WilliamsF1 chairman Adam Parr has confirmed that no decisions have yet been made regarding the team's driver line-up for 2011, despite rumours linking Pastor Maldonado to either of its seats.
The Venezuelan has, in turn, been mentioned as replacement for both Nico Hulkenberg and Rubens Barrichello but, despite the new GP2 Series champion running with the team in next week's Abu Dhabi test, Parr insists that no deal has been struck for 2011. That counters reports that surfaced a couple of weeks ago suggesting Williams had agreed to take Maldonado - and $15m of sponsorship from Venezuelan petroleum giant PDVSA - in place of Hulkenberg, who insists that he is not prepared to become a 'pay driver' just to keep his seat.
Having had both engineering chief Patrick Head and founder Sir Frank Williams singing his praises ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the German did his chances of staying at Grove a power of good by claiming pole at Interlagos, whilst Barrichello played down new rumours suggesting that he
might be in the firing line.
"We haven't made a decision about our driver line-up next year, and that is partly because we need to see the whole season in its context," Parr told journalists in Abu Dhabi, "When we make those decisions, we will announce them."
The former team CEO was also positive about Hulkenberg's contribution to the team in his rookie season, which started slowly, but picked up pace before culminating in that pole position in Sao Paulo.
"[Hulkenberg's pole] was a great and very exciting moment for the whole team," he enthused, "Sadly, we don't get those very often, but the taste of it has got everyone rather excited about what is possible in the future. I think it is enormously difficult for a driver coming into F1 now with almost no testing, even someone with a track record like his before F1. It has clearly been challenging at times, but what we have seen is him make great progress through the year in terms of consistency and performances. His race pace is excellent and he is bringing the cars home in spite of punctures and many other challengers. We are very proud of what he achieved this year and he gave us a great moment last weekend."
While Barrichello was understood to be safe because of his experience and what that could bring to the team for the future, Hulkenberg's position was believed to have been put in jeopardy by the loss of several key sponsors - potentially including RBS, Allianz, Philips and AirAsia - but Parr insists that the team has been working hard to ensure an adequate budget for 2011.
"I have missed the last two races as I have been making sure we have the finances we need for next year - and we do," he confirmed, "We have replaced all the sponsorship we have lost, and we are in great shape for next year.
"I actually feel more positive about the future now than I have done for the a long time even though, funnily enough, we actually turned a profit as a company every year for the last three years and we will this year and next year. Financially, I think we are in very good shape. It is not something we like to talk about very often but, sometimes, you do have to say something positive about the future - even though Frank and Patrick thoroughly disapprove of that approach to life. We are very positive about the future."
Parr also insisted that, despite rumours to the contrary, there are no plans to replace the Cosworth engine that has powered Williams to sixth in the constructors' championship with just this weekend's Abu Dhabi round to run.
"I can assure you that the engine currently behind our car is absolutely a Cosworth, tomorrow it's going to be a Cosworth and next year's it's going to be a Cosworth," he assured.