Hanging onto his Sauber seat is perhaps now Nico Hulkenberg’s only chance of staying in formula one beyond 2013.
Almost signed by Ferrari, and earlier linked to McLaren, the German has also come close to a move to Lotus for 2014.
The latter option now appears off the table, as the Enstone based team’s finances falter and bosses look to the lucratively-backed Pastor Maldonado to plug the budget hole.
“Every career is different,” Hulkenberg told F1’s official website on Saturday, “and mine seems to be as it is now with a few different teams, with a bit of movement, with a bit of nail biting.”
Indeed, after capturing pole in the 2010 finale as a rookie, Williams let Hulkenberg go — again because of Maldonado’s millions.
“It definitely was a bad experience,” he recalled, “how it all happened.
“Of course you then have that in the back of your mind and get more suspicious of what people tell you because I have been lied to, to my face.”
Hulkenberg sat out 2011 as Force India’s reserve driver, and returned to the grid last year. He then moved to Sauber for 2013, and to this date Force India still owes him money, according to the Swiss newspaper Blick.
The Sauber story hasn’t been much better for Hulkenberg, despite several occasions when his undoubted talent was able to shine through.
World champion and countryman Sebastian Vettel said it is a travesty Hulkenberg is yet again waiting to be paid.
“It’s a shame he doesn’t have a car (for 2014) yet,” Vettel is quoted by DPA news agency, “because he is one of the fastest drivers in the field.
“It’s a difficult time for some teams in F1,” he added, “but also for some drivers. He (Hulkenberg) is yet to get a penny,” Vettel claimed.
Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber team boss, refused to comment on Vettel’s assertion that Hulkenberg has not been paid at all in 2013.
“I do not feel compelled to comment on everything that is said in the paddock,” she insisted.
The fact that Hulkenberg and Sauber do not want to get into a Raikkonen-Lotus-style spat could be a sign that the relationship will continue into 2014.
Hulkenberg confirmed that is a possibility.
“Yes,” he said when asked if he can imagine staying at the Swiss team. And “I think so,” the 26-year-old added when asked if Sauber can imagine keeping him.
“Why not? For now we are having a good go. The spirit is up.”
© RIF | GMM