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The Williams F1 team, Hulkenberg and Maldonado
The Williams F1 team, Hulkenberg and Maldonado
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Oct 2010   |  6:43 am GMT  |  126 comments

For the past few weeks the word inside the F1 paddock has been that a deal for Pastor Maldonado to race for Williams F1 next year is done. There is an assumption that this would be at the expense of Nico Hulkenberg, who is in his first season in F1.

Williams currently refuse to confirm or deny this, however they did announce this week that Maldonado will take part in the Young Driver test for Williams at Abu Dhabi next month. At 25 he is not exactly a young driver by today’s standards, but he qualifies in terms of his level of F1 experience.

Although he is understood to have access to a strong sponsor portfolio, possibly as much as €10 million a season, the team will be able to argue that it is not trading down to pay drivers, as the Venezualan Maldonado won this year’s GP2 series, as did Hulkenberg last year. However this year’s GP2 was particularly disappointing talent wise compared to previous years. The other driver to come through from GP2 this year is 20 year old Sergio Perez, who was runner up to Maldonado in the championship.

Maldonado has backing from his country, Venezuela, with state owned oil company PDVSA a long term backer. This year he also ran Venezuela branding on his car as well. Venezuela is the world’s fifth largest oil exporting nation and the country’s colourful president Hugo Chavez is backing Maldonado.

Adam Parr, who took over as team principal and chairman of Williams in July from Sir Frank Williams, was understood to be in Venezuela recently finalising the deal. Williams will presumably give Maldonado the Young Driver test and then if he is to race next season, they will need him to take part in the Pirelli test which follows in Abu Dhabi. Whether they make an announcement about the driver line up before or after that test remains to be seen. Maldonado is due to compete in the final round of the GP2 championship during the Grand Prix weekend.

Hulkenberg has something 'exceptional', says Williams (Darren Heath)

This weekend on the BBC website there is an interview with Sir Frank Williams in which he pays tribute to the progress made by Hulkenberg this season. He describes his early season as “a little disappointing, maybe, perhaps because he was being over-cautious.”

In the first nine races Hulkenberg scored just one point to Barrichello’s 19. He has scored 17 points in the eight races since then, as the improving Williams car has become a regular in the top ten in qualifying.

But looked at more closely, in the second half of the season he has been quick and has often outpaced Barrichello in races, even if he hasn’t always been able to outqualify him. Barrichello has often shaded it by a tenth or less. We’ve seen Hulkenberg develop quite impressively as a driver, but has he done enough to resist the appeal to the team of replacing him with Maldonado?

Williams had some kind words for Hulkenberg’s development, “But lately he has become very competitive and we have just seen the beginning of something exceptional.

“He’s one of those drivers a bit like Lewis, who won all the way up to Formula 3 and GP2, he has won every single championship and in the right team, hopefully us one day, he will win the world championship as well in Formula 1.”

Asked by the BBC interviewer “Do you look forward to seeing him next year?” Williams replies, “Absolutely, we do hope so, yes.”

The kind words may be aimed at Barrichello’s ears as part of a negotiating ploy. There are some factions within the team who feel he could be doing more, although he has had a pretty good season and Williams has been strong on development.

Williams is in a strong position, having a top ten car to offer and the option of Hulkenberg. The reality is that although Barrichello is the more highly paid driver, believed to be earning in the region of €5 million a year, he has scored 47 points to Hulkenberg’s 18. Williams will have an idea of what Hulkenberg could achieve next season and could safely go with Hulkenberg and Maldonado, a line up that would be similar in experience to Sauber’s next season. The pair were tea mates together in GP2 in 2009, when Hulkenberg had the upper hand. But Barrichello brings a great deal to the team not just in results but in technical development and having a winning driver in the team maintains prestige. So it looks like it may be Hulkenberg who makes way.

He will no doubt be in demand and his manager, Willi Weber, should be able to find him a decent seat.

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Williams do not need and should not need to change drivers for 2011. They just need a better marketing team to get them the sponsorship that they require.

