Despite effectively – although not official, it should be said – having confirmed Rubens Barrichello will stay on with the squad for 2012 in what would mark 16 consecutive seasons in the sport, the team has remained tight-lipped on whether it would re-sign his German team-mate.
Rumours have suggested that GP2 championship leader Pastor Maldonado – who lost out on securing a drive at Sauber for next season – has been linked with the second Williams seat. The Venezuelan driver also comes armed with considerable backing from his homeland.
It is also rumoured that Hülkenberg’s manager, Willi Weber, is trying to hit up the Williams outfit for a pay rise for his young charge.
Williams CEO Adam Parr also refused to be drawn on the current driver line-up rumours in the Friday press conference at the Japanese Grand Prix, but did hint that the decision was very much up in the air.
“We haven’t announced it yet and I don’t think this is the moment to do that,” he said.
Hülkenberg has had a hugely impressive pedigree in the junior formulae – virtually winning every major championship series he has contested – and currently lies 14th in the current F1 standings with four points’ finishes to total 13 points, his best being sixth at Hungary.
By contrast, team-mate Barrichello lies 11th overall on 41 points, with nine points’ finishes and best result of fourth at Valencia.
The F1 rookie has also been involved in three separate race-ending accidents (all on the first lap of the race), and has not garnered much popularity among his peers for his rather robust defence of his position on-track.
However, Hülkenberg has stated his hopes of remaining with Williams for next season, and will no doubt be working hard to do so given that there are few remaining vacancies left on the 2011 grid.
When asked to comment on the latest speculation and Parr’s seemingly non-committal statements, he replied: “It is a situation that, if I continue my career, I will probably come across again. I am pretty okay with it. I am doing my job here and confident with what I do, and that is all I can do.
“I want to stay with this team for sure. I have good hopes in them. I think they can build a competitive car next season, and the situation is nice here.
“I feel comfortable with the team, the people and my team-mate Rubens, and I hope I can continue here.”
Indeed, Nico, but is the team happy with you?
[Original image via LAT]