Despite making F1 news headlines for his impressive qualifying results, Nico Hulkenberg wants a more competitive race car in 2024.
Nico Hulkenberg was a subject of relative controversy when Haas announced his arrival for the 2023 season. However, it wasn’t long before the 36-year-old once again proved his abilities with an F1 car.
Haas were largely uncompetitive this year, especially over a race distance. This meant qualifying soon became the best opportunity for Hulkenberg to produce some magic.
He achieved this on a relatively consistent basis, making several Q3 appearances in the VF-23. Whilst his individual performances in 2023 were impressive, points were almost always beyond reach.
Naturally, the LeMans winner wants to explore any possible opportunities in the sport. This makes his discussions with Sauber earlier this year (widely reported by F1 news outlets) hardly surprising.
Hulkenberg has even admitted to holding discussions with the Swiss outfit. Some outlets suggest that a Guenther Steiner veto prevented the German from switching teams, although this is difficult to confirm.
Movement expected in 2024
In any case, Hulkenberg’s contract expires at the end of 2024 – giving him more flexibility in the market. Audi, who will take over from Sauber in 2026, has been vocal about its interest in an experienced driver.
Having a German driver is also a well-known preference for the manufacturer team. Therefore, it seems logical that a contract will at least be discussed at some stage next season.
Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, also on expiring deals, are already under scrutiny. Sauber hasn’t decided which of these drivers – if any – will be part of their long-term project for 2025 and beyond.
Meanwhile, Hulkenberg’s comments about the sluggish development at Haas show a clear desire to climb up the field. He’s already an interest in Audi’s entry into the sport.
Although the pecking order could change again in 2024, another stagnant year for the American team could drive the 36-year-old into the arms of rivals.