18 November 2013
Hulkenberg has options as Sauber opens arms
Sauber's renewed interest in retaining Nico Hulkenberg for 2014 gives the German a fallback position should his desired move to Lotus not pan out.
Nico Hulkenberg's F1 future appears a little more secure after the US Grand Prix, as it was revealed that he has an option to stay with Sauber should his bid for the Lotus vacancy be rejected.
On first viewing, the German does not appear to be short of opportunities, with a section of the paddock also convinced that he will return to Force India in 2014. However, a lack of financial backing and his less-than-ideal build cast a doubt over his viability even while he was picking Sauber's season off the floor with a string of top six results.
When Kimi Raikkonen confirmed that he was leaving Lotus for Ferrari, Hulkenberg's name was among the first touted as a replacement, but the appearance of the well-heeled Pastor Maldonado on the driver market, allied to Lotus' widely-reported financial troubles, appeared to put the Venezuelan in pole position for what could be a plum drive next year.
The same issue has also arisen with Sergio Perez's release from McLaren, but Hulkenberg is clinging to the hope that Lotus' 35 per cent buy-in talks with Quantum Motorsport finally materialise into a deal that will lavish the Enstone squad with the funds to sign drivers on merit rather than money.
Those negotiations again appeared to take a positive spin with Quantum head man Mansoor Ijaz joining team principal Eric Boullier in the Circuit of the Americas paddock and telling Sky Sports that he expected a deal to be done in the next week. Ijaz has already made it clear that he favours Hulkenberg over Maldonado for next season, but has yet to deliver on his promise of funds.
"We're going to make that part of it happen, in terms of making sure [Lotus] gets enough money,” he said when asked about the possibility of confirming Hulkenberg alongside Romain Grosjean for 2014, “One of the things I did over the past three weeks, while things kept on getting slowed down, was to put other opportunities that we had in place to go ahead and fund.
"So, in fact, we may bring a lot more money to the table than we initially anticipated, just to make sure that the back-stop behind the team [is there] to keep it going for a very long time.
“That's part one, just to buy into the team. The second part is the sponsorships that we're going to bring. No sponsor's going to come on board from our side until they know that the share purchase part of the occasion is complete. But, when that's complete, then those sponsorships will come pretty quickly - and they're major sponsorships we're talking about, they're not small sponsorships.
"We are still very much going to join them, [and] we're very close to the end now. I'm pretty sure that we'll get it done this week. We will not quit until we finish it this week - and we will finish it this week."
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