Nico Hulkenberg confirms he is leaving Williams

2011 F1 season

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Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Nico Hulkenberg has confirmed he will not be driving for Williams in 2011.

In a statement on his official website he said:

I heavily regret that, because I would have been happy to stay with Williams. I want to thank the team for a great time and I wish Williams all the best for the future.
Nico Hulkenberg

Hulkenberg’s manager Willi Weber said his driver will stay in F1 next year:

I am negotiating with other teams. Nico will have his seat in F1 in 2011.
Willi Weber

Hulkenberg finished 14th in his first F1 season with 22 points to Barrichello’s 47. He scored his maiden pole position at Interlagos eight days ago.

But prior to that strong rumours had already emerged linking Pastor Maldonado, his successor as GP2 champion, to his seat in 2011.

Maldonado will drive for HRT in the young drivers’ test tomorrow and then for Williams on Wednesday.

On Saturday Williams chairman Adam Parr said the team had not yet decided on their driver-line up for 2011.

Amid claims Maldonado was being brought in because of his substantial financial backing from Venezuelan oil giant PDVSA he added:

We have replaced all the sponsorship we have lost and we are in great shape for next year. I actually feel more positive about the future now than I have done for the a long time even though, funnily enough, we actually turned a profit as a company every year for the last three years and we will this year and we will next year.
Adam Parr

Frank Williams said:

At Williams we have for many years tried to bring new talent into the sport, and we are convinced that Nico will go on to great things. We wish him well and hope that our paths will cross again in the future.
Frank Williams

Read more: list of 2011 F1 drivers and teams

Image © Williams/LAT

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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108 comments on “Nico Hulkenberg confirms he is leaving Williams”

  1. What a shame. Horrible decision by Williams :(

    1. A bit more from Frank Williams here: Barrichello to stay at Williams in 2011

    2. You never know, whos desicion it was. Weber (Hulks manager) did not want to sign up to the 5 year deal Williams proposed, so that will have had an influence on the desicion.

      It would not have been the first good pilot Williams let go though (Button, Webber, Hill, Coulthard, …).

      1. Sadly Williams is quite notorious for letting drivers go when they are bringing in good results, to add to your list BasCB, I nominate Juan Pablo Montoya, and Nick Heidfeld.

        Atleast they have sense enough to keep ahold of Rubens.

    3. Bad Bad Williams :(

      I hope he will be in Force India or Renault but both teams need money. but i am sure if he can grab any of those seat, he can push kubica or Sutil like anything

      1. I’d like to see him at Renault next year. The Force India was slower than Williams by mid season.

        1. I’d say he could get the Renault seat too, if it weren’t for Petrov’s fine performance this weekend.

  2. Such a shame. Hope he gets a drive next season.

  3. The Dutch Bear
    15th November 2010, 9:58

    Great shame, Williams should have dumped Barrichello, rather than one of the greatest talents in F1.

    1. That is the worst sentence I have read in my life.

      1. That’s a wee bit dramatic. But if it’s the worst sentence you’ve ever read in your life, than I must say you have a pretty good life dude.

    2. I had hoped I would never have to ever say this, but…


    3. Hulk one of the greatest talents in F1?
      That’s premature, there is still plenty of time for him to go nowhere but midfield.
      He wasn’t up against the best of F1 calibre when he won the GP2 title.
      Time will tell.

      1. Hulks dominance in earlier categories I think is a sign that he has the potential, to be a Hamilton or Alonso.

        … Saying that… where the *monkeys* did Kamui come from? So maybe I’m wrong.

    4. Maybe it was out of Williams’ hands. Hulk is being managed by Willi Weber after all, nothing if not tenacious.

    5. A little far fetched to say the least!

  4. It cannot be true! :(

    1. I think he could secure an equally god drive next year… so I’m not too disappointed. If his performance at Brazil could get him some more sponsorship backing.. I think Renault or Force India might give him a shot.

      1. an equally god drive next year.

        Wow, his pole in Brazil was good, but to call it that is a bit much Todfod ;-)

        With Weber as manager, he is bound to find a drive next year. Renault is still not decided, is it?

        1. And he would certainly be a better prospect than Heidfeld. He may not be hugely better at the moment, but at least he has the potential. Heidfeld doesn’t.

