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Weber hints at next move for Hulkenberg
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Jan 2011   |  7:36 pm GMT  |  88 comments

There’s an intriguing interview on Auto Motor und Sport website today with Willi Weber, done by Michael Schmidt, Germany’s leading F1 journalist.

Weber reveals that his driver Nico Hulkenberg was offered and turned down the second seat at Virgin Racing alongside Timo Glock. This is no great surprise, when a driver of his calibre is on the market a team like Virgin should aspire to hiring him. Arrows frequently made offers to Nigel Mansell throughout his career, for example. You can only ask..


But Weber does give away a fairly clear indication that Hulkenberg is going to take a test and Friday driver role. This is most likely with Force India, although Mercedes has taken an interest in him since his release from Williams, it is unlikely that either Schumacher or Rosberg would be willing to give up seat time for a third driver. Whereas that has been the norm at Force India. In that scenario Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta take the race seats, the most competitive still open this season.

Weber says that when his driver found himself out of Williams in favour of Pastor Maldonado, they considered a year off, but opted to stay in people’s minds,

“We have been thinking, “Do we want to pause for a year?” But in this day and age you are forgotten. Because everything changes so quickly. Therefore, I am of the opinion that it would be better for Nico, to be present, and to go to a team where he can at least drive in Friday practice. That would be the ideal solution for him. So he stays on the ball.”

Asked if that means Force India, he replies, ” Before anything is official, I can not say anything.”

On the Virgin opportunity he says that the risks are too great in going to a team like that, “It has been a team on the level of Williams, where technological development is taking place. With the small teams someone like Nico, who has one Formula 1 season behind him, has not much to learn. The offer from Virgin was there, but the risk was too great.”

Hulkenberg’s pole in Brazil, followed by his sacking in the Abu Dhabi paddock eight days later, has come to symbolise F1′s transition towards drivers who bring sponsorship. Managers of drivers who have no budget to bring have all been lamenting this over the winter, claiming F1 has gone back 20 years. Arguably with so much talent at the front of the grid it can afford to, but it is perhaps an indication of how hard it is for teams to find sponsors, as much as anything else.

“Formula 1 must be careful that it doesn’t become a two-class society with 14 real drivers and ten pay drivers in the field. If teams are only able to keep up by using pay-drivers something’s wrong. I refuse to pay for a cockpit for Nico because if you do this once, you always have to bring money, ” says Weber.

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88 Comments
  1. Richard M says:

    If Hulkenberg thinks he got it ruff he should talk to Giorgio Pantano

    1. Richard M says:

      * rough (damn predictive text)

  2. Richard Bell says:

    If I were Nico I would’ve taken the Virgin seat. I can’t see why driving for them is more of a risk than plodding around on a Friday for Force India.

    With Virgin he gets far more experience and if he beats Timo Glock regularly his reputation will continue to rise.

    1. Koby Fan says:

      Agree, although a little surprised that Virgin would have been willing to have 2 German drivers. I expect Virgin (in relative terms) to improve against Force India this season. In recent seasons, a reserve seat doesn’t seem translate into a race seat.

    2. Dev says:

      cause FI will give him a drive next season, replacing Adrian Sutil.

    3. Warren Groenewald says:

      I think Force India is more appealing to Weber because of the Mercedes and McLaren connections. As far as I know, Weber is still manager to Schumacher as well, and probably knows better than all of us whether he will see out his 3 year contract or not.

    4. Weeraz says:

      I think its all about how high his “stock” is at the moment. Coming off his pole with Williams, it would be risky to lower his reputation with mediocre back end battles in a potentially unreliable car.

    5. neo says:

      It’s not as simple as it sounds, contracts are signed for multi year or atleast 2 year lock-in.
      For him it’s better to stay out and get a deal next year maybe with williams if barrichello leaves.

    6. Mr Anderson says:

      I totally agree, I think a short term deal with Virgin would have been a good option. Rather than Virgin being too risky, I think that going to Force India as a Friday driver is too safe, which of course is a risk in itself. In turning down the Virgin deal, he’s basically saying “I’m scared Glock will beat me and then my stock will drop”. That sends out the wrong message. As Richard says, if he went to Virgin and beat Glock, he would surely be looking at a drive further up the grid in 2012/13.

  3. Manor says:

    It is a shame that pay drivers get preference over some real talent. Thats not to say that “pay drivers” do not have talent, it just feels wrong that a driver can lose their seat purely for financial reasons.

    I personally would like to see the concept banned and that an F1 team is not allowed to receive money from a driver. That would mean that the motivation for hiring a driver is all about their speed and not financial gain.

    I assume that it is a lot more complicated than that though.

    1. Steven says:

      While I agree that its unfortunate, and not ideal. Isnt it the same as a employee getting fired because someone else will do the same job for a lower hourly rate? Its just life.

  4. ian says:

    I think Hulkenberg was offered the friday spot by Williams – with a race drive for the following year – or am I mis remembering ?

  5. Black Knight says:

    Given the choice – Petrov or Nico on equal terms – who would you choose if you were Renault or Williams ? No question – but this is Formula 1 in 2011. Absent the re-entry of the OE auto manufacturers (and their resources), this is the future. Thank Max Mosely’s governance for this state of affairs. It took years, but job done.

