Williams has rebuffed suggestions that GP2 Series pace-setter Nico Hülkenberg is virtually a shoe-in for a race seat with the former multiple Formula 1 World Champions next year – insisting that whilst the German is an option, 'there are lots of drivers knocking on our door'.
Much will hinge, indeed, upon what current Williams
incumbent and Hülkenberg's countryman and namesake Nico Rosberg
elects to do, and whether the son of 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg stays put or jumps ship to McLaren-Mercedes as is being rumoured, alongside Lewis Hamilton
and in place of Heikki Kovalainen.
Hülkenberg – dubbed 'The Incredible Hulk' within the paddock – stands on the verge of lifting the laurels in F1's feeder category, and with 27 points in-hand over nearest pursuer Vitaly Petrov could feasibly do so at Monza next weekend, having triumphed four times for ART Grand Prix along the way.
Though Williams' director of engineering and team co-founder Patrick Head has expressed some concern about the 22-year-old's predilection for throwing his car into the gravel trap on occasion – particularly in his role as the F1 squad's test and reserve driver – the Grove-based outfit's technical director Sam Michael acknowledged that the man from Emmerich am Rhein is a serious contender for 2010. But he is far from the only one.
“Nico is someone that is on our list for a drive next year,” revealed the softly-spoken Australian, quoted on Formula 1 Blog
, “but there are lots of drivers knocking on our door. It's a point of discussion internally at the moment, and we need to come to a decision in the coming weeks or months. We have a long-term contract [with Hülkenberg], and we have to decide whether to engage that or not.”
However, the Willi Weber-managed ace may not need to rely solely upon Rosberg leaving the team to be handed his chance, with rumours growing that Williams
is keen to find a way out of its customer engine supply deal with Toyota. If the Japanese manufacturer goes, the strongly-held belief is that Kazuki Nakajima
– who has failed to notch up so much as a single point during the course of his sophomore campaign at the highest level this year, compared to Rosberg's tally of 25.5 – will follow them out of the door.
Other names to have been linked with Williams
for 2010 include BMW-Sauber refugees Robert Kubica
and Nick Heidfeld, with the latter having previously driven for the Oxfordshire concern back in 2005. Force India
veteran and Belgian Grand Prix
hero Giancarlo Fisichella
is also being mooted as a possibility.