Williams co-owner Patrick Head has hinted strongly that Nico Hulkenberg, the new GP2 champion and the team’s reserve driver, is set to make his F1 debut with the team in 2010.
The team’s engineering chief and co-owner was careful not to confirm that the 22-year-old German is assured a place for next season, but indicated that the team is convinced Hulkenberg is ready to step up.
"The drivers who have won GP2 in their first year – Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton – are all pretty outstanding, and I think Nico will be outstanding as well," said Head.
The team is expected to lose Rosberg to Brawn and sign Rubens Barrichello for 2010, and Head admitted that Williams can no longer afford to appoint F1’s best established drivers with Ferrari-style retainers.
He therefore dropped a strong hint that Williams intends to cement its ties with Hulkenberg, also a recent champion of the F3 Euroseries and A1GP, while he is an aspiring star. "If Nico proves in the future that he is at that [top] level, I hope by that time we’re able to still be running him because our finances are strong," said Head.
Here’s hoping, Patrick!