    1. MAS says:

      Petrov in a heartbeat. Hulkenberg is far too boring (and frankly hasn’t shown anything besides the poll in Brazil).

      On a less horribly subjective note: the manufacturers didn’t leave because of Mosley. They left because of the financial crisis and the huge costs. Now I’m no fan of Mosley but he was right in saying costs had to go down. Of course the RRA is a better method than a limit on total expenditure (better as in that it has a chance of actually working). But I digress.

      Anyway, this stuff is cyclical. Manufacturer-eras come and go as do teams and financial troubles. Pay drivers are part of the sport, think of it as a continuation of the tradition of the Gentleman driver, but with less facial hair. The latest manufacturer era was far more of an anomaly to F1 than pay drivers and impoverished private teams.

      1. henry says:

        “think of it as a continuation of the tradition of the gentleman driver, but with less facial hair”

        - comment of the day, had me cackling like an old witch!

    2. Phil says:

      You can’t look at it on equal terms though. There are just too many variables.
      Say they’re both not paid drivers, you’re paying them the same.
      There is still sponsor interest/influence, even if it’s not direct. Petrov has more appeal in emerging markets (i.e. Russia).
      Even if Petrov/Hulk don’t bring extra sponsor money, there is still more interest in Petrov as it may lead to increase in sponsor brand recognition in the emerging market.
      This may also may lead to technical alliances and working groups (that are not necessarily and directly tied with paid drivers), such as Renault working with Lada.
      There is also country appeal, a team mightn’t want a driver from a certain country or area.
      I think it’s just too hard to look at two drivers on equal terms.

      Also, if I’m not mistaken Petrov finished above the Hulk in points too.

  6. Chris Orr says:

    I wonder if Nico could find some motivation outside of Formula One, such as some time in the DTM series or Le Mans to keep his driving skills up there.

    This would only be for 2011 while he has the chance to impress elsewhere. I always have rated Nico. He was outstanding when he raced in the A1GP and I remember seeing him outclass everyone when the series came to New Zealand

    It seems like the DTM has done Paul Di Resta no harm and the fact the their calender never clashes with F1 is ideal.

  7. f1fan1998 says:

    James, I am in sponsorship acquisitions and would like to pass on an anecdote of perhaps why the teams are struggling. Please email me at the address above.

  8. Robert McKay says:

    Personally I find it difficult to resolve the comments

    ““We have been thinking, “Do we want to pause for a year?” But in this day and age you are forgotten. Because everything changes so quickly. Therefore, I am of the opinion that it would be better for Nico, to be present, and to go to a team where he can at least drive in Friday practice. That would be the ideal solution for him. So he stays on the ball.””

    with the “we had an offer from Virgin but turned it down” comments.

    It doesn’t make sense to me. If you want something, anything, just to stay on the ball and not be forgotten, a race drive is surely better than the odd Friday session? I can understand that maybe you don’t learn as much as if you’re racing further up, but I’d have thought you’d learn more than just driving the odd Friday morning.

    Ultimately we’ll find out how it works, I guess.

    1. Neil Williams says:

      …Plus Di Resta whilst taking the Friday 3rd driver role this year at Force India didn’t do every race. IF he’s in the race seat next year what sense does it make to take a session away from him (a rookie) on a given weekend? Could we see a Red Bull seat share (Klien/Luizzi) type scenario coming up?

  9. Sweet Bobby McGee says:

    All those who think James Allen is the U.K’s leading F1 journo say ‘aye’.

    1. Neil Williams says:

      Aye!

      1. Jodum5 says:

        For repeating what was in a German newspaper?

  10. jmv says:

    in a way Montezemolo is damn right!!

    what is better to have:
    A) 3-car teams.. that are well funded and can pay to run the best drivers

    or

    B) or 3 new teams that struggle to make ends meet and end up recruiting pay drivers

    I think the 3-car team idea is unappealing since we’d see lesser variety of liveries.. but if Bernie (and whoever is deciding this) allows 3-car teams to run 2 or 3 different liveries per team… it would be great!

    Option A would also bring closer competition…

    Archh!! why deaf ears to the 3-car team idea!

    1. henry says:

      “option A would bring closer competition”

      Well yes and no. In theory yes but then you move towards a single car league; it would be far easier for a team to completely dominate if they had a good design, and the added costs really would price any apart from the largest teams out of the market. Also, coming from Monezemolo’s mouth, all having three Ferraris in the grid would mean that Alonso had another rear-gunner to carve out a place on the track for him. In the long term it would end up with a DTM situation: just two manufacturers, maybe three, each running a small handful of cars, with very little difference between them all. Dull.

    2. Ibrahim M says:

      3-car teams each with a different livery?????

      I thought that some of the small teams are employing pay-drivers because they can’t find sponsors to fund the fees of paid drivers.

      How are they going to get enough sponsors to create different liveries then???

      Oh and I can’t see Ferrari painting 2 out of its 3 cars in anything but red.

