If you are a Williams F1 fan, or even if youâ€™re not, Iâ€™d be interested in hearing your take on Nico Hulkenberg. How do you feel he has done this year? A difficult start followed by an impressive second half? Thatâ€™s my take anyway. Rumors still persist that Hulkenberg, and manager Willi Weber, have not come to terms with Williams F1 for a ride next year. Some have suggest the team is looking for a paying driver while others have suggested Hulkenberg wants too much money and the team has started looking at Pastor Moldanado as a replacement.
Hulkenberg is quoted in AUTOSPORT as not wanting to pay-to-drive. I canâ€™t imagine any driver would but he is keen to stay at Williams:
“What I can say is that I think the best for me and my development and everything… my point of view is that I really would like to stay with Williams, because the car can be competitive next year.”
With the team retaining Rubens Barrichello, the big question is who will be his teammate? The financial woes of Williams F1 have been long-rumored and it stands to reason that losing major sponsors like RBS will only add to the stress. Looking for a paying driver may make sense no matter how good they think Hulkenberg is or has done in 2010. Thatâ€™s the exact situation Hulkenberg doesnâ€™t want:
“No. I don’t want to be a driver who gets a seat because of money. I never wanted to, it’s not my intention,” he said. “For me talent counts, I hope for the team too.”
Talent does count, there is little question about that but economics count more and Williams F1 has always been about maintaining their business model while drivers of all caliber have come and gone. Williams F1 is long-term, Hulkenberg is not and thatâ€™s the harsh reality of team economics in F1. Losing Alonso to Ferrari, in Renaultâ€™s case, or Prost to Renault, in McLarenâ€™s case, is always a difficult situation but thatâ€™s the reality of keeping the doors open and lights on.
Has Hulkenberg done enough to warrant a paying ride? Has he been impressive enough to convince Williams that losing him would be a major setback for the team? I would submit that losing Nico Rosberg may have been a bigger impact and yet they were fine with letting that run its course. I am not sure Hulkenberg has to presence or past performance to anchor his argument of a paying ride when the team needs the cash.
If continuity is worth anything, then retaining Hulkenberg could be a good thing to do if they can develop a little further for 2011. The pivotal 2013 date looms for regulation changes and perhaps thatâ€™s a better time to turn over the apple cart but then I can also see the wisdom in having a paying driver ride out 2011 and 2012 until the team faces all new regulation changes and needs to start building again with top drivers in a long-term fashion. They jury is outâ€¦what do you think?