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Hulkenberg gets the bullet from Williams; Barrichello goes for 19th F1 season
Hulkenberg gets the bullet from Williams; Barrichello goes for 19th F1 season
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Nov 2010   |  12:53 pm GMT  |  158 comments

Williams has announced today that the team will drop promising rookie Nico Hulkenberg for next season. At the same time it was confirmed that Rubens Barrichello will race on for the team in 2011, and unprecedented 19th season of F1 competition.

Hulkenberg’s spectacular pole position in Brazil last week, where he set nine consecutive best sector times, was not enough to save his drive, in the face of the expected arrival of GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado, who has extensive backing from the Venezuelan government.

Barrichello’s contract was signed some time ago but was not announced as the team worked hard behind the scenes to replace the sponsorship money which ends this year from its leading backers RBS, Philips and AT&T. Team principal Adam Parr has been working hard on raising money in Venezuela and Qatar. It has also been suggested that minority shareholder Toto Wolff is to increase his stake in the team.

Under the management of Willi Weber, who had Ralf Schumacher at Williams in the early 2000s, Hulkenberg has been associated with Williams for many years, going back to his F3 days.

Sir Frank Williams said, “First, I would like to thank Nico for his hard work this year, and before that in preparing himself for Formula One. We are very proud to have supported him as he secured the Formula 3 and GP2 titles and during his debut in Formula One. At Williams we have for many years tried to bring new talent into the sport, and we are convinced that Nico will go on to great things. We wish him well and hope that our paths will cross again in the future.”

HIs prospects of finding another drive are decent, as he has impressed in the second half of the season. Although he finished behind Vitaly Petrov in the championship, thanks to the Russian’s dogged drive in Abu Dhabi, Hulkenberg is on the radar.

So what are his options? Renault may well retain Petrov; I spoke to Renault F1 owner Gerard Lopez at the weekend and he confirmed that there is a huge amount of potential sponsorship in Russia, which the team hopes to bring on board for next season.

Force India is probably the next best option. They have Adrian Sutil, whose performances have flat lined a bit this year. Hulkenberg looks a better prospect, but again Sutil brings funding. Paul di Resta has the young guns test this week to show his quality and audition for Tonio Liuzzi’s seat.

After that you are looking at the new teams, which won’t be new any more next season.

As an alternative a reserve driver role at Mercedes might appeal, given that Michael Schumacher may only do two years of his three year contract, so Hulkenberg might get a competitive car in 2012 that way. This is what Mika Hakkinen did in 1993, leaving Lotus to be number three at McLaren. He got his chance sooner than he imagined, when the team dropped Michael Andretti in September that year.

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This definitely makes perfect sense to anyone..


James, I think you are being far too kind on Williams. Quite a lot of businesses need to finance their operations on an ongoing basis and when the macroeconomical conditions render that difficult, it is the “good” businesses that survive. Williams has not been in that category for quite some time and blaming the economic climate is merely a poor excuse. They simply aren’t good enough.

Perhaps its the management that they should be changing and not the drivers… Hulkenberg did not deserve this and he is also being too kind in his comments.


I would have been more surprised if Hulkenberg had come back to Williams due solely to the fact that, surely, dearths of better offers would have come his way after the Interlagos display.

Nico Rosberg will probably have had enough of the Hulk looming in the background waiting to outclass him as his teammate, what after years of it at Williams and likely soon to be at Merc, as well.


Webbers going nowhere he has the car for next year to try and win a WDC, although I’d like to see him move to Ferrari. Massa has been awful this season both McLaren and Red Bull had both drivers on the running in the later stages of the championship but Ferrari only had one.

I reckon it’s time for Ferrari to take a gamble with a young driver. I’d give Hulk a shot.


It’s a sad state of affairs when Williams has to bring in pay drivers to cover its costs. This is a team that historically has always eschewed such an approach in favour of selecting the best drivers available.

Perhaps the “new Tyrrell” tag coined a while ago isn’t all that inappropriate after all.


Maybe Williams should put Hugo Chavez in the car.


It’s a shame that in a sport as prestigious as Formula One, people don’t have to earn the right to participate if they have a fat wallet instead. Ridiculous.


Hi James.

