Damon Hill believes that Formula 1 will miss Rubens Barrichello if the Brazilian does not return to the grid after missing out on the Williams seat.
Barrichello turns 40 this year and although he has always maintained his desire to continue to race in F1, with only one seat left open at HRT it is unlikely that he will be on the grid in 2012.
Former rival Hill, who raced against Barrichello for seven seasons in F1, believes that he was a big part of the grand prix scene.
"There are a limited number of characters in F1 and Rubens has been thoroughly a positive character," Hill said. "People like and respect Rubens and his abilities.
"He has had an incredibly long career and that is worth a lot – he's the most experienced F1 driver ever, so people will miss him as a person and a driver."
Hill reckons that if Barrichello's F1 career is over, it will be difficult for him to adjust to no longer being a grand prix driver. Barrichello has raced in F1 full-time since 1993 and the 1996 World Champion pointed out that there are few other categories that can offer the same feeling as racing at the top level.
"It's a really difficult thing for drivers to give up, or to be forced to give up, something they really love and that is their way of life," said Hill, who retired at the end of 1999. "You know as a driver that some day it's going to happen and that you will have to stop. The shame is that there is nowhere to go next for a driver.
"You could go to DTM, but nothing is the same as F1 and there's no gradual climbdown from it. When you've been doing it as long as Rubens has, when March comes around, it's going to be a shock to the system."
Barrichello has yet to make clear his plans for 2012, although he did wish Bruno Senna, who landed the Williams seat, good luck. Posting on Twitter, he added that for his own career, "the future is wide open."