Williams F1 to test young talent, Hulkenberg’s replacements?

We’ve been discussing the 2011 driver issues at Williams F1 and while many believe Nico Hulkenberg has done a decent job of it as of late, there are many rumblings about pay-to-drive, cash, sponsors and some Venezuelan chap named Pastor Maldonado. If rumors are to be believed, then you are subscribing to the notion that Maldonado has $15m large waving in the face of Sir Frank Williams and team.

To add to the plot, Williams F1 announced today that they will be assessing the skills of not only Maldonado but of British Formula Two driver Dean Stoneman during the young driver test days in Abu Dhabi on 16 and 17 November 2010. The team also confirmed that Valtteri Bottas will remain as the team’s test driver in 2011. Sir Frank is looking forward to the test:

“We are delighted to have the two reigning champions of the two strongest feeder series for Formula One in the FW32 for these two test days. Valtteri fought hard for his third place in this year’s Formula 3 Euroseries, taking two wins and six podiums in a very competitive year. He also set a record with his second consecutive victory in the Formula 3 Masters. He has worked hard both on and off the track and learnt a great deal. We continue to see talent, discipline and dedication and are happy to help foster that further in 2011.”

So how does that news find you? Worried for Hulkenberg’s seat? What will Willi Weber’s response be? A managers job is to negotiate the best contract he can and Weber knows a thing or two about making deals having managed the career of Michael Schumacher all these years. This news may mean nothing in the whole scheme of things and may have no bearing on negotiations with Hulkenberg but it does add to the drama.

I doubt any driver is ever safe in his seat at Williams F1. The team are a business and as such will take short term cash-flow gains over long-term driver commitments based on the hope they do more with the car than it’s capable of. Williams F1 knows full well what their car is capable of and where they are in the performance measure against the big teams. They could have Lewis Hamiton or Fernando Alonso in their car right now but that wouldn’t lead to a championship.

The old notion of Ross Brawn’s is something I continually recall in times like these. He has always said that until he can build a car capable of winning the title, the driver issues remain relatively flexible. No driver, world’s best or not, can make a mid-field car win the title. The rest is just contracts and emotions and those two issues have been proven to be bereft of a home at Williams F1.

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