This sad news about Hulkenberg has made me realise that I haven’t heard much talk about the ‘musical chairs’ of driver movements this season, as we’ve all been so gripped with the title challenge.

Do you think you could throw together a blog post about which drivers are changing teams, which are staying put and which (like Hulkenberg) are temporarily out of the picture?

I haven’t got a clue what is happening this season!


I read with interest the talk how much money is needed to drive karts at high level to be watched by formula 1 scouts.

As a kid i drove soap-boxes, gravity cars. My nick is from Seifenkiste which is german for soap-box. Soap box race kinda died in germany when Opel withdrew its sponsoring in the 1970ties. Now there are bobby-car gravity races and even what began as fun ends in a material battle = money.

Of cause you have to be lucky to jump into formula 1. Talent is not all.

Even your birthday can be important. My oldest daughter is born in decembre so when playing soccer with 5 years she was nearly 1 year behind in grewing because 1st of january being the fix date for a youth team. So even she had talent this nearly one year back in growth was too much in early years. She changed from a girls team to a mixed team with boys which allowed girls to be one year older and it was a jump from nearly alltime replacement to first goalkeeper.

There is a canadian study of ice hockey players and it proved that most of first league players are born early in year. It is not just talent it is this half a year in growth and riping which they have in advance to the late in year born if the scouting is done at an age below 6 years already. The half year doesn’t matter this much when they are teenagers, but as young kids it is a lot.


Tell me about it, my oldest boy is a July birthday. In UK the cut off date is September so he’s the youngest in his team


Sad but not unsurprising news…

Hulk is disadvantaged by the fact there are so many German drivers on the grid all competing for the valuable German sponsorship dollar..the charisma and PR bankability of Vettel & Schmumeister sucks up most of this cash with crumbs left for Rosberg, Sutil, Heidfeld, et al. Minus overtaking skills, Vettel is pretty much the complete driver/marketing package at the moment.

It says a lot for Williams’ current setup & resources that they have retained Rubens (probably on a heavily performance loaded contract) and dropped Hulkenberg…Looks like they need a pay driver who can bring a new title sponsor.

The Willi Weber connection will link him to shadow Schumi at Mercedes.


The Hulk will be a perfect teammate with Kubica at Renault in 2011. I can’t believe that Renault wil make the mistake, and miss an opportunity like this


I don’t think they have an opportunity. Merc will probably come at Hulk with a better one: sit a year and learn from Schumi, then step right into a top car with a full manufacturer-backed entry with lots of potential. Meanwhile, Renault the company seems to be divesting from Renault the team and associating itself more with Red Bull, and possibly Lotus as well.

“Renault” will retain Petrov because they need money, especially if the rumors about the company divesting from the team are true.


Whilst Hulkenburg is obviously a talented driver, this needs to be put into context. Motorsport has always been about money right from the first automobiles. There are thousands of talented drivers who have missed out on potential championships with suplus talent, but lack of money. For all the merits of a socialist system where talent prevails, I don’t think it will ever happen.

Instead of focusing on the drivers’ talent, I think team resources play a much bigger part in determining the championship. Put any of the top drivers in an HRT and they will struggle. Parachute Hamilton into the top car and he becomes a contender.

So what we should be doing is:

1. tightening the rules to prevent breakaway technical advantages (eg Brawn 2009) and

2. leveling team budgets.

That way talent has a much better chance of shining through, even in 2nd or 3rd tier teams. This has been repeatedly shown in touring car championships where multiple drivers can win week in week out rather than just those in the best team. Unfortunately F1 over the years has seen one or two dominant teams (Williams, Ferrari, Maclaren have all had their turns to dominate) and the rest reduced to making up the field.


Hi James and all.

Just a thought about the young Drivers and Finances mentioned.

Maybe all the F1 teams should have to donate their last years tubs/chassis to the lower formula, the body work can be made cheaper with fiberglass from the molds and other items of Aluminum/steel.

Could the FIA and FOM enforce something like that? and make some rules in the new Concorde agreement getting the teams to fit standard mounting points for engines/gearbox/suspension for the other formula to be in place, maybe that way it will move some of the money down the sport without directly taking it off the F1 teams and helping under financed drivers.

I’m not sure how many tubs the teams make, but its better racing them than collecting dust or being crushed.