If it’s just money I’m sure that Kim il Sun would sponsor his son for mega bucks. Come on Frank stop behaving like a tart and get selling the team and yourself like the old days.


Rubens will stay he could put together a bigger sponsor package from Brazilian backer in Biofuel or other sponsors if needed to stay in Formula one than Maldonado or Hulkenberg. He will become a pay to play driver but he will do it because he love being in formula one and racing and he gets great results.He loves being on the Williams team I think he wants to finish is career at Williams a Prestige name in formula one.


How come nobody trashes Petronas or Malaysia’s sponsorship in F1?

Malaysia is run by an unelected Muslim monarchy, for Christ sake !

Big tobacco sponsored F1 until recently. Polluters like Shell are a common sight in F1. How about them?

It is just stupid to bring politics into F1, plain and simple.

You might not like Chavez, but his people elected him twice and Venezuela is a democracy and regularly holds elections monitored by international observers.

In any case, I don’t think politics will play a role in Pastor Maldonado’s involvement in F1. He has won his place by delivering results.

I think Rubens has to go to another team. If Hulk had 1/4 the experience Rubens has, he would have scored several podiums this year.

Williams has nothing to lose by having a young duo in their lineup for 2011.

Rubens is the past, Hulkenberg is the future, and Maldonado could very well be a Latin Kobayashi.


Dear Mr Allen,

I am sorry for my comments about you as a professional. I really get crossed when I see Barrichello being bad treated. In Brazil the press has never been soft on him.

I still disagree with the intensity of how often or seldon Hulkenberg has outpaced Barrichello. Not only Barrichello has qualified in front of Hulk but has scored many more points. There has been some situations that Hulkenberg (the next Schumacker)was strong than Barrichello (Japan for instance) but….not so many that you can describe as OFTEN.

I believe that if both drivers are confirmed for next year, Hulkenberg will be much stronger what will be difficult for the ageing Brazilian but this year it has been “a walk in the park.”


No matter how good Maldonado might be, I don’t think it is very ethical to take money from a communist dictator. Colorful President my ass.


Better if Maldonado performs more like Kobayashi not Petrov. A gamble we will have to wait and see. Fact is the last GP2 championship was not impressive at all. Pay drivers are a huge risk as proven this year.


it’s a bit of a tricky one. experience has shown that it’s unwise to have two inexperienced drivers in your team. the only reason williams are propping up the top 10 is because of rubens experience. having said that, the hulk is clearly improving as a driver although does still have maturing to do.

ideally you’d stick with these drivers or others of equal talent, perhaps heidfeld, who will continue to drive and push the team and bring home the points.

but faced with losing RBS, Air Asia, and Philips (i think?) there’s going to be a significant hole in the budget, and one that the reported $10m makes maldonado look like a contender.


I think more than Hulk.. its Rubens that should be shown the door… he’s not done anything exceptional and is at the end of his career. Hulk on the other hand can be what Vetel is RB. RB took a distinct stand that RB will be built around Vetel. I think Sam Michael of Williams should take a stand of this nature and develop a true talent with future in mind and invest in him, rather investing in Rubens who is in the twilight of his career.

F1, as in life, one must have definitives in short, mid and long term perspectives. And I think Hulk offers all three perspectives to Williams while Rubens offers just one (short) perspective.


It’s absurd that after the season he’s had, Rubens is arriving in Brazil once again with his future uncertain. The man is a legend, he signing should be by right.

OK, so if Maldonaldo is bringing cash, Hulkenberg has none and Rubens is getting paid a fair amount, here’s a happy medium – Rubens take a pay cut in the interests of the team, and they use that to subsidise Hulkenberg?


If you pay close attention to quotes released by both parties, Rubens and Williams, it is just ploy for negotiations on both sides. I’m guessing Rubens wants more, Williams doesn’t want to pay it. Williams is leveraging Hulkenburg’s potential tallent and otherwise lower paycheck to a pay increase (or non-agreement to a pay decrease) that Rubens is demanding.