      2. good call, liuzzi was rubbish

  5. This makes me sad. The kid has a lot of potential. :(

    1. He said he’s left Williams, not F1. Hope he can drive for a more competitive team in 2011.

      1. Except how many seats are there up for grabs next season?

        Short of the three new teams, only FI and Renault are likely to have an empty seat, while STR is the preserve of those drivers from the Marko system (i.e the Red Bull drivers program) and Schumacher isn’t going back to a second retirement.

        Unlikely that the top three will have any need for a third driver, which leaves Sauber, as Nick Heidfeld staying on isn’t confirmed and I guess, everyone’s favourite Kobayashi is going to remain there…

        A Hulk-Kobayashi team in 2011?

        1. Only Sauber has announced 2 races ago, that they are happy to get Perez in the second car from next year on and get Telmex to sponsor them.
          Sorry no place free there.

          I would guess, Weber is talking to both Red Bull (will Webber want to stay) and Ferrari (will Massa want to stay, and Ferrari keep him. Or will they switch Webber and Massa around?) as well as Renault and Force India, after possibly securing a Mercedes option for 2012 and onwards.

          And what about Kubica, he might jump ship if Renault wants to get in and a failed italian marketing man takes over (and go to Ferrari or to Red Bull). That would be 2 undecided places at that team.

          1. If either Webber or Massa leave that would be pretty massive.

          2. Webber or Massa leaving would be incredibly massive, but I would kind of like to see them swap teams. Webber could beat Alonso in the same car, and Massa in the RB7 could beat Alonso, and hopefully give our new World Champ a consistent run for his money.

            If this were to happen I’d eat my shoe as it seems the least likely thing in the world, but oh how I would love it.

          3. I must admit that I wans’t paying much attention to the Perez announcement, so that leaves either FI (that crash can’t have helped Liuzzi’s chances) or Renault (which Petrov made a good case for keeping him there last Sunday)…

            I’m not sure if having Webber at Ferrari would be a good idea especially if it means Flavio showing his mug around the Ferrari pit garage…

      2. I know, but I think to leave so soon in a team that is re-establishing itself is sad.

  6. Surely williams made some short sighted decision and i hope to see him in some better team and show his potential. If massa plans to leave ferrari then it could be get bet for put some future on hulk atleast for 1yr. If he clicks it would be good ,if not they can go for kubica.

  7. It’s a real shame that this is most likely a money decision when it should be talent decision.

  8. With Philips and RBS leaving both the team and F1, Williams is in need of money to survive. Wili Weber said that Nico will be driving at another team for 2011.
    Weber also stated that Williams already made the deal with Pastor Maldonado. He brings along € 12,000,000 so Williams F1 is to live another day. Sad for Hulkenberg indeed, we’ll see where he’s at in 2011.

    1. Sad as it is, you bring a good point. It would be much more sad to see a cash-strapped Williams return to their poor form of recent years and ultimately disappear than it will be to see Hulkenberg spend a season or two in a crappy car.

  9. That does seem a little short sighted…. but Williams have a history of getting this wrong. Button?

      1. Great article, and rather curious.

        It talks about Kubica almost joining Renault, Michael almost joining Mercedez and Lewis almost joining Williams.

        On the 2010 grid, Kubica IS driving for Renault, Michael IS driving for Mercedez. So I guess, Lewis might indeed drive for Williams one day!!

        1. “Lewis might indeed drive for Williams one day!!”

          I am sure he could manage to bring the sponsors

      2. Forgot that one before, but it almost seems like getting passed over by Williams is a champion making feat!

    1. Decided not to renew Damon Hill for 1997 at the end of 1995. Damon won the title in 1996.

      Nigel Mansell won the title in 1992. Ended up pushing him out for 1993.

      Nelson Piquet won the title in 1987. Piquet moved to Lotus for 1988.

      Hard to say in the cases above how much of it was Williams’ fault and how much of it the driver’s, but there is a trend here.

      1. Trend: Frank ‘Anyone-can-drive-my-car-and-win’ Williams?

        Good luck to Hülkenberg. If Barrichello brings technical know-how, why not employ him as a test driver? Or consultant? Because on the track he’s not going to get any better.

