A lack of sponsors and the power of pay-drivers could lock Nico Hulkenberg out of formula one.
On the one hand, the German is the hot property at the tail-end of the 2014 ‘silly season’, linked with moves to Lotus, McLaren and Force India.
McLaren, however, is tipped to stick with the Mexican-backed Sergio Perez, while Pastor Maldonado’s PDVSA millions are speaking loudly at Lotus, whose 35 per cent team sale to a group of investors may have failed.
Staying at Sauber could be problematic for Hulkenberg because of the importance of Sergey Sirotkin, Esteban Gutierrez or even Vitaly Petrov’s powerful backers, and even a return to Force India may now be off the table.
McLaren is desperately seeking a F1 seat for its youngster, the new Formula Renault 3.5 champion Jan Magnussen, and Marussia seems to fit the bill.
“Kevin has impressed us in the tests he has done,” sporting director Graeme Lowdon is quoted by France’s L’Equipe.
“We are a team that brings young drivers into F1 so it (signing him) would fit with us,” he added.
However, with the Ferrari-linked Jules Bianchi already signed for 2014, Lowdon said he would also like to keep Max Chilton on board, because continuity and experience will be important for the all-new rules next year.
Briton Chilton also has millions in backing courtesy of the insurance giant Aon, where his father Grahame is the vice chairman.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport said Chilton’s departure at Marussia could see his reportedly EUR 12 million in Aon backing race straight to Force India.
Force India is believed to be extending its deal with Adrian Sutil, who has some backing by the German computer company Medion.
That leaves the substantially unsponsored Paul di Resta, who has had an often fraught 2013 season, in the dark.
“It’s mighty tough out there at the moment,” the Scot told the Telegraph this week. “Who wouldn’t be worried?”
In short, even Hulkenberg and his manager Werner Heinz are having “sleepless nights” about the situation, the Swiss newspaper Blick claims.
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