      I can imagine how the top 3 teams will dominate 9 out of the 10 point-scoring positions available if all cars finish (highly likely with today’s car reliability). Not to talk about team orders which would become even more complex.

      More than 2 cars per team is the worst idea that one could introduce to F1 at the best of times. Even more ridiculous in the current economic climate.

    3. Andy C says:

      Option A would bring closer competition, three cars from the same manufacturer.

      Thats essentially what Indycar does.

      Its all personal opinion, but I’d rather see smaller teams. I have no desire for F1 to become a race between 3 ferraris, 3 redbulls, 3 mclarens etc etc.

      So great if you only like those teams, for me (as a Mclaren fan) I still want to see the ladder of racing teams in F1.

  11. Paul says:

    It baffles me that Force India don’t seem to be ready to snap him up for a race seat because he clearly has the most potential of all the drivers they are considering. His main competition (i.e. di Resta and Liuzzi) are not bringing money to the team so why not go for Hulkenberg who has good experience, an excellent track record and can only grow from his first season.

    I fear that a season as a reserve driver might disrupt his momentum a bit though.

    1. James says:

      I’m sure engine supplier Mercedes will compensate Force India in some way for giving Paul di Resta a spot. A spot which he deserves I might add!

    2. Steven says:

      Isnt Di Resta conected to Mercedez? Perhaps its part of the engine package to give Di Resta a race drive, at least for a year, FIF1 might even be getting money from Mercedez to give Paul the seat.

      1. Paul says:

        But weren’t there rumours that Mercedes would halve Force India’s engine bills if they put two Germans in their cars?

      2. James Allen says:

        No I think its Di Resta whose presence lowers the engine bills

  12. Tommy boy says:

    Nice to know that Virgin were willing to have 2 paid drivers

    1. James Allen says:

      That’s a good point

      1. Stefanos says:

        James, other than Sauber, Williams, and HRT (hoping at least), who else has (openly) paying drivers?

        If Virgin and Lotus can afford to pay their drivers, then perhaps it is not an issue of economic climate, but in successful fundraising (or lack of). Its always easy to blame everything and everyone else…

      2. henry says:

        Add these to your list: Renault. (petrov). Virgin. Force India kind of. I think sutil brings sponsorship. Paul Di Resta will have cut down engine costs (as stated in the comment above) It depends how you define pay drivers, its fairly normal for them to bring sponsorship interest and value with them, even if its just through their nationality etc.

      3. Bringing sponsor money with you doesn’t necessarily equate to paying for your seat in an F1 car. Alonso brought Santander to Ferrari, but nobody complains that he is a pay driver. While maybe some young talent is being overlooked due to a lack of sponsorship, the talent in F1 is at an all time high.

        When Petrov signed at Renault people everywhere proclaimed that he would single handedly ruin F1; turns out he wasn’t half bad. In fact, he outperformed many a rookie in my opinion.

        Teams need sponsors to race, sponsors need faces to sell their wares.

  13. Rod says:

    Imagine a full-blown Formula 2 series running side by side with the F1 championship to ALL 20 grand prix, where reserve and aspiring drivers battle it out using current F1 technology and chassis with performance levels similar to that of its big brother.

    A series where young drivers race not just for a place in the main show, but for a prestigious crown in itself. A place where new teams can be invited to compete and where new rules can be tested. A series that would double the on track action at every grand prix during the year.

    Here’s how it could work…

    Each F1 team is mandated to run a single car in the F2 series, which would be a slightly modified version of their previous years chassis and engines. The other half of the grid would be made up of non-F1 teams running 2 cars each. These new teams would be designing cars to rules that are already a year old giving them a head-start to compete with the near-current F1 machinery from the big boys. Teams that do well could be invited to join the F1 series, or there could be a promotion / relegation system.

    Obviously this series would be THE stepping stone for young drivers to make it into F1. New F1 drivers could also be mandated to have run at least ‘x’ amount of F2 races before joining the world championship proper. F1 teams could use their single chassis to run their third or reserve driver, or try new talent. Some teams may even have drivers that alternate between the F1 and F2 series if they want to!

    The series could provide an important testing ground for new rules and regulations before they are adopted by F1. All sorts of crazy technical and sporting regulations to be used in this series to spice up the show.

    Importantly this series would also provide some great on-track action for fans at the track, and by having half the grid made up of current F1 teams, fans could relate to the series much more easily than to existing GP2 and F2 formats. Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren would still be on the grid, and it would be exciting watching these cars (although a year old) being driven by young guns like Ricciardo or Bianchi.

    It would be a series I would follow and it would be a great place for someone like Hulkenberg to remain involved in the ‘F1 circus’ and show everyone what he can do… and it would provide some thrills and spills along the way I could guarantee!!

    1. jls says:

      uumm isnt that called NASCAR

    2. unoc says:

      2 things… 1) having more teams build more cars costs MORE money. A base car should be used for all pretty much

      2) Have you seen GP2? It runs alongside f1 (except for a few races) and runs up and coming talent. Most drivers going into F1 tend to come from there. GP2 races anyway have much more excitment than F1 races simply because all the drivers are trying to prove themselves and drive themselves to destrcution usually. Youtube some videos of hamilton racing from midfield after being plowed out by someone trying to take the corner to quickly and then hamilton going on to win.

