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Hulkenberg to make Sauber switch in 2013
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Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Oct 2012   |  12:25 pm GMT  |  65 comments

Sauber has confirmed the worst kept secret in F1 of the past two weeks: Nico Hulkenberg will drive for the Swiss team in 2013.

With Sergio Perez moving to McLaren to replace Lewis Hamilton at season’s end, and Kamui Kobayashi’s future at the team looking increasing uncertain, Hulkenberg had moved firmly into view for Sauber particularly after rumoured suitors Ferrari opted to retain Felipe Massa.

Rather like Lotus earlier this week, Sauber unusually didn’t confirm both of their drivers for next season together, simply stating that Hulkenberg’s team-mate would be revealed “at a later date”. Mexico’s latest young hope Esteban Gutiérrez is clearly in the running and will test for the team in Abu Dhabi’s young guns’ sessions next week. 

Sauber will be Hulkenberg’s third different team in three seasons of racing in Formula 1 but the German appears to have been enticed by the team’s strong step forward this season.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the Sauber F1 Team,” he said in Wednesday morning’s announcement.

“It’s a well-placed team and very competitive. Plus it’s a team in which young drivers have repeatedly delivered exceptional performances. I would like to take up that baton.

“The Sauber F1 Team is currently going through a very positive development and I’m certain that together we can achieve a lot.”

Sauber have a history of strong young driver choices and, with two seasons of F1 under his belt, Hulkenberg is likely to be the team’s de factor leader next season given Kamui Kobayashi appears unlikely to stay on.

Monisha Kaltenborn said of the signing: “We’ve been observing Nico for some time now and his performances have been very persuasive.

“That was the case in GP2 and has continued into Formula One. An obvious highlight was how he scored pole at Interlagos in 2010 despite the most challenging external conditions. He clearly showed that he can seize the chance if it arises.

“But high spots like that are one thing; systematic teamwork is another – and on that score I have confidence in Nico too. I’m sure he will fit in very well with the Sauber F1 Team. We look forward to working together with him.”

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65 Comments
  1. Chapor says:

    Interesting… But James, were will Jaime drive next year? You do know don’t you? Since you say that Kamui is unlikely to stay on, that means that either Jaime will get the seat at Sauber, or it means that, since Grosjean is not confirmed at Lotus yet and there were talks last year between Jaime and Lotus, that Jamie will partner Kimi next year… How close am I? :-)

    1. Simmo says:

      I think that Lotus are close to signing Grosjean for another year, which would leave Force India or Sauber. I believe that Sauber will keep Kobayashi (and not make the same mistake STR made), therefore diResta and Alguersuari at the Force?

    2. Ricardo says:

      A month and a half ago I read a Q&A by Jaime where he stated clearly and beyond doubt that he would be driving a F1 car in 2013. Back then I though he would be replacing Kamui who, unfortunately is not delivering what was expected (at least by myself). This being said, today I read in a Spanish paper Alguer saying he finished his testing season with Pirelli, telling how different the 2013 tyres would be and how important it is to have someone who has tested those tyres in various temperatures and circuits. Oddly, he said he had a little notebook where he wrote down this data. It sounded like the guy is offering his services to the best bidder (or maybe just the book). This being said, he might end up in Sauber, but I do not think it has already been discussed

    3. Jay says:

      Not at all.

      Force India and even that looks an outside chance.

    4. Pete_from Nepal says:

      But where is Kobayash??? I like Hulk and Grosjean and Jaime, but Kobayashi is the most exciting out of these (except Grosjean who leaps over cars, but that doesn’t count)

    5. Rob Newman says:

      Grosjean is managed by Eric B. Don’t think he is going anywhere else next season.

      1. Just like Gutiérrez, the key delay is most likely continuing talks with sponsors

        Grosjean will probably not be there next year if they don’t get Total money again

  2. Andy says:

    Good for them! Nico is young but has already a lot of experience.
    Anybody thinks Adrian Sutil makes a comeback?