I’m with you on the keeping the current drivers ideally, but the commercial realities for Williams are they will lose a lot of sponsorship revenue at the end of this year.

I think the problem is the size of the backing Maldonado brings is more than Rubens and Nico get paid combined.

Their key objective will be to ensure they as a team are in as strong a fnancial position at the start of the season as possible.

No point being sat there at the start of next season with no money for development and two excellent drivers.

I guess the thing is, both Rubens and Jenson took a pay cut at Brawn to ensure the survival of the team. Whether he would want to take one again depends on how much he wants to race next season (as in if he has earned enough to not have to worry about a couple of million, he may just say it is more important to race than to earn the money).

Sure Williams will navigate these tricky waters. They usually do.

Maybe if RBS and the other banks had done a better job of managing their balance sheet we wouldnt be having this discussion at all.


Remembering from the races i’ve seen on tv Martin Brundle saying something like this at least twice (it was about Vitaly Petrov):that at the end it’s more expensive for the team to hire a pay-driver (referring to the point-gap between team-mates and therefore lost places in team- standings, which is lost money at the end of the season). If that’s true and Maldonado would be a pay-driver (for Williams), then it should be a way of losing money for Williams.

I saw an interview with Rubens (i think from Spa) where he mentioned him deserving the seat for the next season for his technical input for the next year’s car, which is fair.

Williams should keep the both current drivers and at the end it may be financially wiser too.


My hunch is it’s better to go with youth. Also, those of us with long memories remember that winning WDCs was not enough for either Nigel or Damon to keep their seat in a Williams, so Rubens being the better driver is no guarantee he will survive.

(developing my point slightly, if Nigel, or more particularly Damon, had been treated better by Patrick Head and Frank, Adrian Newey may not have walked to McLaren and maybe Williams could have stayed on top)


Just to reply to some of you on this topic.

Williams is not only F1.

F1 is part of a more complex manufacturing, desinging company and the sport branch of Wiliams has been always running an F1 team.

If you look at the whole lot, there are at thecore a manufacturer and a designing house that have been excellent to race in F1.

Recently, due to the economic downturn, sponsors that made F1 viable, have left Williams but the company model has not changed.

If we look how the F1 teams are run is very simple.

We have at least 4 teams were budget is not an issue, Ferrari, Red Bull, Mc Laren, Mercedes.

We have teams finacially struggling like HRT, this season Sauber.

The rest of the grid is made by teams that they can afford F1 only if sponsors will put money into it and if necessary they will have some paying drivers.

Willimas has always looked first at the budget and then paid drivers, developed cars and so on, not the other way round.

Jumping from a supplier to another is a financial decision and at the same time a calculated risk, maybe you can get an advantage.

But at the end of the day, Williams is still in F1 because the managment has always been very keen to count the pennies, what will it happen if next season Red Bull brand will leave F1 ????

Will Toro Rosso and Reb Bull racing still be able to compete ?

So please just analyse the complete package before coming out with some, at times, ridiculous comments.

People like Frank Williams, Patrick Head, Ken Tyrrel, Colin Chapman, even Bernie Ecclestone, have built competitive cars as noone has done before, integrating chassis and engine.

They won races and some of them or their brand is still in F1 after more than 30 years.

Congratulations to all of them from a Ferrari fan.


Dear Mr. Allen,

Here you come again…. .”Hulkemberg has often outpaced Barrichello”

What about changing the word often by seldon.

Your dislike for Barrichello is ridiculous. No one can take you as a serious jornalist.

Shame on you.

Michael Grievson

I’ve never read such rubbish.


“No one can take you as a serious jornalist.”

I do.


Read it more carefully, I specified in races. If you analyse the race laps he has. It’s a fact. However I also said that Barrichello has been faster in qualifying, that is also a fact. I deal in facts. As for not liking Rubens, why don’t you ask him, I don’t think he will agree.