      Most of the excitment in GP2 comes from drivers trying to prove themselves through the races, if they were already linked to teams they wouldn’t do so. Added to that the GP2 crown is about as prestigious as a not really f1 yet, but some day probably crown is. And no one really watches it.

      You want to see up and coming talent, but what youll get (if it was running this year) is Ricciardo (a bloody talented guy it appears) driving the RB6 (a bloody awesome car) destroying the field.

      People wont just watch another race because the cars are called McLaren Ferrari. I think people have realised that with Lotus. It’s called Lotus yet people aren’t exactly believing it’s Lotus. It’s a new Lotus just as McLaren and Ferrari there wouldn’t be McLaren and Ferrari as we know them, but side projects.

      Finally, do you honestly think such teams as Sauber, Williams, Force India, Renault, Lotus, Viring, HRT, Torro Rosso would all have the spare cash to run a car in a new race? There is a reason why testing is gone. And since the people watching at the track get it for free you don’t get anything there, and not many people would watch a few teams sideprojects with a few teams’ cars and hence not much money would be raised from TV.

      1. Aussie Rod says:

        @jls: yep, NASCAR runs the Sprint Cup series and the Nationwide series which is a system that IMO works very well. One is a feeder series and one the pinnacle, but there is a lot of crossover and strong support for both.

        @unoc: good points, thx for the reply.

        I realise my suggestion would increase costs for the teams, but by using one year old cars that have already been designed and built it would be great bang for the buck.

        Yes I have seen and follow GP2 but coverage is very limited in Australia :) A few problems with GP2 though:
        1) too much of a gap in performance to F1 hence it does not prepare drivers properly for F1. Hulkenberg was GP2 champion in ’09 but struggled in F1 for the first half of ’10 and eventually lost his drive…

        2) It only runs alongisde the F1 series for 10 races and mostly in Europe. The other 10 grand prix miss out on the action and the GP2 drivers miss out on learning the tracks.

        3) GP2 teams have no association with F1 teams hence there is a ‘gulf’ where drivers like Hulkenberg, Senna, Ricciardo, Bianchi etc can get lost between the two series.

      2. unoc says:

        Thanks.

        No need to explain to me about watching racing in Australia, I live in Melbourne.

        The problem with the gap has only arisen after testing was cut and now drivers who are good enough to win don’t have the experience required to drive like they can win. When the 2013 engines comes in the gap may be quite a bit smaller. I don’t think bernie E would allow such a race as it is then against F1, the pinacle of motorsport would be GP2 with slightly new cars and slightly better drivers.

        Europe is a small place, I’ve been there are you can drive between countries quite easily. I know for a fact that driving from Melbourne to Sydney is quite a way, and driving from Melbourne to Darwin or to Perth is something akin to the Dakar rally. :) It is cheap and easy and very cost effective to have the drivers do there thing in Europe. Moving everything out to Australia and then to Malaysia and then to Europe and then to Asia then South America and then Asia followed by the Middl East is a long way and a lot of expense to move all the extra bits and piece required for it.

        And finally, while many teams don’t have a link to a GP2 team, and I think that is mostly a good thing (it means that the drivers are trying to prove themselves rather than have good stats and rely on simulator work).
        GP2 2011 teams.

        DAMS – link with Renault in the past
        Lotus ART – link with Group Lotus and hence Renault now
        Arden – created by Horner, uses/d Red Bull Livery
        Ferrari will never be assosiated with anything below them
        McLaren like Redbull has it’s own driver program
        Carlin used to have links with Williams I believe

        Ricciardo is yet to try GP2. Bianchi has only had 1 season in GP2. Senna is in F1 but wasd with a horrible team who gave him worse cars than his teammate and pretty much had a hidden war with him all year despite being contracted before the team became HRT. Hulkenberg is good enough for F1.

        GP2 is a base training ground and in an age of ctting down expenses and what not I don’t believe that creating more is good at all. Seeing young guns in Friday practice session would be good. Maybe a short race (45 mins say) running opposite of F1 WCC order for test drivers each sunday morning. Would be good to see, wouldn’t be a real comp and the cars and such are there, but it is still quite expensive to run a car it’s something over a thousand dollars per mile or something rediculos like that.

  14. In my opinion they need to bring budgets down to acceptable levels; it’s not the fault of drivers who bring wealthy sponsors with them that naturally talented fast guys have to be begging for a drive. The teams themselves are to blame. It doesn’t impress me when banks, mobile phone oPIRATEors or oil companies splash hundreds of millions of dollars on F1 – it’s secondary. You can still produce a good show and maintain impressive technical levels with less money.

    It’s up to FOTA really: they gotta do something and make it happen. Less VIPs please and more real life people.

    1. unoc says:

      Agree.

      If they did something like WRC were the car can actually be sued for several season, that could be a very good thing.

      Currently each car is an evolution while some are completely redesigned. If the 2011 car was to be used until 2018, with only minor changes each year then while it may be spread out in 2011 and maybe 2012, by 2013 the extra money RBR has over Sauber would only mean a tenth or so rather than half a second or so.

