Bird and Frenchman Jules Bianchi," he said.
"Bianchi is in the Ferrari school but he needs to show what he can do before he can dream to compete for the Maranello team. Williams would be a good entry point.”
All four drivers are race winners at GP2 level, with Bianchi currently best of the quartet in fourth overall, with Bird fifth, Valsecchi sixth and Coletti tenth.