Williams says it is in no hurry over deciding on a replacement for Robert Kubica but admits Nico Hulkenberg’s availability appeals to the team.
Kubica announced on Thursday at the Singapore Grand Prix that he had decided to leave Williams at the end of the season after a tough year back in Formula 1. That leaves the team with a vacancy alongside George Russell in 2020, with deputy team principal Claire Williams saying financial considerations do not necessarily rule out Hulkenberg following his departure from Renault.
“Robert has made his decision not to continue with us and we clearly respect that,” Williams said. “It’s his decision if he doesn’t want to continue. He has done a great job for the team over the past two years, originally as reserve driver and then stepping up to race driver. We wish him well. I don’t know what his plans are moving forward.
“Our plans are under consideration, as you would expect. We have got some candidates on our list who we are considering at the moment, that we are talking to, and we are taking our time to deliberate on that, to make sure we make the right decision for 2020.
“It’s not an easy predicament we are in at the moment when it comes to that second seat and our financial considerations, but that is not to say we couldn’t potentially make a driver work who doesn’t come with backing. We do have options open to us. We haven’t had any conversations with Nico Hulkenberg.”
Pushed specifically on Hulkenberg, Williams added: “Of course someone of Nico’s competence or capability is always going to appeal to a team.”
While Hulkenberg is available and started his F1 career at Williams, reserve driver Nicholas Latifi is a more likely candidate for the seat should the Canadian gain the required Super License points this season, even if it would lead to an inexperienced lineup.
“That’s one argument to bring an experienced driver in, to help lead the team, guide the team and develop the team, but equally there is no reason to say that a younger driver couldn’t do that as well.
“George is the perfect example — the work he has done for us this year, it’s his first year in F1 but he has been able to lead the team in an extraordinary way, in what to be honest has been a very difficult year for him. He comes to the track, puts a smile on his face and he leads the team. He understands the responsibility outside the cockpit as he does the responsibility he has inside the cockpit.
“Nicholas has quite a similar personality to George — he rolls up his sleeves and gets on with the job that we ask him to do. That’s been everything we want to see from him as a reserve driver, taking on the FP1 running for us at some of the races and then the test sessions as well. He’s very personable, very likable, outside of the car, he gets on with everyone in the team; obviously there is the advantage he does know the team now. But he still got some remaining rounds in F2 and still got to get Super License points for us to consider him for 2020.”
Latifi is currently second in the Formula 2 standings and only needs to finish in the top five of the championship to secure enough points for his Super License.