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GP Week : Issue 31
Driver market heats up Latest (bizarre) rumour: Alonso to Toro Rosso ... WILLIAMS has confirmed that both Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima will return to F1 action for the team in 2009. While GPWeek received absolute confirmation from Rosberghimslef that he would be staying with Williams next season back at the start of August, Nakajima’s continuation had been uncertain. The Japanese driver has put in a season of measured and mature drives, but with a number of more experienced drivers expected to be on the market at the end of the season, Nakajima’s continuation at Williams had been in some doubt. But Team Owner Sir Frank Williams confirmed that his two drivers, along with tester Nico Hulkenberg, were taking his team in the direction he wished: “I am delighted we are able to maintain continuity with our drivers going into 2009,”he said. “Nico Rosberg continues to be one of the most capable drivers in the sport. Kazuki is getting stronger all the time and has more to offer and Nico Hulkenberg is developing well.” There remain questions over Rosberg’s motivation however. Few doubt the German’s raw potential, but there is an increasing feeling within the paddock that he is not being stretched to his limits and that, subsequently, Williams is not achieving the results it might expect. A podium in Singapore for the German, including a truly brilliant drive after the first Safety Car, was a sign of what the German can deliver. Williams must hope that it is the type of performance they see more often next year. The confirmation ticks two more boxes on the driver market. With the ongoing Alonso/Renault/Honda/ BMW rumours flying, Lucas di Grassi emerged this week as a potential candidate for Nelson Piquet’s Renault seat, regardless of whether Alonso opts to stay at the French squad into 2009. There has also been an interesting, if slightly far-fetched, rumour that Fernando Alonso is Toro Rosso bound, as part of a deal made with Ferrari which will see him at the Red Bull junior team in 2009 before moving to the main Ferrari team in 2010. Meanwhile, Piquet has also been linked with STR. The Silly Season has well and truly reached its climax, and as the F1 season embarks on its final three races of the season, further contracts are expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks. We expect Honda to announce its 2009 drivers this week, with Jenson Button considered certain to be retained. There remains a question over Barrichello, and any delay in an announcement by Honda this week would give credence to talk that Honda truly is still in serious discussion with Alonso.