Nico Hulkenberg's confidence in finding another F1 ride to replace the one he was ousted from at Williams
at the end of the 2010 season looks set to be rewarded with a spot at Force India
- although the German may be denied a shot at forming an all-German partnership with Adrian Sutil.
With new DTM
champion - and Mercedes favourite - Paul di Resta reportedly edging closer to an F1 debut with the Silverstone-based team, Hulkenberg may have to settle for the reserve driver position for 2011, with Sutil remaining as team leader for another season after seeing his ambition of joining either Renault
or Mercedes thwarted by Vitaly Petrov and Michael Schumacher, respectively, staying put for the coming campaign.
Force India has yet to confirm its 2011 line-up, and still has the thorny problem of the year that remains on Tonio Liuzzi's deal to address - but Swiss magazine Blick
believes that an announcement confirming both di Resta and Hulkenberg is imminent. The German, who claimed pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix but could not prevent himself being replaced by the better-funded Pastor Maldonado next season, is expected to carry out development duties during one of the Friday morning practice sessions at most grands prix, as di Resta did in 2010. That could provide the opportunity to prove himself for 2012, particularly with Sutil said to have irked team boss Vijay Mallya by holding out for alternative rides next season.
Niki Lauda, meanwhile, has suggested that, contrary to the beliefs of fellow world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, di Resta is not the man for the job, insisting that Mallya should pair Sutil and Hulkenberg together.
"On sporting criteria alone, Force India
should have Sutil and Hulkenberg in 2011," the Austrian told Blick
, ignoring the candidature of other hopefuls including Giedo van der Garde, Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandhok and Nick Heidfeld.
Ironically, Force India
was not the first choice of Hulkenberg's manager, Willi Weber, who admits that he had loftier ambitions for his young charge.
“I actually wanted Nico to be the third driver at McLaren,” he revealed, “but Martin Whitmarsh was worried that it would be seen as a threat to [Jenson] Button, so he didn't want to disrupt the harmony in the team for their championship hunt.”
The driver, however, has already admitted that Force India
is his best bet for the future.
"That's no big secret," he told the official F1 website last month, "Force India is our best shot, but it is also no secret that quite a few drivers are trying to land a seat there. We are talking to them and let's wait and see what develops."
di Resta, meanwhile, appears a shoo-in for the second race seat after a strong 2010 campaign in which he combined testing for Force India
with taking the DTM
title for Mercedes. The Scot has the backing of Stewart, who sees the former F3
Euroseries champion - overcoming current F1 champion Sebastian Vettel
in equal machinery, it should not be forgotten - as the natural successor to the likes of himself, Jim Clark and David Coulthard
in Scotland's F1 lineage.
"I don't see any reason why Paul shouldn't be on the grid next year," the three-time world champion told the Scotsman
newspaper recently, "He's impressed everyone with what he's achieved during his Friday test sessions with Force India
this year, and he's fast, but he's also very clever, astute and, from what I've heard, very good with his technical feedback. I definitely think he'd help strengthen the grid even more."