Williams team founder Sir Frank Williams has offered praise to Nico Hülkenberg’s recent performances and states he has hopes that the German achieves success with his squad, and in turn created another twist in the latest round of rumours that suggest the rookie driver will actually be dumped from the outfit at the end of the season.
It had been suggested that the 23-year-old would make way for the newly-crowned GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado, who has also been confirmed as one of the squad’s test drivers at the season-ending Abu Dhabi test. The potential loss of several key sponsors has seen Williams needing to shore up its finances, and Maldonado is rumoured to be equipped with some $15 million in backing.
But a recent interview with the BBC has seemingly countered many of the rumours about Hülkenberg’s future at Williams, with Sir Frank heaping praise on his young charge.
“He was a little disappointing maybe in the first few races,” Williams said. “Perhaps he was being over-cautious. But lately he’s become very competitive and I think we’ve just seen the beginning of something very exceptional.
“He’s one of these drivers, a bit like Lewis [Hamilton], who was moved from ‘Formula this’ to ‘Formula that’ and won that formula, then went from ‘Formula that’ to ‘Formula something else’ and won that, all the way up through Formula 3 and GP2, he won every single championship.
“And in the right team – hopefully us, one day – he’ll win the world championship in Formula 1.”
That certainly sounds like a ringing endorsement of Hülkenberg’s ability, and definitely not giving any indication that they would look to let go of him.
But clearly three drivers to fill two seats is not a workable prospect, and Williams certainly wasn’t about to give his intentions away by heaping equal praise on Rubens Barrichello.
“He has enormous experience. He’s without doubt the most experienced driver in the pit lane,” Williams added. “His technique is fairly understated – you don’t think there are any fireworks going on, but that’s because he’s a very smooth driver.
“He likes to mollycoddled emotionally a little bit – he likes to be told how good he is. But he is very good, so we don’t have any problem in telling him that we believe in him. He’s good fun, and very experienced, and that’s of great value to any Formula 1 team.”
The plot thickens…