I think F1 in season testing should be allowed, but only with rookie drivers being allocated from the lower formula to a team equal to their position in their formula. Give them set dates in the European part of the season when races don’t clash and when everybody is in the same area. At least then all the young drivers get a chance to shine, costs wouldn’t be too high and the teams get the testing they all want.

I don’t know how the lower formulas or karting championships work other than reading some comments from above about the costs. Maybe the FIA & FOM should do more, work more closely with karting clubs, create a standard championship with equal equipment or something so everyone has the opportunity and from there the top 5 or something get some financing to progress.

Regarding sponsorship and todays technology, is there a way of using some kind of green screen advertising on the track and on the cars? (I think this is done in football??) This would allow better targeting advertising to the particular country the broadcast is shown in. Although it would look strange at the track!

Sorry its off topic a little. I read everyones replies and there must be an answer to this pay driver scenario.

I have to agree with what Williams has done. They could of gone for 2 paying drivers and had at least one or both that is already in F1. Good choice with Rubens, he’s done a great job and worth every penny.


It’s been mentioned before, but with the very limited testing now, I think the teams should be allowed a number of development days where only drivers from lower formulas can take part. It would still allow the teams to test parts, and we could see more from other drivers who might not otherwise get a chance at an F1 drive.

And while we’re talking about pay drivers and sponsor money etc. When was the last time you saw an ugly F1 driver? If you don’t look good on a poster, then good luck getting sponsorship. If you’re ugly AND in F1, god you must actually have got there on speed and talent.

I really wish that VW would buy Williams or something. Audi should be in F1.


Robert Kubica wouldnt be my first choice to model my sponsors watch, but I would sure like him to drive my F1 car.


He IS very fast.


Williams doesn’t change. Just ask Damon Hill, JV, Heinz Harald-Frentzen or even Jenson.

Their drivers are just seat-warmers, except now they’re not warming a very good seat!

Nico should maybe count himself lucky – he’s avoided the possible ignomy of Damon’s fate: one day winning the championship and then being told to sling his hook.

(I know DH’s critics always say it was the car doing most of the work, but even if you don’t think that’s a harsh assessment DH won the right to stay.)


I like Hulkenberg. He’s a talent so I’m disappointed that he’s being shoved out in favour of a lesser talent with money. Don’t see a point in him moving to Mercedes as 3rd driver. It’s just pointless considering the FIA’s stupid ruling on no testing. Sure don’t let the race drivers test but allow the 3rd drivers to test. It’ll be hugely beneficial and I fear Hulkenberg ,like many other 3rd drivers from the past two years, will be forced to rot.


Don’t forget that 3rd drivers can still be used in Friday practice. I would imagine that if the Hulk signed up with Merc, they would do this quite a bit with him- if not every weekend.


Hey James… this is way off topic but since you have sort of officially started your posts for the off season, I was wondering if it was in your plans to write your insights about how the return of the single diffuser is going to shake up the order again next year? Ferrari and Mclaren both seemed to fail quite spectacularly in their first renditions while the Redbulls seemed to be the only halfway decent challenger to the Brawns, being the only team to take a race win without a double diffuser if memory serves right (Vettel in China).

I have really enjoyed your technical breakdowns from this year and I am really interested to see your insights on that. Again sorry for taking that one off the board, but didnt know where else to suggest it.


James, I’ve just read on Autosport that Toyota have abondoned the HRT collaboration, most likely due to lack of forthcoming cash. What are their prospects for next year?

They’re not in a position to develop their own chassis, it’s unlikely they will go crawling back to Dallara and Toyota are a no go either. No wonder no one wants to drive for them! I was surprised they managed to see out the season really, but without a “customer” deal for chassis, as well as the Williams deal, they’ve surely got no hope.


If they are on the grid next year, I will eat the 2010 Toyota chassis.

Their best bet is turning up with a GP2 car.


It might just be worth starting a collection to get them on the grid for just the first race then! 😉


They already did that last season 😉


It would probably be quicker than the current car!

Their biggest asset would appear to be the entry itself, so I would expect to see another F1 aspirant buy the team/entry rights. Are there any teams on the horizon?


What a way for Williams to reward the driver who brought the team their first pole position in five years. Oh, and perhaps the team didn’t notice that the margin was a second quicker than that of a superior car and, arguably, the quickest single lap driver in the series.


