Released by Williams, Nico H?lkenberg could yet be thrown a lifeline for 2011 with his manager Willi Weber revealing that the highly-rated young German is in 'talks' with Force India F1 regarding next season - but he insists going there as a pay-driver is emphatically not an option.

Particularly over the second half of the 2010 campaign - his rookie season in the top flight - H?lkenberg has impressed many, and his astounding pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos earlier this month was as inspired as it was unexpected.

However, with Williams struggling for funding and reigning GP2 Series Champion Pastor Maldonado waiting expectantly in the wings with $15 million of sponsorship in his back pocket, the Venezuelan's title-winning predecessor was dropped by the Grove-based outfit - with, coming as the announcement did so late in the day, precious few options for gainful alternative employment.

Force India, though, has yet to confirm the identity of either of its two drivers for next year. Conventional wisdom goes that Adrian Sutil will be partnered by test and reserve driver Paul di Resta in Vitantonio Liuzzi's stead - unless H?lkenberg beats either of them to the punch.

"There are currently some talks; there are still options, but not too many," Weber told, before adding that his client will not be paying for a seat as Maldonado likely will, reasoning: "If you bring money to an F1 team, then that's what you do for the rest of your life."

In the event of failing to secure one of the two available cockpits at FIF1, Weber - who used to manage record-breaking F1 legend Michael Schumacher - conceded that a reserve driver role with Mercedes Grand Prix would be 'a Plan B, with the assurance of sitting in the car in 2012'.



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