Losing H???lkenberg is a sign of the times at Williams

2010 F1 season review

Nico H???lkenberg, Williams, Interlagos, 2010

In the sixth year since Williams last won a race, are there green shoots of recovery at the team?

Perhaps Nico H???lkenberg’s remarkable Brazilian Grand Prix pole position was one of them?

If so, it’s a worrying sign that he was dropped by the team just nine days afterwards.

Williams team stats 2010

Best race result (number) 4th (1)
Best grid position (number) 1st (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 6 (2/4)
Laps completed (% of total) 1953 (86.49%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2009) 6th (7th)
Championship points (2009*) 69 (99)
*using 2010 system

Williams began the year with a new engine supplied and driver line-up. Goodbye to Toyota, Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg, hello to Cosworth, Rubens Barrichello and Nico H???lkenberg.

It took a while for the team’s new elements to gel. H???lkenberg may have joined them in 2008 but testing restrictions meant he had far less time behind the wheel than rookies in previous seasons.

That much was clear when he spun out at Bahrain and crashed at Melbourne, but there were better things to come. Barrichello, meanwhile, looked instantly comfortable at his new home.

The team made progress with Cosworth whose engines proved very reliable. But speed trap figures indicated they were not on a par with Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of outright performance.

Williams were on a steadily upward trajectory all season. Over the final half of the year Barrichello was a fixture in Q3 and H???lkenberg often joined him there.

Unfortunately this wasn’t matched by a similar gain in race performance and the pair often struggled to hold onto the places they qualified in.

Having lost ground to Force India early on they reeled in their rivals over the final races, passing them for sixth in the championship thanks to H???lkenberg’s efforts in Brazil.

The deciding moment in this battle came when Barrichello kept Sutil behind at Abu Dhabi after the Force India driver came out of the pits close to the Williams. Barrichello hung on around the outside of turn four in a moment he described as a “huge move” which seemed to go completely unnoticed by the cameras.

Signs of H???lkenberg’s progress were apparent before that Saturday at Interlagos. In the wet qualifying at Sepang he was an impressive fifth and at Monza he solidly out-qualified and out-raced Barrichello.

Frank Williams’ words following H???lkenberg’s departure carried an unmistakeable tone of regret: “We wish him well and hope that our paths will cross again in the future.”

Pastor Maldonado arrives at the team with a more convincing CV than Kazuki Nakajima did – Maldonado had the GP2 title wrapped up comfortably before the end of the season.

But even so it’s hard to avoid the impression that Williams wouldn’t be swapping one GP2 champion for another if Maldonado wasn’t bringing a reputed ??15m in sponsorship.

The bottom line is despite finishing higher in the championship than they did last year they scored fewer points (adjusting to today’s points system). Williams can’t stop the rot without money and with several sponsorship deals expiring this winter a tough decision had to be made.

It remains to be seen whether they got it right or not.

What did you think of Williams’ performance in 2010? Was letting H???lkenberg go the right thing to do? Have your say in the comments.

Williams’s season in pictures

2010 F1 season review

Browse all 2010 F1 season review articles

Image ?? Williams/LAT, Bridgestone/Ercole Colombo (see individual images for details)

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53 comments on Losing H???lkenberg is a sign of the times at Williams

  1. f1yankee said on 6th December 2010, 22:49

    does anyone recall the hulk retirement where the right rear of the car exploded? the body work was pretty clearly blown outward. it wasn’t caught on camera, but hulk pulling to a stop and then HULK SMASH was. not to be confused with the monaco tunnel crash.

    what would cause such an explosion? maybe a piston finding liberty through the top of the motor? maybe a gearbox failure?

  2. Steph said on 6th December 2010, 23:34

    Senna eventually found his way back to Williams so maybe the Hulk will…

  3. Stephen Jones (@aus_steve) said on 7th December 2010, 0:37

    dropping hulk was a bad idea.. he was just starting to come on form.
    Another casualty of the strict testing ban..

  4. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 7th December 2010, 10:05

    I think two things will happen:

    1) Williams will have a better car and Barrichello will get it to where it’s supposed to be. Maldonado will get one or two good results but also lag behind his team-mate for most of the season.

    2) Even with new investment, William’s problems will prove to be one of personnel and management and they will stay still or even slip down the grid a little. Williams will be bought out quicker than expected.

    But I have no idea what will happen to Hulkenburg. He certainly deserves the seat more than a guy who only won the GP2 championship because everyone better than him graduated to F1.

  5. Marco said on 7th December 2010, 10:07

    Still than one P.P… Hulkenberg is overated in my eyes… He had some good qualifyings, but his race pace was normal, not excellent… And in first half of the season, it was just horrible… His gaps to Rubens were often 1 whole laps or gaps around 1 minute! From Canada he was better, mostly because of new upgrades… Still, his only 3 highlights this year were qualifying in Malaysia, qualifying in Brazil and race in Monza… His all overall race results are even worser then those of Jaime Alguersuari and he had most of the season a slower car… And another thing – almost no overtaking from the Williams driver… So still not getting this Hulkenberg-hype…

  6. Kayumanggi said on 7th December 2010, 10:10

    I thought Barrichello was the one to be dropped. Hulkenberg have loads of potential. I think, race-wise and for the future of Williams, this is a big mistake. Hulkenberg is very young but already competitive. He is starting to come to form. I really think he will be one of the mainstays in the future of F1.

  7. Sergio Perez said on 7th December 2010, 11:31

    I think talent trully comes up in Formula 1. Talent does not mean only pure Raw speed, but the capability of talking to your mechanics, of being a team player, of expressing what is wrong and right with the car, and work around these problems. Formula one, more than an individual sport, is the ultimate chalenge of man and machine, and the machine is made by a group of highly skilled and talented men and women that need a driver input to go further. That’s why experience is a must in today’s test restricted F1, and Barrichelo has its place. In fact, Schumacher return was also a great move from Mercedes. He underperformed this year, but I’ll eat my hat if he doesn’t perform a lot better next year, with a car fully developed with his input. Exceptional drivers not only have raw speed but this capability of taking their machine to another level. Alonso, Senna, Schumacher, Prost were, and are these kind of drivers. This capability may come as natural leadership, from their personalities, or can be learned in time. If a young driver doesn’t have this talent, than he has to make up in raw speed. In the current field, from the “youngsters”, the best raw talent in the field are definitely, IMO, Hamilton, Rosberg, Kobayashi,and maybe Kubica- not as fast in terms of raw speed, but probably much more talented as a leader and knowing of car development than the others. As for Hulkenberg, he is not, IMO, a Kobayashi in raw talent. His car was better than Kobayashi’s one and he underashieved, was unexciting, didn’t risk overtaking, didn’t stand out at all except for that pole. This is Formula one, not every one gets a chance to drive a Williams car. I, for example cannot rate Senna, Chandhok or Di Grassi because frankly they were driving completely useless cars. I hope they get a chance next year, and that those cars get better, at least to be half a second close in qualifying to the midfield. As for my homonimous, Sergio Perez, I hope he delivers. Because I’m already preparing myself to be in the receiving end of the weekend Sergio Perez joke towards me here in my town…

  8. Fixy (@fixy) said on 8th December 2010, 16:44

    Williams need someone capable of winning a race. Who better than Hulkenberg, which grabbed a pole position in his debut season?

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