Can anybody tell me what Michael Schumacher has actually brought to the Mercedes team this year?Surely most of the publicity has been negative-running Rubens into the wall and performing badly!Its not as if they have exploited him in their marketing either,i mean its a waste of a ‘top’ car isnt it?Put the Hulk in it!!!


very sorry for Hulkenberg seeing that he has been ‘possibly’ even more successful than Hamilton in his early career. also in my opinion he has done a extremely good job in another over hyped Williams car. even tho it improved during the year it still another disappointing season for my favorite F1 team.

I would love to see Williams return to the top again.

Correct me if i’m wrong on this one but weren’t Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado teammates last season in GP2 and didn’t Hulkenberg blow him away?!


Hmm, not exactly getting the bullet – being offered the opportunity to drive for HRT in 2011 (minus Toyota chassis) is an easy option to walk away from. Maldonanldo’s cash is the primary reason, hardly fair when Hulkenberg destroyed him in GP2 in Hulkenberg’s only season (Maldonando’s 3rd). Rosberg certainly won’t have looked back.

I don’t know what is worse from a formerly great team like Williams: this news or the satisfaction expressed in finishing 6th out of 9 competitive teams. Very sad.


To my mind, the lack of test time for rookie F1 drivers is one of the most urgent problems facing the sport. The unproductive churn of obvious talent like Hulkenburg hurts the sport. Only the most exceptional young driver can step into the category and assert themselves using the scant time available on race weekends.

Despite his error rate, Petrov has shown some potential, not least at newer tracks like Abu Dhabi were his experience differential is reduced.

It is easy enough to imagine these guys along with the Toro Rosso drivers being much more consistent performers if whole seasons weren’t consumed by basic learning behind the F1 wheel.


agree with you but there’s the issue of the engine limitation. They need separate engine and gearboxes from the regular drivers.

The only reason Rubens is still here is the unexperienced youngsters


I completely agree. We should have Friday mornings where teams have to run a young driver.


An interesting idea, but a realistic one? After all, there have been mentions this year of reducing race weekends to two days instead of three. Furthermore, this would very much go against the grain of the resource management being introduced into F1–especially in terms of engine longevity–and it would entirely nullify the increased fuel efficiency teams have pledged to work towards in the next decade.


But otherwise you are running people who can’t drive to the best of there ability.

Yes it is important to have a good efficient, clean green, lowcarb f1, but while they increasing the calender to 20 tracks next year they can’t really call a week or two for rookies behind the wheel of an F1 car that bad.

What do you want, clean green efficiency with drivers that don’t know what there really doing or drivers showing what they really can do at a small expense. THIS IS FORMULA 1 FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

Friday test sessions should be able to run a

‘3rd car’, i.e. one that doesn’t use a drivers engine and if crashed doesn’t take the actual driver out of the runnning. Drivers with less than 10 races experience can drive on the friday morning.


“… where teams have to run a young driver”

or Michael Schumacher 😉


I can partly understand why they are keeping Rubens – for his experience – but when it comes down to it, how good is he? On the end of season driver positions, Michael is 9th with 72 points (after 3 years out and with a car not to his liking), Rubens is 10th with 47 points, but continues to state how he had to play second fiddle to Michael. Nico can only gain experience and improve. I would probably have kept both for a second season.


I think you forgot to mention that Rubens has got over twice as many points this year as his team mate where as schumacher has only got just over half the points of his team mate! If I was going to use your logic I’d have to ask myself how good schumacher is/was?


One thing for sure Michael beats the drama queen a.k.a Rubens once again, in term of points this year, i wonder what Rubens excuse now Michael using voodoo to change the points :D. Judging Michael after 3 years absence against Nico is not very wise compare to Rubens with a rookie. besides seven-time world champion and zero-time champion speaks for itself.


Williams has never had a two-time champion, and their driver management philosophy seems to play a large part in that.


yes but he had several one time world champs. mansell could have been at least twice, but had very bad luck in 86 and 87.


Yes, Williams has a pile of WDC but no two of them with the same driver’s name. Look at all the other teams with multiple WDC–they’ve got repeat champions. Pity they let Damon go so we couldn’t see another season of him versus JV.


You mean had a driver win two titles with them, right?

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