        1. If Barrichello brings technical know-how, why not employ him as a test driver?

          What would he do for the 11 months of the year that aren’t February?

          1. Make pizzas? He loves making pizzas!

            Seriously, I’d chose future talent over Barrichello entering retirement phase, but what do I know.

          2. HounslowBusGarage
            15th November 2010, 10:49

            Stand on the pit wall and learn how to be a team manager, just like Schumacher did during his “retirement”.
            Oh, and be available as a reserve driver who could actually jump into the car at the last moment and make a significant contribution to the race.

          3. Barrichello is more valuable to Williams right now than a fast driver who can get the odd pole. Barrichello’s no slouch, he’s still bringing the car up where it doesn’t necessarily belong, and getting good results for a midfield team. Williams need that, after years of Nakajima.

            Rubens can do something Williams need – fix their engineering.

            As to their driver employment strategies, I already said it in the forum. This marks Williams on the way downhill.

        2. If Barrichello brings technical know-how, why not employ him as a test driver? Or consultant? Because on the track he’s not going to get any better.

          So long as he’s doing better than his team-mate, I see no reason to drop him.

        3. I’m almost sad that my Brazil post-qualifying prediction was right, Williams won’t hesitate to let a driver go regardless of what they bring to the team…

      2. Agree with all but 1992, Williams wanted Mansell to stay, but he didnt want to partner Prost because of the Ferrari days, thats what I have always heard anyway. :)

        1. I don’t remember Mansell leaving because of Prost, but I do remember Prost leaving because of Senna.

          1. And Senna not joining until ’94 because Prost was signed for ’93.

          2. Didn’t Prost have a clause in his contract stopping Williams from signing Senna for 1993, and when that expired for 1994 and Williams were going to sign Senna, Prost retired again.

  10. I don’t know what else Williams are meant to do, they clearly need the sponsorship money. Yes in an ideal world it would be nice to keep both drivers, but its not an ideal world and they didn’t have that option. Hulkenberg had a good weekend in Brazil but overall he has been shaded by Rubens – and when you weigh up what Barrichello brings to the technical side of the team then its an understandable decision. If they wanted Maldonado for pure performance then they’d be making a mistake, but that clearly is not the situation. Its an unfortunate situation, but it isn’t a mistake IMO. The most important thing is that the team survives.

    1. My thoughts exactly. Williams are a racing team 1st and need money to go racing. Only once they have sorted funding can they then pick talent.

  11. Not supporting Williams anymore. That’s the stupidest decision in F1.

    1. if they didn’t make the decision there wouldn’t be a team to support – so either way

  12. Never know… could be a blessing in disguise… what if Webber leaves Red Bull now… Hulkenberg could be an ideal replacement…

    A good driver, but Barrichello has had the edge on him, Maldonado will offer next to nothing. A shame.

  13. I know Williams may come off as the bad guys but they clearly need the money which shows just what a sorry state they’re in if they’re willing to let go of Hulkenberg. I hope the money kickstarts them and they’ve been steadily getting better in the second half of the year but they still only just beat Force India. I hope Williams can recover because I just have this awful feeling regarding them at the moment.

    Personally, I think they’ve got rid of the wrong driver. Barrichello’s is meant to be technically brilliant and his experience will be a massive help. It was probably the right decision in that way but Hulkenberg could be something really special and just what they need although of course, if they don’t give him the car it’s all for nothing anyway so they probably did make the right decision but it’s not nice to see a potential future world champ leave a team I’d hoped he’d help save. I suppose whichever one they got rid of it still would have shown just how bad the situation is for them.

  14. holy cow!… that’s incredible…

    tho, maybe Hulkenberg at Renault next year :D? Kubica-the Hulk would be a great lineup!

  15. This might sound quite harsh as I like Nico but I’d rather see Williams on the grid next year. If I am correct they are the last fully independant team left, they need to keep afloat somehow, even at the expence of talent such as Nico.

  16. I wonder if this decision will turn out as badly for the team as when they let Jenson go to bring in Montoya… At the time they had an embarrasement of drivers, and chose to let the wrong one go, well at least in my mind they did…. they should have let Ralf go back in the day and kept Jenson who had shone in his few rookie races.

