Williams ponders driver candidates

Williams ponders driver candidates

Now that Jenson Button is to remain with BAR next season, Williams is pondering the list of candidates for its vacant race seat. The team is in no hurry to make a decision but it seems there are at least four drivers in contention; Antonio...

Now that Jenson Button is to remain with BAR next season, Williams is pondering the list of candidates for its vacant race seat. The team is in no hurry to make a decision but it seems there are at least four drivers in contention; Antonio Pizzonia, Nick Heidfeld, David Coulthard and once again Mika Hakkinen is being considered.

Antonio Pizzonia.
Photo by BMW PressClub.

Pizzonia, Williams' test driver, did a solid job when he filled in for Ralf Schumacher this season and will be with Williams in 2005 one way or another. "Antonio Pizzonia will be driving for us next year as either a race or test driver, so that is at least one reference point for us," said technical director Sam Michael.

Heidfeld had a difficult season with Jordan but is still considered a talented driver. There has been speculation that Williams is interested in Heidfeld because BMW would like a German driver, but motorsport director Mario Theissen dismissed that idea.

"Nick Heidfeld is one of the names we have to discuss but we have always said that nationality is not priority -- priority is performance," he commented. It's speculated that Heidfeld is a favourite for the test seat should Pizzonia take the race drive.

Coulthard ends his nine-year tenure with McLaren this season to make way for Juan Pablo Montoya. Not ready to retire yet, Coulthard's best hope is the Williams seat but it appears that the Scot only has an outside chance.

"Now that Williams remains the last competitive seat available, I've got to do everything I can to try and make them realise that I am the best of the drivers available," Coulthard said in Brazil.

Hakkinen, Coulthard's former teammate at McLaren, has been linked with Williams before and the Finn is keen to return to racing. He's been out of F1 action for three years but is still a possible contender -- being a former double champion is an advantage.

"It would be a risk after he has been out of the sport for three seasons," Williams engineering director Patrick Head told Autosport, in regard to Hakkinen. "But you have to think seriously about a man who has the talent to twice beat Michael Schumacher to the title."

Just this week rumour surfaced that Hakkinen has agreed to drive for Mercedes in the German Touring Car (DTM) series for 2005, although a contract has not yet been signed. Mika tested for Mercedes at Lausitz recently but presumably an F1 drive would be more appealing should the chance arise.

There may well be other drivers under consideration but those seem to be the main contenders. However, Williams will not rush to a decision. "I don't see any time pressure because the drivers who are available now will be available in six weeks time as well," said Theissen.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Jordan