Nico deserves to stay, but let’s not right off Maldonado’s talents before he has even raced an F1 car. The track record of the GP2 champions once they arrive in F1 has generally been quite good. The GP2 standings can also be misleading – Frankly, Kobayashi (and to a lesser degree Buemi) seemed ordinary in GP2 and now look at them…


Well written, James. If it were me I don’t think I could let Hulkenberg go. You can tell he’s going to be something special.


Hi Jo,

I think that its possible that you might have a faulty keyboard on your computer, the “caps lock” button seems to be sticking on randomly while you’re typing, you may want to get it checked out… 🙂


Due to financial restrictions some of my keyboard buttons are paying for their slot. As you know paying buttons are less talented than those who gained their position by their own merit.




James, an off topic point: is there any reason for the Site to accept the use of abusive names for Maldonado, such as “maldnoaisdnoas” or “Moldonado”? IMHO comments like those should be moderated, as long as they show so little respect for the drivers.


Here here.

I’m pretty sure some of it is genuine mispelling (I think I’ve spelt his name 4 different ways since last week lol), but some of it is as you say.


Formula 1 needs to take a look at itself. There are other drivers besides well funded GP2 drivers. The lack of testing and shortage of sponsors is forcing all but the top 4 teams to take pay drivers or drivers for their nationality. This is FORMULA 1, the supposed pinnacle of motorsport! I just want to see the BEST drivers in the world, not those with the deepest pockets or connections.


“The kind words may be aimed at Barrichello’s ears as part of a negotiating ploy. There are some factions within the team who feel he could be doing more…”

Come on James you can’t drop a sentence like that and not elaborate on it! Out with the secrets!

Who are these factions and what exactly do they want Barrichello to do more of? What else do they want him to bring?

Thanks in advance


James,I second that.Explain please!!


Williams obviously want to keep both, but do you dump Ruben’s who could develop the car with his vast experience, or do you keep the Hulk – a future champion? I’d do everything possible to keep both. Pastor may bring millions but he could cost the team more than that by lacking points, like Petrov has.

If they really have to dump someone, regrettably I say Rubens, he’s had a chance to win an F1 championship and failed, if they build a car that can win the championship, judging by his impressive debut and super impressive CV Nico could do it. I wouldn’t expect it to happen anytime soon though.


Agree. With the ban on testing so there it is no longer possible to do 100 driving miles per day schumacher styled testing, the ability of a driver to develop the car is limited.

Williams can afford to take a chance on lower cost young talent rather than pay huge sums for a more experienced driver.


Williams needs to find a new sponsor. Paint the car whatever color is demanded, etc., in order to retain their 2010 driver lineup. Things are on the upswing, they shouldn’t change the drivers right now.


And I think that may be why they haven’t announced anything yet regarding their driver line-up. There’s still time to find a team sponsor to cover what Maldonado’s offering. Just because he’s running in the “young” driver tests, doesn’t mean he’s in the team yet. I think that if Williams can snag another team sponsor or two before the end of the year, they’ll keep Nico and Rubens, with Maldonado replacing Bottas as test driver, and a reduced sum from his backers going to the team.


Calling Hugo Chavez “colorful” was cute. However, I think “dictator” might be more acurate. His latest act was to SEIZE the American company Owens-Illonois just this past week.


The best young drivers dont come from GP2 anymore but from World Series. Guerrieri and Ricciardo deserve an opportunity in F1.


Maldonado was in the Renault World Series before GP2.


We have seen a rookie beating a world class driver in Alonso. And rookies like Nico isn’t making the same impact, obviously. James, how much of that testing ban has been hurting rookies?


They only copied Alonso’s set-ups to benefit Hamilton. Wait up, Alonso is still in his first year with the Ferrari and look where he has brought them. He has the ability to push a team, next year it’ll be Michael, Alonso (both in the second year with their respective teams) their true element of supreme dominance will be revealed next year.

