Nico Hülkenberg – arguably the star of the show at Interlagos over the weekend – has conceded that he is still unsure as to whether or not he will be retained by Williams into a second consecutive season in the top flight in 2011, but he does make clear his belief that in an ideal world, 'talent should come ahead of money' in F1.
Whilst Hülkenberg stunned fans, the paddock, his own team and himself into the bargain by storming to an unrivalled maiden pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix – Williams' first in more than five years – in lapping more than a second out-of-reach of any of his adversaries, the five title contenders included, on a damp-but-drying track surface in São Paulo, his seat remains under threat from his GP2 Series championship-winning successor Pastor Maldonado and the Venezuelan's $15 million of backing.
A solid eighth place on race day in Brazil – a result that leapfrogged the Grove-based outfit above nearest rival Force India into sixth spot in the constructors' standings with one race left to go – was further evidence of the young German's palpable potential, but with Williams ostensibly in need of a sizeable injection of cash to boost the diminishing coffers, the spectre of Maldonado continues to loom.
Having lifted the laurels in all of the major junior formulae – GP2, the F3 Euroseries and the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport – 23-year-old Hülkenberg has been tipped as a future F1 World Champion too by Williams co-founder Sir Frank Williams [see separate story – click here
], and it is evident that the admiration is mutual and that there is only one place the Rhineland native wishes to be next year.
“I don't know yet,” AFP
quotes the Willi Weber-managed ace as having replied when pressed about his future in Brazil. “You have to ask Patrick [Head – fellow Williams co-founder and director of engineering] or Frank. I can't tell you what they think right now. I think I have done everything right this weekend and made the most out of my chances. It was a solid performance in the race, a good one in qualifying and we will see where we end up.
“Obviously talent should come ahead of money in F1, but with the economy having some trouble it has become a valid point and may change some things. I still hope that things go the right way, though – how they should go. In my view, I think Rubens [Barrichello – team-mate] and I are the perfect driver combination and I really hope we can drive together again, but I have no idea what will happen, not a clue.”