    At the moment I think the team really needs the stability that a driver of Rubens ilk can bring to the team as well as his experience both on and off the track, its a great shame they are letting the Hulk go because he has proven this season that he has the talent to belong in F1 and given another season will flourish (assuming he can get a respectable drive).

    However the team also need the money that Monaldo is bringing with him…..

    If I was Willi Webber I would be looking to see if I could get the 2nd Force India seat as the best option (although i think Force India is another team that could do with a driver of Rubens standing to push them to the next level).

    1. But in 2001, Ralf won three races for Williams and Montoya one. Would Jenson have achieved anything like as much? Even by the low standard afforded to him by an underpowered Benetton, Button was absolutely terrible in 2001. I was amazed the team kept him on for another year.

      1. Button was absolutely terrible in 2001. I was amazed the team kept him on for another year.

        Was he really that much worse than any number two in a team run by Flavio Briatore?

        1. Fair point…but other number twos under Flavio have at least knuckled down and looked like they were trying, rather than swanning around on their yachts.

      2. In the few races Jenson had in 2000 he gave Ralf a good run for his money, I believe out qualifying him once and beating him in a race once (haven’t got the time to fact check at the mo).

        Ralf was always quick but he never was a racer, something Jenson showed in his 1st season as well as something JPM brought with him.

        As for Jenson’s time at Renault he was in a woeful car that was miles off the pace of his team mate as Flav did his usual trick of bringing 1 car and a pile of spares, rejects and junk that where bodged together so he could make up the required numbers.

  17. No point saying sponsorship money blah, blah. The points Hulk gets pays a lot more than the 15 million Maldanado can bring in. If anything this is a terrible decision financially which will lead to their demise.

    1. They want the best of both worlds. Collect Nico’s points money, get Maldonado’s sponsorship money and gamble it’s enough to get them to a place where they can score better points and get a higher position next year. but with Renault and Mercedes improving, they won’t get any higher than 6th again.

      Nice way to repay the guy who got you your first pole in years. I hope the Hulk slots into the second Renault seat and leaves Williams for dust. To me, signing a mediocre driver for money is as bad as giving up your independence as a team for financial investment.

      1. Agree across the board with that. Maybe Maldanado didn’t want Nico as a partner… a bit afraid of being outshone by Nico. It wouldn’t be as much an issue with an old vet like Rubens.

      2. I’m not happy with Williams dropping Hulk either but to say Maldanado is a mediocre driver is a bit premature…

        1. Problem is he’s been in GP2 for four years and before this year had only scored four wins (even Kobayashi, not the greatest GP2 driver, scored one, so it’s not the greatest of achievements).

          Kobayashi taught us that what matters in F1 is what happens in F1, but Maldonado had to wait until the four best GP2 drivers all left in the same year to compete. He’s also older than I am, which isn’t the age you want to be getting into F1 nowadays.

  18. So where can he go now? Renault? Force India? Any of the new teams?

    1. Hopefully Force India. I dont want Renault to drop Petrov…

      1. But maybe Kubica might/will jump ship rather than having another winter guessing what the team he signed with will be called come the start of the season.

  19. No deal loaning him out to another team then? (as Williams did with Button and cashed in a few years later) They’ll regret that, as BMW must be doing now with the new World Champion…

    Maybe Willi Weber’s smarter than that, but seems surprising as even Barrichello can’t go on for ever.

    Where on earth does Nico go? Renault’s the best seat that’s officially available – although I’d like to think Petrov’s done enough to stay on there. Anything else is a step backwards, unless Lotus can make a giant leap.

  20. Williams say they have all the money they need and have been in profit all through the hard times!

    Just think how successful they might have been if they had stuck with loyalty and kept two good drivers long term, I don’t think they ever have.

    Shame, I’ve always had a soft spot for the team but they have made some pretty crackpot decisions over and over again!

    1. If you’re right and they have been in profic all this time it makes me wonder if williams are trying to save money to do something big. An HRT buyout maybe? We know the teams have links now and we already know HRT is running a driver for williams in the young driver test.

      Am I right in saying that teams can run a car thats designed by another team so long as they build and develop it themselves? In which case they could run year old williams designs.

