OCTOBER 25, 2010

Maldonado to test Williams

Speculation that Williams will replace Nico Hulkenberg with Pastor Maldonado, the German's successor as GP2 champion, has been fuelled by the announcement that the Venezuelan will join F2 champion Dean Stoneman in the Williams young driver tests at Abu Dhabi next month.

"We are delighted to have the two reigning champions of the two strongest feeder series for F1 in the FW32 for these two test days," Frank Williams said.

Hulkenberg has performed admirably alongside Rubens Barrichello in his rookie F1 season but team co-owner Patrick Head admitted in Korea that there were also commercial considerations and that he is not yet in a position to confirm the team's 2011 driver line-up.

Williams sponsorship deals with RBS, Philips and Air Asia all come to an end in 2010 and Maldonado is reputed to have a potential $15m worth of backing from the Venezualan state oil company, PDVSA.

With Hulkenberg and Rubens Barrichello evenly matched of late, it may appear to make sense for Williams to retain Hulkenberg and take Maldonado in place of the 38-year-old Brazilian. Williams, however, has been deeply impressed by both Barrichello's attitude and his development feedback, something particularly valuable with such limited on-circuit testing now permitted.

Hulkenberg, managed by long-term Michael Schumacher agent Willy Weber, is also unlikely to sign a long term Williams deal and would appear to be a potential replacement for Schumacher at Mercedes if and when the seven times champion decides to hang up his helmet for the final time.

Williams has confirmed that it will retain 21-year-old Valtteri Bottas as test driver. The Finn was third in this year's F3 Euro Series, scoring two wins and six podiums in his season with ART.

"He also set a record with his second consecutive victory in the F3 Masters," Williams added. "He has worked hard both on and off the track and learnt a great deal. We continue to see talent, discipline and dedication and are happy to help foster that further in 2011."