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DATE News (chronologically)
Struggling Williams considers Hulkenberg axe for ride-buyer UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

Nico Hulkenberg could get the axe
11/15/10 (GMM)  Willi Weber has reiterated reports that his young charge Nico Hulkenberg is set to leave Williams. The famous driver-manager made the announcement earlier in Abu Dhabi, but 23-year-old Hulkenberg then revealed that he is scheduled to do the Pirelli test late this week.

"Nico will leave Williams.  They're not negotiating any longer.  They have probably already done a deal with Pastor Maldonado," Weber is quoted by Express.

Fascinatingly, the Cologne publication mentioned Ferrari as a possible alternative employer for Hulkenberg, and said Weber had met with the Italian team on Saturday. But Felipe Massa sounds confident about returning to Ferrari alongside Fernando Alonso next year.

"It has been a very difficult year for me, but already I am concentrating completely on 2011," he is quoted by the Brazilian media.

Massa added: "We have some testing with the new tires next week and I'm curious to see how they behave."

Hulkenberg told Auto Motor und Sport he will know more about his future after those tests, "in one week".

"Nico will drive in 2011 in formula one," Weber insisted.

Hulkenberg admitted he is not expecting Williams' chairman Adam Parr to telephone him.

"It will probably be that I call him," said Hulkenberg.  "The exchanges so far have mostly taken place by email."

Weber added: "Until now they've left us hanging in the air quite a bit."

In fact, Auto Motor und Sport said Williams has been working on signing Maldonado for 2011, placing the well-financed Venezuelan at HRT for a year, and guaranteeing him a seat in 2012.

10/30/10 (GMM)  Sir Frank Williams sounds unlikely to oust German rookie Nico Hulkenberg for the 2011 season.  It has been suggested the 23-year-old could make way for Venezuelan pay-driver Pastor Maldonado.  But in an interview with the BBC, the Oxfordshire based team's founder, boss and biggest shareholder Williams heaped praise on Hulkenberg.

"It was a little disappointing, maybe, in the first few races, perhaps because he was being over-cautious," he said.  "But lately he has become very competitive and we have just seen the beginning of something exceptional."

And when asked if F1 spectators will be seeing more of Hulkenberg, Williams added: "Absolutely.  We do hope so yes. He won all the way up to Formula 3 and GP2, he has won every single championship and in the right team, hopefully us one day, he will win the world championship as well in formula one."

The latest rumor is that it might instead be Rubens Barrichello moving aside for Maldonado, but Williams also had praise for the veteran Brazilian.

"He has enormous experience.  He is now, without doubt, the most experienced driver in the pitlane and he does demonstrate that very frequently," said Williams.

"His technique is very understated, he's a very smooth driver.  He likes to be mollycoddled emotionally a little bit, and he likes being told how good he is, but we don't have any problem in telling him, we believe strongly in him.  He's good fun and very experienced and that is a great value to any team," he added.

10/20/10 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  Pastor Maldonado has signed a deal to race alongside Rubens Barrichello at Williams in 2011.  That is the claim of Warm Up, the electronic version of Brazil's Grande Premio publication.

The report said Maldonado, the new GP2 champion, will replace Nico Hulkenberg.

The 25-year-old Venezuelan reportedly inked the contract in the second week of October in Caracas, in the presence of a top official of the Grove based team and Maldonado's sponsor PDVSA, the state-owned petroleum company.

The report said Williams essentially had no choice, amid the prospect of losing four main sponsors - RBS, Philips, AirAsia and McGregor – at the end of the current season.

PDVSA will reportedly pay EUR 15 million for Maldonado's seat.

Williams has been contacted for comment.

10/18/10 (GMM)  With just three races left to run in his rookie season, Nico Hulkenberg admits he is still yet to sign a new contract for 2011.

It is believed that while Williams has secured the services of veteran Rubens Barrichello for another year, the Grove based team is looking seriously at the $15 million in sponsorship offered by Hulkenberg's successor as GP2 champion, the Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.

That would leave 23-year-old German Hulkenberg without a seat, despite arriving on the F1 grid just seven months ago with arguably a more impressive formative racing record than Lewis Hamilton. zzzz

"I'm doing my job and I'm confident about what I'm doing," he is quoted by the German-language Speed Week.

"I cannot do more.  I would like to stay with Williams because I believe next year's car will be competitive, because I feel comfortable in the team and get along with my teammate very well.

"I'm hoping for a new contract," added Hulkenberg.

But the British tabloid The Sun believes dramatically that the 'Hulk is facing incredible axe', with Force India's Adrian Sutil also linked with his seat and reportedly offering $3m in backing.

Another report in the Evening Standard recently said Williams' combined losses in the past five years amount to more than $9 million, with profits falling 50 per cent last year on top of millions in debt.

Williams' minority co-owner Christian 'Toto' Wolff is known to be a keen Hulkenberg supporter, but he admits the team's driver situation is presently in the air.

"At the moment everything is possible -- we are currently trying to get as much information as possible," he said in an interview with motorline.cc.

"Generally speaking, the team is making great progress," added Austrian Wolff.

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