  3. Joe B says:

    I think this could be a big move for Hulkenberg; if Sauber’s form continues and if he delivers, this could be his stepping stone to the big leagues, like Perez to McLaren.

    That’s two big ifs, though. Hulkenberg has impressed me this year, but it’s been tight between him and DiResta. And I feel sorry for Paul for being overlooked during this silly season, but then he’s not had that one breakthrough performance that both Hulkenberg and Perez have delivered during their careers, so it makes sense.

    All the best to Nico though. Nothing like a driver shake-up to add interest to the next season…

    1. Martin says:

      I believe that Di Resta’s problem is that these days the top teams need the next Senna as the next Prost will qualify too far down the grid, even if it is only 2-3 places.

      If you want to win in this era, your best chance is to lead into the first corner. Valencia is the only dry race this season that has significanly varied from this.

      Di Resta is about 0.15s behind Nico on average, but Paul’s edge was all in the first part of the season. I suspect Perez will struggle at McLaren for similar reasons – too often he would lose too much in the first few laps – unless the McLaren is the clearly the fastest car in the field. Jaime is another.

      Cheers,

      Martin

  4. T Nelan Esq says:

    Bi**h!

  5. Simmo says:

    That’s a shame, I really liked the Hulkenberg – Di Resta we had at Force India, but I suppose if this is better for Hulkenberg then good for him :)

  6. Irish con says:

    At the start of the year I thought di resta would beat hulkenburg and move on but I have to admit I was wrong. Nico for me has proved he just has that little something extra than Paul. Paul to me is like another nico rosberg. I mean that in the sense that if the car is good enough for 7th he will put it 7th but not do what Lewis and Fernando do and better the car. I think the hulk is the best driver outside the big teams now and that McLaren should of tool him over Perez

    1. Allan says:

      I agree with you. On the one hand, I quite like Perez and really do hope he goes on to score well at McLaren. Having said that, I think Hulk is the better pure driver. Most of Perez’s strong finishes have owed a lot to a Sauber that is easy on its tires and thus created unique strategic opportunities. Of course, Sergio had to pull off the drives to make those strategies work…

  7. Stuart Harrison says:

    I suspect that 2013 will end up as a repeat of 2011 – only three teams fighting for victories. If so, it’s a bit unfortunate for all the drivers playing musical chairs right now as they’re going to be scrapping over 8th-10th places next year, not challenging for wins as Perez and Maldonado have done this year.

    Something needs to be done to bring the “lesser” teams back into the fight, but I have no idea what :)

    James – is there any substance to the rumours of financial difficulties at Sahara Force India? Might Di Resta be out of luck for next year?

    1. Simmo says:

      The trouble is if the FIA limit what teams can do it bunches everyone up, but then people complain that teams cannot use their innovations, so it becomes almost a spec series.

      If they let teams do what they want it becomes what we had last year. Big teams (with money) are fast, and it just runs like that :(

  8. nns2703 says:

    I am dissapointed by the hulk move.If he was moving to a top team then ok but moving from one team to another of same level when ur team already want to keep you.
    And above of all force india give him the chance when he was out of work and when his time of repayment come he just back stabbed them.
    In all this force india is at loss first by firing a driver who was fast,consistent and bringing 10million$ to the team and what hulk was bringing to the team answer is nothing.Neither he was experience nor bringing any sponsorship.
    He wasted 4-5 races for coming into the groove.If Sutil was kept then force india would probably have been sixth by now.

    1. mark says:

      You should look at the bigger picture at force india with nico and paul being at the same level other teams would struggle to know if they are both either great drivers or average drivers doing no better than the car deserves.
      also he has only been announced as driving for sauber for next year so it is entirely possible ferrari wanted him there to watch his progress before giving him a drive at ferrari in 2012

    2. Simmo says:

      I am disappointed too. However, Sauber are currently in a better position then FI, and with FI’s future in a bit of doubt this is a safer game for Hulkenberg.

