On the eve of the final race weekend of 2009, in Abu Dhabi, Formula 1 driver Nico Rosberg has confirmed that he’ll be leaving the Williams team at the end of the this season. As reported in The Guardian, Rosberg said, “It is my last race for Williams so it’s a bit strange. “It’s been a long time and I get on with everybody really well. A lot of respect has built up…so it is going to be quite strange to leave.”
Usually, when a driver makes a statement of this sort, he couples it with an announcement of his plans for the following season. Rosberg, however, refused to name his team choice for 2010. “I don’t want to talk about my future,” he said. “I just want to say that I won’t be with Williams because that’s sure.”
During the course of this year, it has been widely assumed that Rosberg would jump to either McLaren or Brawn next year. The common denominator is Mercedes, who supply engines to both teams. Mercedes have been keen to have a German driver linked with their marque since they re-entered the sport over a decade ago. Although McLaren at one point made overtures to Michael Schumacher, they have yet to put a German pilot under contract.
There has also been an ongoing rumor that Mercedes is negoating the purchase of a 75% stake in the Brawn team. If this pans out, it would seem to make Rosberg’s move to that team more likely. If not, we might see Rosberg move to McLaren. It seems significant that, along with Rosberg, both McLaren are Brawn are remaining silent about their plans for next year. It could be that the Rosberg signing is contingent upon Brawn’s deal with Mercedes.
On a side note, apparently Brawn is refusing to approve a salary increase for Jenson Button until Mercedes funding has been secured. Any way you slice it, Brawn is likely to be in a world of hurt until the Mercedes lifeline is in place.
Another driver in the frame of this puzzle is Rubens Barrichello. It has been all but officially confirmed that Barrichello will join Williams next year, in a direct swap for Rosberg. His team mate will likely be Nico Hulkenberg, the rising German star currently under the wing of Michael Schumacher’s manager, Willi Weber. Weber recently gave an unofficial confirmation of this pairing in the press. He also asserted that the German rookie would easily be a match for the Brazilian veteran.
The second seat at McLaren is also still to be announced. The name of current McLaren pilot Heikki Kovalainen is scarcely mentioned in this context. It is taken for granted that this race weekend will be his last for the Silver Arrows. It has been reported that McLaren have made an offer to Kimi Raikkonen, but apparently the Finn is playing hard to get, by demanding $25 million for his services, and refusing to make promotional appearances for McLaren’s sponsors. If the Finn ends up being too clever for his own good, he might end up in rally cars sooner than planned.
Image by Eugene Flores, licensed through Creative Commons.