There could perhaps be no greater irony in reading this headline, but a bizarre twist could see Nico Hülkenberg’s pole-winning efforts rewarded with a demotion to Hispania Racing.
With Williams desperately needing to shore up its finances as it faces the loss of up to five major sponsors at the end of the year, it faces the unenviable task of potentially having to turf one of its existing drivers – either Hülkenberg or team-mate Rubens Barrichello – at the expense of a driver who will being in some much-needed sponsorship backing.
And with GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado and his swag full of Venezuelan government backing from its state-owned petroleum company waiting in the wings, it might just have hit paydirt.
So does the team opt for the cheaper Hülkenberg alongside Maldonado, running the risk of fielding an inexperienced driver pairing, or does it keep Barrichello, who offers much better skills at developing the car at the expense of a larger retainer?
But with the outfit having also agreed to supply its gearboxes to Hispania Racing next year, this may give it a bit of bargaining power. Should it decide to loan out Hülkenberg to the struggling Spanish squad, it might do so with the offering of its gearbox units at a lower price in return.
Not only does Williams get to hang on to Hülkenberg in a roundabout way (it is believed that they are trying to sign him on a five-year deal), allowing him to bide his time at HRT while Williams shores up its finances and Barrichello approaches his inevitable retirement.
While HRT has been well short of being considered a competitive prospect this year, next year could be another matter, if rumours of a technical collaboration with Toyota are actually true. Should this be the case, then coupling a highly-praised (although unraced) Toyota aero kit with a proven transmission unit might prove rather competitive in 2011, and this would potentially give Hülkenberg the opportunity to develop his skills as a lead driver even further.
Those of a more cynical disposition might suggest that Williams is simply gearing itself up to sell Hülkenberg’s contract to another team, but it could simply be a brilliant masterstroke of planning for the future. Time will tell…
[Original images via AUTOSPORT]
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