As the excitement builds steadily in the build-up to the 2012 F1 world championship season, for me the most disappointing sight has been of that great gentleman Rubens Barrichello scratching around trying to find himself another drive in the face of what must seem like slamming doors all round for the personable Brazilian. 

Rubens enjoyed a brilliant F1 career, proved that on his day he could genuinely get to grips with Michael Schumacher when they were Ferrari team-mates together. He was also intelligent, consistent and supremely honest; not qualities unreservedly displayed by all professional sportsmen, I’m sure you will agree.

Barrichello was always one of the most approachable of F1 competitors. During his final season with the Stewart-Ford team I sat with him on Ryanair flight from Stansted to Bergamo en route to the ItaIian GP. By then he’d signed his first Ferrari contract for the following year, so I asked him whether he wasn’t worried about being ripped apart by the fans when he stepped off the plane. “They probably won’t recognise who I am,” he grinned modestly. Well, in the years that followed they certainly did come to know Rubens as one of Maranello’s great understated heroes.

Which is why it is so sad to see him in his current dilemma. And why he should now call it a day and hang up his helmet.