      2009 was a complete design of the entire car
      2010 increase of weight (and hence weight has to be redistributed again and made into the chassis) and new front tyres
      2011 has new tyres, new changing wings, weight distribution changing again
      2012 will no doubt herald several major changes
      2013 has a new engine

      And that is only 4 year!!! No woner teams have trouble. Have a car and then slight modifications. Each year the teams develop it, the less it will improve, at the start great strides like currrently, 2nd year smaller, 3rd smaller still, 4th the difference between ferrari and Torro Rosso will only be tenths and it will the drivers who win not just the fastest car at this track is ____ na dhence it is expected to be ____’s lead driver.

      1. Yeah, something along the lines wouldn’t be a bad idea. There has been too many changes in general – it’s hard to keep up. For engineers it must be fun, etc., but then again they’ll get the boot if their ideas don’t work.

        It’s a bit tricky but it’s doable. Ferrari won’t agree anyway, while McLaren can’t live without “pushing the performance envelope” and are gonna want a bigger “window of opportunity”.

      2. unoc says:

        Pushing the performance boundry is the point of my idea.

        Each year a large amount of money is spent on a base car, then whats left is spent pimping it up. If the car was base and then just added to all of each years money after the car had been run would just be pushing the envelope and boundies.

        If a team like Ferrari wants to re do somethign they have the money to, if they want to come up with a crazy invention, they can. But the base idea is that if it started in 2013 and ran till 2018. 2013 would be normal. 2014 the cars would be sightly more squished together, drivers making a greater difference, top teams using there money to gain that little bit more while lower teams are able to catch up slightly more. Rinse and repeat every few years and it would be rather exciting. But then end of a cycle, a great driver (alonso in 09, raikkonen in 09, hamilton 09) in a lower car would be better than an ok driver (not named) in a ferrari.

  15. S.J.M says:

    Any news with Force India James? Been quiet for a short while and we still havent gotten a confirmed driver line up, and the Testing starts soon enough.

    Feeling for Hulkenberg though, but shows both how many good drivers there are for so little seats, and how many teams are reliant on pay drivers. F1 should be all about the best drivers in the top formula of racing, and when i think about how it is, it worries me.

  16. Seán Craddock says:

    It annoys me so much to see a driver like Hulkenberg losing a seat in F1!

    I mean, what is the point of a feeder series like GP2 Series if the World Champion one year is left without a race seat exactly one year later!

    But Petrov, who was runner up the same year (He got 75% of Nico’s points, and Nico won in his Rookie season!), maintains his seat!

    I have nothing against Petrov, he’s got talent, and I know I shouldn’t be going by the figures, but it doesn’t make sense, there’s a lot of talent coming through the feeder series, but it means nothing unless you have money.

    1. Mosq says:

      but this is car racing, not swimming, isn’t it? frankly, I’m really surprised that there’s so many dreamers on this forum!
      Car racing is expensive and it’s obvious that any racer these days is not JUST a pure racer, it’s a combination of talent, look, ability to attract sponsors…

  17. Jose Perth says:

    Hi James and a great 2011 to you.
    I have a question that is not related to this post but looking around the website I couldn’t find a contact button or your email details.
    So to the question:
    In your opinion which circuit(s) provide a better opportunity for fans to come in contact (or within a short distance) with drivers and crews?
    Always following your great work and it is fantastic that these days there seems to be very little slowness of business during the off season.

    1. James Allen says:

      Monaco offers plenty of chances to get close. That’s probably the best one. Also places like Malaysia and Suzuka where the drivers all stay in the hotel next to the track

      1. Matt B says:

        Depending on where you live, if you can’t get to a GP, go to the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Sussex. Loads of drivers and crew milling around and current and classic F1 car demos. I photograph it every year for work and it is one of the best motorsport events around.

      2. Jose Perth says:

        James,

        Thanks for your reply re: circuits. In 84 and 85 I was living in Cascais (Portugal) and was a member of the gym/pool at the Estoril-Sol Hotel (next to Estoril circuit). Part of the circuit ran alongside the swimming pool and the noise was phenomenal. Ayrton, Alboreto, Prost, Piquet and most drivers stayed at the hotel and back then it was not so tight, they were very approachable. When Ayrton died my youngest daughter was very shocked which surprised me (she was 18 in 94 and not an F1 fan) but then I remembered that, of course, she had met him personally and saw him several times over the GP week in 84 and 85.

        Matt: I live in Perth, Oz

        Rishi: God save the fans sounds good, not that Ernie will pay any attention

    2. Rishi says:

      I remember reading a season preview in a French magazine a few years ago where they came up with recommendations on this subject for every circuit. I don’t remember whether they singled out any circuits as being particularly accesible or inaccesible to drivers and crew but I do remember them recommending you attract attention at Silverstone by shouting “God save the fans!” at appropriate moments.

