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Hulk comes out fighting - Nico scraps for his seat as the 2010 season continues

Published by Christine

In Monza, we witnessed some rather scrappy driving from Williams' rookie Nico Hülkenberg. He was hustling the car around the track, desperately trying to keep Mark Webber's Red Bull behind him, and it made for some edge-of-your-seat viewing. He cut the corner a few times, struggled to keep the car in a straight line, and appeared to be jinking about all over the place. Webber was not at all happy after the race.

Obviously lost a lot of time behind Hülkenberg. He spent every second lap going through the chicanes. The stewards... they left him alone, so that was interesting. That was my race.

- Mark Webber

He did eventually manage to pass Nico, so perhaps was less frustrated towards the end than he would have been otherwise. It certainly looked like the German's methods of defending his position were a little out of kilter. However, afterwards, he happily admitted as much. He pointed out he was struggling with brakes, that the car was a lot to handle, and so he was pushing the limits all the time. He stopped short of apologising, noting that the stewards didn't call him in, so it must have been okay. Explaining the situation, he said:

From then on, I seemed to be fighting one or other of the Red Bulls for the whole afternoon, and there wasn't a moment when there was any let up in the pressure.

- Nico Hülkenberg

I wonder if it was just the Red Bull team that were adding pressure on him, or whether he is also feeling a bit of pressure for his seat. The driver market is beginning to hot up again, rumours are starting to do the rounds, and a rookie seat is by no means secure.

Nico Hülkenberg and Sam Michael watch Friday free practice in Monza, from the Williams garage.
Credit: Glenn Dunbar / LAT Photographic

Williams have not expressed any dissatisfaction with Nico, as far as I'm aware, but he hasn't exactly been holding his own. It's tough to compare him to the ever-so-experienced Rubens Barrichello, but in the exact same car, Rubens has almost double the amount of points as his younger teammate. The mid-field is a tricky place to find yourself as there are so many teams vying for the limited lower points, but it is to Rubens they go more often.

Of course, it is only Nico's first year, and we are far too quick to judge young drivers these days, but it is happening throughout the paddock, and it is the environment that Hulk finds himself in right now. His performance in Monza may have looked untidy and may have upset Webber something chronic, but it has pleased the bosses:

Nico had a new engine, but Rubens had the same one as he used in Spa. It is obviously a significant benefit to have a new engine, and particularly when we’re racing at these power-hungry circuits... Nico finished sixth in Budapest, but he was consistently strong throughout the whole weekend in Monza. I would say then that, yes, his overall performance was his best to date.

- Sam Michael

Is it going to take more scrappy races from The Hulk to keep his Williams seat, or do you think he is safe for now? Is it fair that young drivers are expected to perform so quickly, and is it fair that such a worrying performance wasn't picked up by the stewards? When Kobayashi first joined the sport, at the tail end of 2009, his driving was described as aggressive and dangerous, but it has not done him any harm so far. Is it the smoother drivers who are going to lose out?