Two days after the announcement that the Renault team will not renew its contract, more and more clarity comes into the possible future of Nico Hullkenberg in formula 1.
The 32-year-old apparently has two possibilities: First, to put everything on a map and to hope, that no one will be convinced by the Red Bull’s own drivers and that he will come alongside Max Verstappen to an unexpected big chance. Or second, to choose the safe version and sign early at Haas.
The Red Bull variant is not entirely excluded. Hilkenberg and the grumpy motor sports consultant Helmut Marko, this would typically fit together quite well, as analysed in the current issue Starting Grid”. But Red Bull’s interest seems to be understandable.
Team leader Christian Horner does not explicitly refute the Hullkenberg variant, but makes it diplomatically clear to “Sky”: “If someone like him is on the market
Team leader Christian Horner, it depends on whether or not he is a Haas driver next year. But we would rather take one of the three drivers we have.”
More on this: The driver’s puzzle of formula 1
Alexander Albon has since this weekend had the opportunity to recommend himself for higher tasks in the Red Bull. Pierre Gasly must give new impetus to his career at Toro Rosso. A difficult task. And Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull argues, is well known. The Russians did not have to be seen in the Red Bull for an evaluation for 2020.
Hullkenberg after Rausschmiss was not angry with Renault
Hullkenberg takes his Renault-Aus anyway. He did post a magazine cover before the announcement, which featured his successor Esteban Ocon in the Renault overalls. But he’s been wearing it ever since. He seems to be good things. He probably has other options and is therefore in such a positive mood,”suggests Team colleague Daniel Ricciardo.
Hullkenberg himself confirms t hat he is”optimistic”to drive also 2020 formula 1. Formula E, WEC and IndyCar would at best be an emergency solution, but not his Plan A. The negotiations with Haas must now be organised:’I do not have a manager’, says the German,’but a consultant and a lawyer who takes care of such things. He’s taking some calls from me.”
The fact that there are concrete negotiations between Hullkenberg and Haas to take over the cockpit of Romain Grosjean is no longer a secret:”Sure,”says Technical Director Gunter Steiner.”Sure.” If a driver like Nico is on the market, we have to consider that. But we have not yet made our decision.”
Incidentally, the presentation that Ocon received the cockpit ticket because of his French passport is too simplified. Renault consultant Alain Prost admits that this is a plus in his interview with Canal+, but: “This was not the decisive criterion. There has been a whole bunch of other reasons.
First: Ocon with his 22-year-old is cheaper than Routinier Hullkenberg with 32. Second: Ocon is hungrier than ever after a year break from formula 1, has trained 2019 hard and is physically fit as a driver can be, burns on a comeback. A fire that may not be so intense at Hullkenberg.
Abiteboul: Late reparation for 2018?
Third (also explained in detail in the podcast’Starting Grid’): Renault team leader Cyril Abiteboul was his Mercedes-Pendant Toto Wolff after the action he pulled with Ocon a year ago, Guilty as charged. Perhaps also against the background that Renault/Nissan and Daimler work closely together at group level in the form of a strategic alliance.
And then there was another topic: “There have been negotiations with Nico and he is someone we value very much,” says Prost. “There have been negotiations with Nico and he is someone we value very much.” But he wanted a two-year contract, and we only wanted one year plus option for another.”A detail that Renault may have encouraged Ocon to eventually favor.
As well as the unfortunate rain race in Hockenheim, Lying in the fourth place, Hullkenberg is eliminated: “I recently went through the picture when Nico was lying so well and then flew off in the last corner and sat on the bulletin board,” says Sky expert Martin Brundle and suspects: “This could have been the moment, in which he was supposed to get a fantastic result.”
Because Hullkenberg himself says it looked very good for a while. But then everything went really fast over the summer. With the German, be “a driver of very high quality on the market”, says Brundle. Unfortunately, it is very late, so there are very few possibilities for next year. I’d be surprised if we lost Nico from formula one. But at the moment this is one of the possibilities.”
Hullkenberg has done”exceptional work”for Renault, Prost sprinkles roses on him. But: “After three years, he realises, and that is true, that we are not making enough progress on the Chassis side fast enough. We needed someone who is a little more long-term oriented, who is fresh and enthusiastic.”
Ocon: For at least two years no Mercedes driver
“So is Nico,”Prost says,”but it will all take a while. We still have a few things to change on the team and think about the future. Esteban has the experience of Mercedes on his side and the youth. I wouldn’t have accepted him coming to us as a Mercedes loan. But as long as he is with Renault, he will be a Renault driver.”
“We must not overlook the advantage of two experienced pilots. But Esteban brings a natural dynamism to the team, because he’s going to want to fight to stand up to Daniel. It must be well balanced, but that is what we expect of him. It is at least a two-year project and we have an option for a third year. For us, this is a bet on the future.”
The decision to finally put Hullkenberg at the door was”very difficult”, Abiteboul assures. Because, “We love Nico. He was instrumental in the progress that we have made. He was crucial to our fourth World Cup, and he was seventh in the driver’s World Cup. This is the best he could achieve.”
“But such a decision is not just about pure speed. We have also considered the collective dynamics,”Abiteboul explains. And we need to think about the medium to long term future. Not only at 2020, but also at 2021. Nico, on the other hand, has opportunities to continue his career elsewhere. This was important to us at Carlos, and it is also important to us at Nico.”
And further:”Esteban brings dynamism to the team. He’s probably burning up on the racetrack, and he’s really excited about his comeback because he hasn’t had a cockpit in a year. These are all elements that have entered into our decision.”