News has emerged that ousted Williams driver Nico Hülkenberg was offered a race seat at Virgin Racing for the 2011 season, but that his management team turned it down.
Instead, claims the German’s high-profile manager Willi Weber, the 23-year-old will secure a Friday test driver role.
Hülkenberg was sacked by Williams just eight days after securing the team’s first pole position in five years at the Brazilian Grand Prix, and he has been the subject of much speculation as to where, or if, he will find a berth for the 2011 F1 season.
“[After the announcement] we have been thinking: shall we pause for a year?” admitted Weber, who has been working hard to find his protégé a suitable role at short notice, following Williams’ decision to replace him with the well-funded Pastor Maldonado.
“But in today’s world you are too quickly forgotten. So I think it is better for Nico to still have a presence with a good team where at least he can practice on the Fridays. That is the ideal alternative for him,” Weber added.
It is widely tipped that Hülkenberg will join Force India for 2011 as its test and reserve driver, with the Vijay Mallya owned outfit set to confirm its driver line-up (tipped to be Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta) soon.
But Weber has to remain tight-lipped until Force India makes its announcement, telling Auto Motor und Sport: “Before anything is said officially, I can’t say anything myself.”
Weber also revealed that an offer had been made by Virgin Racing for a race role, but that they had turned it down.
“For someone like Nico, with a season already behind him, there is little to learn from a small team,” Weber said.
“There was an offer from Virgin which was very pleasing, but with another German in Timo Glock, who has been there for a while already, the risk was too great.”
One would assume that the role came with the conditions of some sponsorship backing being provided, given that Virgin later plumped for the well-endorsed GP2 veteran Jérôme d’Ambrosio instead.
Weber is equally unhappy with the current state of affairs in Formula 1, where many teams – Renault, Sauber, Williams, Force India, Virgin and HRT – are signing drivers who bring significant sponsorship backing as part of the deal.
“F1 needs to be careful about creating a two-class society, with fourteen real drivers and ten pay-drivers. In that way, I refuse to pay for a cockpit for Nico.
“If you do it once, you will always be needing to bring money, and more and more. Very quickly, this becomes your image. Rather, I want to sell performance,” he added.
“This boy is too good to be paying to drive.”
Here’s hoping that a year on the testing sidelines sees him follow the (rumoured) trajectory of Paul di Resta, rather than the ignominy of Nick Heidfeld.
[Original image via One Man’s Blog]