      Also, this is F1, you sign with a team, you then move on. That being said, he did have a contract with Force India for 2013, so he should have stayed, so, yeah I agree :)

    3. NormanCh says:

      Good point, but for Sutil it was the legal case that messed him up. Back to the point remember Sauber is powered by Ferrari. So Ferrari can monitor The Hulk’s performances better if he is STILL romoured to replace Massa in 2014.

      1. Onko says:

        You are spot on friend.
        Hulk is Ferrari bound which ever you slice it.
        He’s young and very, very talented,and don’t
        foreget Germany second bigest market,the same
        applys to Ducatti with Hayden for their US
        market, the deference Hayden have no spine.

      2. Kevin says:

        He is too tall for a Ferrari. Same with Webber.

    4. thejudge13 says:

      There’s a number of reasons why Sauber have maybe peaked this year and will fall back in 2013 (too long to list here http://wp.me/p2HWOP-iV ) and at best this can be viewed as a sideways move for Nico.

      He has done a great job (as evidenced by being ahead of his team mate) particularly having a 1 year forced absence from F1 after only 1 season.

      But Force India have been closing the gap slowly on Sauber since Monza when it was 37 points – its now 23 and Sauber since had the 3rd place Kamui result in Japan too.

      Its as though Sauber are very clever at designing a car but Force India have the bigger budget to copy the ideas and are better in the development race.

      Clever design around the rules will be less possible next year and maybe Force India’s new tooling and equipment announced by Mallya this week will flip the edge back toward them as it was in 2011.

    5. Chris says:

      Nns, I’m to disapointed he’s left us, but he’s done more than his fair share this year, so give him a break!! I really like him and wish him luck, go and win Sauber their first race I say!! At the moment, Sauber is a step up and you can’t blame him for taking it!!

  9. goferet says:

    This is one of those feel good stories that show hard work, believe in oneself and perseverance will see you
    go places.

    After Hulkenberg was dropped by Williams, I feared the worst but glad to see, it has all worked out for the better.

    For sure last season the Force India ride looked like the best midfield team in the house but this year Sauber came into it’s own & with a strong driver in Hulkenberg we could see yet more podiums coming from the Swiss team more so because Hulkenberg is a better qualifier than either Sauber drivers.

    Hmm… Hold on a sec, has F1 ever had a world champion come through the ranks using the Sauber route? I don’t think it has ever happened.

    Whatever the case, I wish the team good luck.

    Now seeing as Sauber usually acts like an academy for Ferrari plus it was just mentioned Hulkenberg will be racing for the team in 2013, so it appears we shall see more changes with the Hulk upgrading to the Ferrari seat come 2014.

    But if Massa keeps getting stronger then the move will just be pushed back a couple of seasons for one thing am sure about two roasters (in the form of Sebi & Fred) will never share the garage.

    Anyway, got to feel sorry for Kobayshi for ever since Toyota left the sport, he has been racing on borrowed time & I guess the Perez podiums in the sister car have hurt his prospects too.

    P.s.

    Hopefully Sutil gets his Force India seat back.

    1. Spinodontosaurus says:

      Raikkonen started his Formula 1 career in Sauber in 2001, although he was outperformed by Nick Hiedfeld (who has also beaten Massa, Kubica and Webber in the past).

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        Speaking of poor old Heidfeld, he was not treated well by Lotus in 2011, who then dumped Senna as well as Petrov.

        Lotus has been a team like Williams; they have a throw-away attitude to drivers. Sauber and Toro Rosso give their drivers a decent amount of time to develop and they don’t dump drivers at the drop of a hat if an opportunity for bigger-pay drivers arises.

    2. Jordan says:

      “Hmm… Hold on a sec, has F1 ever had a world champion come through the ranks using the Sauber route? I don’t think it has ever happened.”

