Any hopes McLaren may have had of signing Nico Rosberg for the 2008 Formula 1 season have disappeared after Williams confirmed that the German driver will remain with the Grove-based outfit for a third season.
Rosberg had been tipped as a possible replacement for Fernando Alonso at McLaren after the Spaniard left the team last week, with speculation that the double world champion could even go the other way – for a season at least – before moving on to Ferrari at a later date.
However, days after Patrick Head warned McLaren that there was no chance of them signing Rosberg for the new season, Williams has now officially revealed that he will lead the team into 2008.
Rosberg will be partnered by Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima, who will step into a race-seat on a full-time basis having been promoted for the season ending Brazilian Grand Prix after Alex Wurz elected to retire from the sport.
The Austrian endured a difficult season on his return to racing and stood down from his drive to allow the team to evaluate Nakajima in a race environment at Interlagos, with him doing enough to secure a full-time drive with a tenth place finish – despite an incident on pit-lane that saw him collide with some of his mechanics.
“I am delighted to confirm that Nico will be racing for the team for his third consecutive year after demonstrating impressive and widely applauded form in 2007,” team principal Sir Frank Williams said. “Nico will be ably partnered by Kazuki, who has impressed the team over the past year. He has pace and the right aptitude to develop into a competitive Formula One racer and over the course of the next season, we will provide him with all the necessary support and assistance to hone his talents.”
The promotion of Nakajima into a race seat means that Williams will now field a team of ‘second generation' drivers in 2008, with the young Toyota development driver following his father Satoru into F1.
Having clinched the rookie of the year crown in GP2, the confirmation of race seat caps a fine campaign for the 22-year-old – although he admitted that there was plenty of work ahead to ensure he make the most of his F1 chance.
“This is the crowning of a great year for me,” he said. “It was an amazing experience to drive out of the garage as a Formula One driver at Albert Park last March, and now to be confirmed as a race driver for AT&T Williams is a dream come true.
“I am very grateful to Toyota for the support I have had through the Toyota Driver's programme and to Williams for the team's faith in me. There is plenty of work to be done before next season starts, but I am resolved to do whatever is necessary and to show Williams and Toyota that they have made a good investment.
Williams have signed a japanese driver backed by a japanese company who happen to supply them with engines
Maybe at Williams they evaluating rookies on the basis of how many guys they hit during a pitstop 5th in 07 gp2, 7th in 06 euro f3, 2nd in 05 jap f3 to de Oliveira