      Just a thought ;)

      1. The accounts may have shown a profit for the last few years but that may be because they cut their cloth accordingly, so they didn’t spend what they didn’t have.

        If a big sponsor had come in with an extra £50m I sure they would have spent it on trying to make the car faster rather than leave it all in the bank.

  21. I imagine Barrichello brings vast development experience that Hulkenburg just can not match. I expect Williams looked at the time gained over the season as a result of Barrichello’s input vs time gained as a result of Hulkenbergs input.

    I still haven’t quite got over Hulkenberg’s ridiculous and unpunished behaviour blocking and cutting the chicane lap after lap at Monza so I can’t say I’m bothered.

  22. Hülkenberg lost his seat because he lacks money and Petrov will keep his thanks to them.

    Sometimes F1 can be really terrible…

  23. He showed his brilliant one-lap speed sometime this year but lacked consistency in race, which is one of the reasons he failed to secure his seat along with financial reason.

    Autosport has report he declined Williams multi-year deal including a loan deal to HRT, whose decision seem to be wrong because he needs to experience more f1 races under his belt and there is less opportunity to run a f1 machine due to test ban in season if he choose test driver role.

    He should secure a f1 seat even if the team is sluggish or he pays money to the team to survive in f1.

    1. Sounds logical for Williams to do that, although you would imagine they rather should have tried to get Maldonado to be loaned to HRT next year.
      But I would imagine, the Hulk is in with a chance of getting that HRT drive without Williams anyhow, if not a deal with Force India, Renault or Virgin. His manager is a pretty good deal maker, he proved that with both Schumachers (who would have imagined Ralf getting so good a deal from Toyota?).

  24. so what’s the point for maldonado still doing young drivers’ test with HRT when he’s already confirm for Williams seat next season?

    anyway good news for Barrichello, maybe 2011 is he last season…

    1. Get as much track time in a F1 car as possible? And he will value the Williams drive all the more after having a run in that roadblock of a car.

  25. I dont rate Maldonado a better driver than Hulkenberg, I dont know many (if any) who do. At the end of the day, this decision has boiled down to money and who has more. It’s a shame that a team with racing pedigree like Williams have to make decisions like this.

  26. I don’t see as they had much choice…

  27. As I said in the round up thread, I guess there will be a lot more to come in the silly season!
    Hulk to Proton-Renault? Test at Mercedes? Force India?
    Let’s see.

  28. Sadly this is the economic reality of Formula One. For a team struggling to make ends meet it’s better to take the certainty of sponsorship money over the possible “points-mean-prizes” money of a promising driver who delivers no cash up front.

    I’m actually amazed Weber hasn’t found enough sponsorship for Nico to warrant him keeping his seat. Maybe it’s the saturation of Germans in F1 at present but you would have thought a talent like Hulk’s could have found some decent backing.

    Anyway, my hope is that Hulkenberg finds a decent seat next year and doesn’t end up scrabbling around at the back in a Toro Rosso Virgin, Ex-Lotus or HRT. That sort of downwards step can set a career back years, if it ever recovers.

  29. Nico will have his seat in F1 in 2011.

    How certain is Weber of this? (Answers preferably in percentage terms)

  30. Is he replacing Webber at Redbull?

  31. Looked like his pole in Brazil had really confused Williams management, they completely didn’t expect it.
    Also, suspicious bad form now in Abu Dhabi. But I stop short here.

  32. Reminds me when they dumped Hill for Frentzen.

    Williams need stability to get the money in long term, not pay drivers. Shame, Nico was good fun.

  33. As a Venezuelan, I’m looking forward to seeing Maldonado in Formula 1 but I agree this was perhaps not the best way. Despite I expected more of him in his rookie season, I think Hülkenberg deserved to keep his seat, but as some have already said, that is F1’s harsh economic reality and to race you need the money first. On top of that, Maldonado may actually be good, he’s no Yamamoto. So we’ll see.

    I hope The Hulk gets a good drive somewhere else. As I see it, I think he would be a good replacement for Liuzzi in Force India. I would give Petrov another chance (plus the money comes in handy) but I think Liuzzi’s chance is through. Too bad, he’s a likeable bloke.

