Williams has announced the expected 2010 line up of Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg. It is a team they have had in mind for some time.
Hulkenberg represents raw youthful pace, but crucially he has shown this season that he is also capable of shaping that into an all-round racing ability. He looks like a driver who will improve himself into the real thing and he is well managed by Willi Weber, Michael Schumacher’s manager.
Hulkenberg has been on Williams’ books for two seasons and this year delivered his target of winning the GP2 championship, while Barrichello brings a blend of hunger, huge experience and a technical ability which is second to none in F1. Next season he will go through the 300 Grands Prix barrier.
The deal with Barrichello was done a couple of months ago and neither side seems to have had any doubts about it. The team always had it in mind to run Hulkenberg, provided he hit his targets.
The pair will drive Williams Cosworths next season. The technical team at Williams, which Patrick Head believes is approaching the level to produce the kind of work Williams came up with in its glory days, believes that the Cosworth will be a competitive engine, albeit possibly quite high on fuel consumption, which is a penalty with no refueling next year.
But as a new engine, the technical team at Cosworth are allowed to continue developing the engine until March 1 next year, which gives them a lot of time to improve the product. Existing F1 engines are frozen.
Although reliability is unproven and there is no track testing allowed, the team at Cosworth has been supplemented recently by many engineers returning from other engine programmes, such as Mercedes’ in Brixworth. Head believes that this makes Cosworth the right option, but I still believe that there is some kind of wider business reason for this which may become clear down the line.
“Rubens needs no introduction,”said Sir Frank Williams. “He is not only the most experienced driver in Formula 1, but a passionate and talented driver who fought hard for the drivers’ championship this year.
“Nico Hulkenberg won the GP2 Championship this season as a rookie and has previously won the F3 Euro Series, Formula Masters, A1 GP and Formula BMW Germany.”
After a long association with Nico Rosberg, the team felt that both sides needed a change of air. Rosberg frustrated the team at the start of the year, failing to capitalize on a fast car, then went on a spree of strong results, but dropped the ball badly in Singapore when a podium was there for the taking.
Rosberg is expected to end up working with Mercedes, probably at the Brawn team next season. Kazuki Nakajima had a reasonable season in 2008, but this year has failed to impress in what was a faster car. Team insiders say that despite huge efforts on his side, at the end of the day, he is a couple of tenths of a second per lap off being an F1 driver.