  18. Lucas says:

    In my point of view,Hulkenberg should take a third driver role at Force India,i´d rather be a tester than be out of the scene

  19. Adrian Newey Jr says:

    I don’t understand all the rage against the concept of pay drivers. This has been around in F1 for decades. Even one of the greatest (Senna) was at one time a paying driver. Its not like F1 is the only form of motorsport where this occurs either.

    1. Rishi says:

      Agreed (I’m not sure Senna was ever a pay driver though, but I could be wrong). I don’t really get this idea of F1 “having gone back 20 years”. You had pay-drivers when Jarno Trulli (who was quoted as saying that) started out (Pedro Diniz, Ricardo Rosset, maybe Tarso Marquez and Shinji Nakano too), also in the days of Jordan and Minardi and even with Midland/Spyker/Force India. Before Fiat came on board Ferrari used to hire them too in the 1950s and 60s.

      And not all of them are that bad. There has been the odd disaster, but although few have been world-beaters the rest haven’t disgraced themselves. The one I remember is Zsolt Baumgartner and Gianmaria Bruni at Minardi in 2004; Baumgartner brought a lot of the money and Bruni was seen to be the potential talent who’d thrash him but in the end – though seldom faster – Zsolt got closer to him than many people expected and ended up getting their only point (albeit in a highly-attritional race).

  20. Dave Aston says:

    I’m a little surprised they turned down that seat. I didn’t think his work was that outstanding in 2010, Brazil qualifying aside. Kobayashi’s inexperience didn’t stop him out- performing his teammates, so if the Hulk was a real star I would have expected him to be closer to Rubens. I think it would have been close between he and Glock all year.

  21. Williams4Ever says:

    It sounds like the usual bravado from Willi Weber.

    While I have been Hulkenberg’s fan seeing his meteoric rise thru junior formulae, Willi has to make peace with the fact that in current economic scenario barring the Ferrari/McLaren/Mercedes/Red Bull no teams have secured long term budget in place and cannot simply afford to pay both their drivers and thus expect one of their drivers to bring in funding.

    If indeed Willi has the clout that he claims to have its surprising he is not able to influence likes of Mercedes (or any other front runner) to invest in Nico and pay for his drive with a mid-field team. Point to note that while the top tier teams have spoken well about Nico nobody his ready to foot bill for his ride, Like Ferrari had done for Massa@Sauber few years ago.

    Another point to note is Mid-tier team boss like Peter Sauber who has “eye for talent” chose to renew Kobayashi’s contract instead of hiring Nico.

    If only Virgin drive was on card and the team was ready to pay Nico, why didn’t Nico opt for race seat and more race experience and challenge of beating Timo Glock (whom I consider a good driver as well).

    Its time Weber gets realistic about what looks like his own expectation (rather than Nico’s)

    6-7 Friday drives in a season better than 20 race driving, surely Weber must be joking.

    And the statement of Nico having nothing to learn at small teams after driving for Williams is the most arrogant statement I have heard.

    Even Timo Glock who had decent Jordan debut, performed well in non-F1 series came back to Toyota and produced good results for Toyota, didn’t show any arrogance to downgrade to Virgin and keep a race seat in F1.

  22. Kate says:

    Personally I think he should have swallowed his pride and taken the Virgin seat than end up with the Force India 3rd driver gig. If he was on the grid then he would still have a foot in the door and with a reasonably proven team mate like Glock he would have a benchmark against which he could attempt to impress. He would have had much more opportunity to do so than he will in a few FP1s.

    I think Heidfeld can be used as a case study to illustrate this. In 2004 he went to the struggling Jordan team without pay just to stay in F1, and impressed with the a couple of points finished. But once he wasn’t on the grid at Bahrain 2010, it seemed to do irreversible damage to his F1 career. I’d be very surprised if he ever got a full-time seat again, which is a great shame.

  23. Kishan says:

    Hi James,

    Another side question but slightly ponderous one.

    If bernie truely believes that f1 is the pinacle of motorsport, then why when the calendar has expanded to even further reaches of the world to widen the f1 fanbase, do teams struggle to attract sponsors in their own right with out the need for funded drivers?

    Do you think he could do more to drum up more sponsorship for f1 teams? I am aware that this could be a tricky area if he is seen to be favouring one team or another.

    (before people say it I know the russian interest in Renault and ferrari was proof of this however it is few and far between as every one outside of the top 4 seem to struggle).

    I am happy for you to moderate this and even maybe take this up as an article if you feel it may be interesting.

    Final point there are 20 premierlegue teams in england and they all attract sufficient funding. May be bernie is missing a trick somewhere, highly unlikely (the man is worth over 1bn)!

    1. henry says:

      Well one way bernie could help the teams not having to rely on pay drivers is by taking less of the TV money away from them! He keeps (or the company, same thing) something like 70% of the revenue, which is by far the largest revenue in the sport. If he gave another ten percent to the teams, for the good of the sport, you never know he might just make the money back by having increased audiences, because the racing improves thanks to the wealthier teams!

      I know the agreement is set to be reviewed fairly soon, it will be interesting to see how much the teams can bargain him down to.