  34. Such a shame they took money then talent.Nothing against Maldonado may be he do better then Nico in 2011 but they should have kept the recent line up.Renault may he his last option but I think Petrov did enough to keep his seat for 2011. Not sure where will he end up,may be a team like Virgin or Lotus but I don’t think that they promise too much in 2011.

  35. Why do people keep saying they needed to get rid of Barrichello?

    That’s just rediculous. Have you not been watching the races this season?!

  36. I hope he does stay around. He’s obviously caught the F1 bug. But I can’t see where he would end up.

  37. I am disappointed that Hulkenberg is leaving Williams, not just because I would like to see him stay at Williams but also because it looks like Williams didn’t resign him because they need a pay driver, which isn’t good news for one of my favourite teams. I have read that Williams wanted to sign Hulkenberg to a long term contract so maybe the situation isn’t as straight forward as it seems.

    If Williams need the money that a pay driver can bring, then deciding to resign Barrichello instead of Hulkenberg is the best decision as they need a driver with experience and Hulkenberg would not be ready to lead a team in 2011.

    Weber states that Hulkenberg will have a seat in F1 next year but if he can’t bring sponsorship with him I can’t really see where he will get a race seat next year, and as we know a test driver doesn’t get that much in an actual F1 car in modern F1.

  38. The Hulk to Red Bull? He would make a good No.2, as Vettel will definitely be the No. 1 at RBR now – stated or unstated!
    I see Horner shopping around for a No.2 driver as i dont think Webber will play ball. And Webber cannot possibly think he will have equal status with Vettel if he stays. If Webber stays at Red Bull, it is because deep down, he know Vettel is better than him.

    1. I dunno, Webbers the type of person who’d want to stay ar red bull and try to beat vettel to prove a point!

  39. I think he will go to Red Bull when Mark Webber announces he is not staying there.

  40. first part of season was horrible for him but then was really ok, see u on track in 2011 nico ;)

  41. why everybody are worrying about the future of nico?
    he is not as good as you think, but drove well in williams (second part of season). it`s apparently his decision to leave williams :)
    i suppose that he find seat as a test driver or in poor team like hrt :) but malando grabs that seat before him, hihihi :)

  42. Not that I expect Schumacher to be giving up his ride, but it seems to me as though the Hulk might be a good fit over at Mercedes. Even perhaps as the “test” and reserve driver for a season or 2. Schui isn’t gonna be there forever. That said, I think he’s shown that he deserves to be a full time (salaried!) F1 driver, and it would be a shame not to see him on the grid with a quality team next year.

  43. None of us are in a position to judge if this is a ‘bad decision by Williams’ or not. For all we know he could have had offers from other teams whom Weber maybe deemed giving the guy a more promising future. I know this is a little obvious but people seem to be missing this.

  44. Younger Hamilton
    15th November 2010, 18:07

    I wasnt expecting that i cant believe it what a great driver and great meaningful season for him.I hope Nico succeeds in the team he goes to but what he needs to sort out is his temper he gets angry really quickly seen during the race at Valencia and Singapore Qualifying

  45. I see Nico joining Force India along side Sutil because im pretty sure Liuzzi’s time is up on that team. I also don’t see Petrov leaving Renault for next season bcuz of all the Russian sponsorship/money he’s providing Renault, and if i was Sir Frank Williams i would give Bruno Senna a shot at joining the team.

    1. You had me until the Senna bit. Senna is rubbish.

      Maldonado is going to flop, in my opinion. I haven’t seen any particular brilliance from him. I just hope Sir Frank knows how to deal with the heat from Caracas when Chavez’s golden boy is getting trounced by the pensioner. He didn’t make a deal with the devil but close enough.

      Hulk should have tried to get an Indy deal, like with Montoya, rather than the HRT thing. It’s one thing to be exiled in American in that nutty car racing series here, and quite another to be wrestling with that HRT. At least in America he might have a car not desperate to swap ends and every moment and then break down the next. In a decent car Nico might lay a whipping on the Indycar field on the road courses at least.

    2. If Force India do decide to replace one of their drivers surely Di Resta will get the seat. Unless there are some surprises in the driver market I think the only options open to Hulkenberg for 2011 may either be a drive at one of the new teams but more likely a test driver role.

  46. Terrible, I wish Nico the best, and hopefully he stays in F1.

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