Having said that, Hamilton and Vetel are brilliant drivers, but can they develop cars and team as Michael and Alonso? No, they still have some distance to go on this front. Common, not every guy is Kimi Raikkonen.


Lewis Hamilton is a special specimen. No driver has had as much backing as he had. He was part of the McLaren Mercedes family very young and they kept backing him all the way till FORMULA 1 so he was pretty much their son.

How much did he have access to the FORMULA 1 team before being part of it. How much did he work on the simulator, I don’t know ? All I know is that no driver has ever been as much prepared for F1 before him.

All that would have had no effect if Lewis hasn’t had the talent. So he lived to the team’s expectations and investments.

But the Hulk didn’t have such backing and thus we don’t have to read too much in his shy start to the season. He’s not showing top driver level yet but who knows ? Maybe he only needs more time ?


One could be disingenuous by saying that Lewis Hamilton was “lucky” to land a drive with McLaren in F1 from day one but he had to prove his worth by winning many races to get there.

As a rookie driver in F1, he also gave Alonso a run for his money which cama as a surprise to many F1 followers. How many F1 drivers have we seen come and go after been given a drive in one of the best cars but then fail to deliver. One could not say that about Hamilton. Does n’t that prove that Hamilton has true talent as a driver?


Exactly right Jo. I think Hulkenburg has real potential, and it would be sad if he lost his seat (but great for whoever picked him up).

People were saying when he came into F1 that he is the real deal, and I havent seen anything other than a slow start to counter that. Just like a lot of talented young drivers, he needs someone to trust in him, and give him a couple of seasons to prove how good he is.

Its a poor situation, get rid of a young potential future wdc, or a good development driver who has 1 or 2 seasons remaining.

Personally (and I like Rubens a lot), I’d go for the two young drivers, and an experienced test driver (like Pedro DLR) to develop the car.


Good points.


Don’t forget that McLaren were strongly backing that rookie… I would of like to know what could have happened should they both have been treated equally.


They were both treated equally at the beginning at least weren’t they? I thought Alonso’s relative poor performance to Hamilton in the beginning of the season was due to him getting used to Bridgestone tyres after years of using Michilins


They were treated equally, that wasn’t what Alonso wanted or expected. This year at Ferrari should prove that point.


Zobra, I think that Fernando was not the first to make it clear he was not going to be a team player. I think that it was in Hungaroring, when Lewis did not obey the orders about the number of laps during Q3. And there is where everything started.

On the other hand, I do not believe that Fernando was “actively working against the team”. For me the problem was that the team never supported him half as much as they did with Lewis. Anyway, that’s my opinion, and obviously I can be wrong.

Finally, for me that was also a loss, as I had been a McLaren fan for years, since I started following F1. After it, I changed my likes and dislikes…

James, I have to ask if you could consider writing an insight about this – it will be very amusing during the winter break. And I insist that it would be record-breaking commented, even more than the articles about the team orders scandal in Hockenheim! 😀


Galapago, I think, if you look at the history of that season and the sequence of events, you’ll find that Ron Denis made that statement after Fernando had made it very clear that he was not going to be a team player and in fact was actively working against the team. It’s exactly that sequence of events and Alonso’s subsequent attitude that turned me against him. For me that was a loss, because I do think he’s a fantastic driver.


“We weren’t racing Kimi, we were racing Fernando”, Ron Dennis dixit.


It would be interesting to see who were the last rookie drivers to have test sessions available, in an F1 car before it was banned.


Good point


I’m sorry to say but James you are taking another dig at Alonso and biased towards Hamilton just like some of the English speaking fans here, in 2007 it might of been Hamilton’s rookie year but he knew more about the tyres and car than alonso and in the last 3 races alonso’s hands were basically tied behind his back and even then in the end it was a draw with them level on points with 4 wins each. In F1 everyone is human and sometimes vulnerable despite their talent, Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton are the top 3 drivers at this time in f1 and in that order but all 3 has made some pretty big mistakes this season but in the end their talent shines through and that’s the quality you don’t see in Hulkenberg.


i think so

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