Having revealed that he hoped to finalise his 2014 driver line-up 'within days'
, Lotus team boss Eric Boullier has now confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg is the man he wants to replace Kimi Raikkonen next year.
The Lotus vacancy is the most attractive option still available on the grid for the new season, with Romain Grosjean being retained to fill the other seat.
Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Massa have all been linked to the drive since it was confirmed that Raikkonen would be leaving to return to Ferrari, with Boullier insisting that Sauber driver Hulkenberg was the man he wanted.
“I would love to [sign him],” he told the official F1 website. “This is the recommendation that I gave to my board.”
Any deal to sign Hulkenberg is believed to be dependent on Lotus concluding an investment deal that has been ongoing for some time, with Boullier saying he was hopeful that the deal would be concluded 'very soon'.
“This is a very complicated matter as it touches so many more issues than only Lotus,” he said. “It is involving Genii - and many other aspects and many different parties. We probably underestimated a bit the amount of work such a deal implies. All the paperwork and all compliance is done, the lawyers gave it the nod - now we have to bring all these things together.
“I would say that 98 percent of the deal is done. The only issue that there is right now is that there is a deadline. We already dragged this out for many months, but we cannot drag it out forever. We have a deadline - and I hope they will not miss it.”
Should the team require a driver with funding, Maldonado could move into pole position for the seat, with Boullier confirming that talks with the Williams driver had taken place.
"We have had talks with him," he told Sky Sports
, "and those discussions are still going on."