Nico Hulkenberg released by Williams

Williams have today dispensed with the services of Nico Hulkenberg despite claiming he produced "convincing performances" in his debut season and that he has "an undoubtedly bright future in the sport".

In contrast team-mate Rubens Barrichello has been retained, which will see the 38-year-old Brazilian now go on to compete in his 19th consecutive Formula One season.

Just nine days ago, though, Hulkenberg was on cloud nine when he delivered the team's first pole position for five and a half years following qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The 23-year-old German performed strongly over the second half of the year as he gained in experience because after collecting just two points from his first 11 races, he then picked up 20 in the final eight, two more than Barrichello over the same period.

Despite that team co-owner Frank Williams said: "We are very proud to have supported Nico as he secured the Formula Three and GP2 titles and during his debut in Formula One.

"At Williams we have for many years tried to bring new talent into the sport, and we are convinced Nico will go on to great things.

"We wish him well and hope that our paths will cross again in the future."

It was understood the team would not announce their line-up for 2011 until after this week's Young Driver test in Abu Dhabi in which GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado and Formula Two champion Dean Stoneman will drive this season's Williams car.

However, it now appears increasingly likely Venezuelan Maldonado, who brings him with considerable financial backing which Williams desperately need, will almost certainly replace Hulkenberg, who it has been suggested could now join Hispania Racing.

For Barrichello, who now has over 300 grands prix to his name, he will continue to bring much-needed experience to the team.

After finishing 10th in this year's standings with 47 points, Williams added: "We recruited Rubens to Williams knowing he would bring technical expertise, experience and passion.

"He has delivered everything we could have hoped for this season and we are delighted to confirm he will drive for us again in 2011."