      1. Williams4Ever says:

        He keeps (or the company, same thing) something like 70% of the revenue,
        >> Per the last 2009 concorde agreement its 50-50
        50% for Bernie(CVC/FOM) and 50% for teams.
        As much as I remember Ferrari had a bigger share amongst the teams at least till 2006. I don’t know if that status was changed in 2009, especially since Ferrari has aligned itself more with the team owner association (FOTA), while it always used to distance itself from GPMA (the previous avataar of FOTA).

      2. It is a 50-50 split, and looking to be better for the teams in the next agreement. Also consider that Bernie handles everything apart from the racing. All marketing, televising, ad selling, etc… He even pays to freight bill for fly away races. Running F1 isn’t cheap. I don’t think that 50% of the TV money is going into Bernie’s pocket, maybe 49% :)

    2. Williams4Ever says:

      @Kishan –
      Hey nice point there. But we need to take into account that games like football(soccer), basketball are not resource intensive and more people are able to identify themselves, can play these games on recreational basis, can dream of their kids picking up the sports and gaining fame etc.

      Motorsports has limited following as compared to ones I mentioned above. So wooing sponsors either by Bernie or by teams has inherent limitations.

      Unless of course Bernie and teams are ready to have races on Prime-Time television 2-3 times a week without making it boring to audience and managing logistics Sponsors don’t have sufficient ROI on their investment.

      Turn on the Tele and you will find some team playing other some ball game form or other. That is not the case with motorsports.

      Marketing wise Nascar has better understanding of the importance TV Money and have a bigger calendar (almost twice the number of races) and logistically they have kept themselves limited to America so have better control on logistical variables.

      Even Nascar is losing its edge due to length of the races making it less appealing to the audience. Its just the last 10 laps that matter and all that build-up and rigmarole or 200+ laps gets tremendously boring, even teams have no clue of how to keep things interesting for modern audience with attention span of 5 seconds.

      Maybe Bernie should start ROC style F1 series, limited only to one continent, all events on prime time 2 races/week, all front running teams running multiple cars, and fight for Driver’s title (unlike Constructors in F1) maybe a workable model.
      Nascar version of F1 with more races on Prime time.
      And then maybe the series will attract sufficient funding.

  24. Andrew says:

    Isn’t the real problem here that fact that F1 is so self-absorbed that it can’t provide an opportunity to hit two birds with one stone? Example – How about having an all-day testing session on the thursday of a GP weekend where one car had to be driven by a test driver or rookie and the other by either race driver. This would allow the teams vital extra testing at an event they are already at, there’s no extra travel cost and rookie\test drivers get valuable mileage and exposure. In this example, maybe teams could run alternate sponsors who normally can’t afford to fund a team for full race weekends.
    There are so many incredibly obvious solutions here yet nothing seems to get done about it.
    Maybe a group of serious, sensible and intelligent race fans should be brought together to brain storm some ideas since the F1 community seems incapable of it.
    Any other suggestions out there?

    1. henry says:

      I think it makes sense. but it does lead to less time netween races to develop the car etc etc. With more races on the calendar, time between the races if less and less, so every day back at the factory counts. But I am sure the teams would welcome it – more testing, more sponsor coverage, more drivers; it seems everyone benefits.

  25. Guy says:

    It didn’t do Nick Heidfeld any harm when he took the Jordan drive in ’04 (for no money, if I remember correctly). So I would agree that Nico would surely be better off at Virgin where he gets the chance to out-perform a respected driver like Glock.
    Having said that, Weber must know what he’s talking about. Afterall, this is the guy that persuaded Williams to cough up shedloads of dough on Ralf Schumacher for 6 years!

  26. Mosq says:

    Senna went to Toleman in his days which was not far away from today’s Virgin Marusya. Yes, he didn’t have season in Williams before but still.
    I think to beat Glock in Virgin could be a decent target for Hulk and the way he decided to spend next year is just a weakness in my eyes

  27. Christopher Snowdon says:

    James, as always good article, but the 50 million pound question, what would you advise Nico to do?

    As a Force India fan (and lets face it not many people are, although it stems from my Damon Hill days and Jordan, and vowing to support his last team when he left, and yes, the Spyker years were painful to watch), I can’t help feeling Nico would be a very strong partnership with Adrian, but Paul di Resta I feel has earned his spurs (so very catch 22). I do love the fact we have Mercedes power though, and supporting Nico would go a long way to supporting that relationship. I must admit, I love Adrian, and want him in the team, but for all his years of service and improvement, I think he deserved the chance to move to Renault (or whatever there masquerading as now), and would have no way felt bitter towards him because he’s been very loyal and dedicated to the team, and given us some great moments and solid drives. Why don’t drivers like this get the rewards they deserve?

    Petrov for me has ruined the driver market, and Williams should have known better, time for Jean Todt to see a proper progression ladder back in F1, which all the greats had to go through.

  28. MIKE LEA says:

    I think Force India are missing a trick by not running Hulkenberg. He had a bit of a slow start last season at Williams, but he was doing a pretty good job against Barrichello in the second half of the year. He now has a year of F1 experience etc and would be well-placed to perform at a high level right from the off. Di Resta might be a good driver, but it will take him time to get up to proper Formula 1 speed…I also think the team would do well to drop Sutil. He’s too inconsistent and always seems to be discussing ways out of the team in interviews, hardly showing much loyalty. Somebody like Glock would have been a better bet.

