Much has been made of late regarding the safety – or otherwise – of F1 2010 rookie Nico Hülkenberg's seat at Williams in 2011, with whispers that the former multiple world champions need a driver who can bring in funding – and GP2 Series race-winner Pastor Maldonado waiting expectantly in the wings with pockets full of cash.
Hülkenberg himself has admitted that he can do no more than he is already doing to hang onto his drive, and with Williams' esteemed veteran director of engineering Patrick Head having recently stated that 'Nico has done enough...to support the view that he is a justified driver' in F1, the speculation has shifted onto the ultra-experienced Rubens Barrichello, who although widely-tipped to remain on-board into an incredible 19th consecutive campaign in the top flight, is similarly yet to be confirmed.
With no announcement likely to be forthcoming, either – pending the clarification of Williams' sponsorship situation next year, with the likes of RBS, Philips, AirAsia and McGregor all set to depart the fray come season's end – it is understood that Maldonado's reputed $15 million in backing from state-owned Venezuelan petroleum company PDVSA is looking increasingly attractive, and the 25-year-old will try out for the team in the special FIA young driver test post-Abu Dhabi [see separate story – click here
]. The only question mark, it is claimed, is that if he signs, which of the current pairing will make way...
Having insisted last month that he is '100 per cent' sure that he will still be at the Grove-based outfit in 2011, Barrichello has since re-iterated that he is not talking to any rival teams and – ahead of his home grand prix at Interlagos next weekend – confessed that his goal is to stay exactly where he is and reap the rewards of 2010's hard work.
“I've done a good job this year and I'm focussed on the car for next year, so I'm hoping to stay,” the 38-year-old Paulista told Reuters
, adding when asked if an agreement is already in-place: “That's something you will have to ask Williams.
“Our car is getting better and all I can hope for is a positive weekend [in Brazil]. The start of the season was not so good – we thought we had a good car, but it was hard for us to be in the top ten – but the rapport with the team was very good and we managed to improve.”
“I've been working on the car for next year,” he added, speaking to TV network Globo
. “There are things arising from the regulations that we are only going to find out later, but the design is bold and [the 2011 car] is going to be better than this one.”