Murray Walker has claimed that the only reasons Honda should have for electing to promote Bruno Senna to Formula 1 in 2009 in place of Rubens Barrichello are financial ones, arguing the latter's experience would likely be of critical importance in the sport's brave new dawn.

Whilst Senna and compatriot and fellow GP2 Series front-runner Lucas di Grassi both tried out for the big-budget Japanese concern during the first major group test of the winter at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya last week, Barrichello was absent - Honda choosing not to invite the 36-year-old to what was widely interpreted to be a shoot-out for the seat alongside Jenson Button at the squad next year.

Despite Barrichello's advancing years, however, veteran commentator Walker suggests the popular nine-time grand prix winner's experience - as the driver with the most starts under his belt in the 58-year history of the top flight - and undimmed speed and motivation 16 years on from his F1 debut make him the obvious choice to remain at Honda as the sport undergoes a series of major changes in 2009.

"I would be very sorry if Rubens was not with Honda next year for all sorts of reasons," the 85-year-old - also an ambassador for the Brackley-based outfit - told Radio. "He's a damn good driver, he is an enormously experienced driver [and] he's actually out-driven Jenson Button on many occasions this year.

"He's still got an enormous amount of hunger and desire to go on and he's got so much to offer a team like Honda, or any of the teams who are going to need experienced drivers next year to help them develop new cars.

"I can see no point whatsoever - except financial ones - to put for instance Bruno Senna into the car instead of Barrichello. Having said that, in a situation where money is so important to Formula 1, it would never surprise me to see it happen, sadly."

Senna is the nephew of the late, great Ayrton Senna, and though Walker commentated on all 161 of the three-time F1 World Champion's grands prix from 1984 to 1994, he is adamant that the current GP2 Vice-Champion should not graduate to the pinnacle of international motor racing on his name alone - even if he does acknowledge that the 25-year-old, as he evinced in Barcelona, possesses considerable potential.

"I don't want to sound unkind, but it won't mean a great deal unless Bruno Senna turns out to be as good as his uncle," underlined the man who spent more than three decades commentating on the sport for both the BBC and ITV. "Just seeing his name there for the sake of having his name there wouldn't ring any bells with me.

"Ayrton Senna was one of the most outstanding drivers of all time. Bruno Senna will to some extent if he gets a Formula 1 drive have got it on the strength of his uncle's reputation, and I would be a lot happier if he was getting it on the strength of his own driving ability.

"He did extremely well in GP2 this year, and a lot of other drivers like Nico Rosberg for instance and [Lewis] Hamilton of course have come from GP2, so Bruno Senna deserves it, but I wouldn't be going euphoric just because there was another Senna there."

by Russell Atkins