    1. Christopher Snowdon says:

      Mike disagree with that, Sutil is very fast, and has been with the team a long time, joined the team when we were Midland, raced through the awful Spyker days to regularly challenging the top 10 in qualifying with Force India. I am a Force India fan, and he has improved beyond belief, and done it the right way, by learning from his mistakes (yes I believe drivers have to make them to get better, though can’t deny it can be a frustrating process). He hasn’t moaned this season when it was clear we were not improving as much as Williams and Sauber, but still threatened the top 10 in qualifying where his equipment allowed him to do it. He learned from Fissi when he was in the team, and I think has earned his right to a more competitive drive. There are still some occasions when he looses his head a little, Korea for example, but he was just frustrated he wasn’t maximising his chance to get a little higher up due to conditions, and somehow Liuzzi did (Adrian knows he’s the better driver). He may discuss the possibility of other drives, but why shouldn’t he, he’ll probably never challenge for race wins with us. It’s not a crime to want a bit more you know! I for one would hate to see him go, but he would go with Force India’s blessing, both as a team, and from us Force Fans.

      James might be able to shed more light on this, but I think BMW might have picked him up as one of their German drivers if they were still around, as I think he had ties to them, unfortunately he doesn’t to Mercedes (other than the engine that powers his Force India). I think you would agree, he would have been an upgrade at Renault (aka Lotus Renault) over Petrov, and I would have liked to have seen how he compared with Kubica. Given a little bit of time over there to settle, he would have kept Kubica more than honest. Think we would all agree though, that Kubica does seem to perform better when his team mate isn’t distracting him.

  29. Ben N says:

    I don’t know about everyone else but I wasn’t incredibly impressed with Hulkenberg. Barring Brazil – a very good lap – he was far off Barrichello nearly every race. I think Williams made the right choice.

    1. Kate says:

      No, I fully understand why they kept Barrichello too. He was more consistent and brings a great deal of technical expertise and experience to the team.

    2. Alan Dove says:

      Team bosses, the experts, ranked Hulkenberg as the 8th best driver of the year.

      You have to take into consideration a lot more than just pure results.

  30. Andy C says:

    I think the force India reserve deal is best. Paul Di resta is very highly rated at mercedes and if Hulkenberg shows well in testing I think he would be well placed for 2012.

    I dont think Sutil will last the season next year. Just an inkling. And luizzi will definitely not drive or I’d eat my hat (he says preparing to eat his hat).

    1. James Allen says:

      Liuzzi looking at HRT second seat, I understand

      1. Ben N says:

        Hi James,

        Interesting, and I would much prefer to see him there than another Yamamoto – but I thought that Kolles had categorically stated another pay driver would be alongside Karthikeyan. Does this mean Liuzzi has cash behind him?

      2. Williams4Ever says:

        Does this mean Liuzzi has cash behind him?
        >> Due to his contractual clauses with FIF1. Vijay Mallya will have to cough up some money and buy him a “race seat” else where. That is my understanding based on his contract situation.

        And it will be ironic that if indeed that happens Spanish HRT team will have more Indian Funding than FIF1 team, that claims to represent India on F1 grid :D

      3. Andy C says:

        He will have a years worth of cash and a settlement from Force India I’d imagine.

      4. Jodum5 says:

        Wow, how’d they convince him to leave? I hope the payoff was worth the career suicide.

      5. Zobra Wambleska says:

        How do you commit suicide when you’re already dead?

      6. Andy C says:

        Ah yes James, but I was only going to eat my hat if he’s driving for Force India! :-)

        Good luck to him. Its interesting that Alonso rates him very highly.

  31. Ross says:

    I am a little disapointed he didnt take the Virgin second seat. A year off in F1 is along time and I cant think of anyone who has came back better after a period of racing. A reserve driver role at Force India is great if they plan to put you in the seat the next year but Hulkenburg can do better than that.

    If he had gone to Virgin he could have continued his development. The pressure would have been off and all would he would be measured against is beating a well regarded driver in Timo Glock. That in it’s self would have enhanced his reputation more than a few quick laps on a Friday.

    If he as it is looking likely ends up as the Friday driver for Force India will the UK media mention him waiting in the wings ready to take over every time Paul Di Resta has a bad day or makes a mistake like they did to Liuzzi this season? I think not.

  32. Vic says:

    Who here thinks Force India should take a gamble and take on Di Riesta and Hulkenberg

    Would be brave and exciting

    Vic

  33. Baktru says:

    I for one am actually glad that Hulkenberg didn’t take the seat at Virgin, as I actually want to see d’Ambrosio racing this year.

    I do think that for Hulk, racing for Virgin would have been better than a reserve driver spot at Force India though.

  34. shortshighted says:

    Hulkenberg may have talent but it also seems he needs more time on the track to unlease it. It took Massa quite a long time to get up to speed in his best year. Matching him against Timo Glock who is experienced in F1 and who has shown to have pace may just end Hulkenberg’s career in F1. I think that is Webber’s thinking.

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