      I believe there is a guy named Kimi Raikkonen…

    3. Anirudh Iyer says:

      I think you forgot one Kimi Raikkonen who made his debut with Sauber in 2001

    4. Krishna says:

      If you were to include Michael Schumacher via his introduction to sports car racing (DTM – maybe) by Sauber, then yes the winningest driver of all came through Sauber.

    5. MikeyB says:

      “has F1 ever had a world champion come through the ranks using the Sauber route?”

      Yes, and it’s happened twice!

      From Wikipedia: “In 2001 Sauber brought a virtually unknown and very inexperienced Kimi Räikkönen into Formula One, despite the protests of a few drivers and influential members of the FIA, including Max Mosley, that he would pose a danger to other drivers.”

      Then, in 2006-07, Sebastian Vettel was BMW Saubers’ test/reserve driver and competed for the team in the 2007 US Grand Prix following Kubica’s injury at the previous GP in Canada.

    6. Adiel says:

      Kimi started his f1 with Sauber and won the championship with ferrari in 2007.

    7. Kit says:

      There’s a guy who came through the via an even lower ranked Minardi and his talent was very much noticeable on the outset.

      As at today, he’s 2x champ.

  10. Rens says:

    I think this is a fantastic move for Hulkenburg. He appears to have the upper hand on di Resta, and given that Sauber have developed a car that is gentle on its tires and has pace on its day, i think he will benefit from this move.

  11. Chris says:

    As a Force India fan I am saddened by this news. I have always liked Sauber, but hoped he would have left us for one of the top drives (though Sauber is a step up I will admit). Even so, I know he’ll be excellent for them, and I hope he takes their first win (should they not win one of the remaining races of course).

    As for us, bring in Jamie A :)

  12. kp says:

    Lewis must be sick as a parrot. He could have been the clear number one at Sauber.

    How he must rue his bad luck!

    1. Haha – especially if they are faster than the Mercedes next year!!!

  13. Oli says:

    One step closer to a Ferrari drive in 2014??

  14. Rikily says:

    Good move….
    But what about Di Resta? I think that he missed his chance to move to McLaren when he fired Anthony Hamilton (what a silly mistake he made!)

  15. shri says:

    Hulk in 1st year with Force India has done better than team mate Paul (despite Paul being 1 year senior and established in the team). Also Paul is rated highly by many. Hulk has good future – Good luck to him.

  16. Rich B. says:

    Unless it’s a move to line him up with a Ferrari seat it seems a bit of a pointless move. Granted Sauber are having a good year but I doubt they’ll do significantly better than force indy in the future.

    I think it was quite cowardly of Ferrari not to give him or Perez Massa’s seat

    1. monza01 says:

      Before Massa’s great leap forward at exactly the right time ( the 11th Hour !), this was surely more likely a case of Ferrari arrogance rather than cowardice ?

      1. Rich B. says:

        maybe.

        or they may’ve kept him just to keep alonso happy. either way as long as massa’s there they’re fighting the championship with one arm tied behind their back.

    2. DC says:

      Or maybe Ferrari simply don’t employ drivers with less than three years of F1 experience.

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        I think this is Ferrari policy. Over the last 4 decades I can’t think of a driver with less than 3 years F1 experience being given a Ferrari drive. Except possibly Mario Andretti who had 4 seasons of interrupted participation in F1. He got his first F1 race win in his first race with Ferrari.

      2. Yahya says:

        Eddie Irvine only had 2 seasons before Ferrari signed him. Jean Alesi only drove half of the 89′ and the full 90′ seasons before moving to Ferrari for 91′.

      3. Rich B. says:

        if they have that policy they’d miss drivers like hamilton, prost, clark

  17. forzaminardi says:

    Sauber and Force India are very close in terms of overall points scored, but to be honest that’s only because Kobayashi and Perez have let a few results slip through their fingers. I’d rather be driving a Sauber than a Force India in any given GP, and not just because of FI’s alleged financial difficulties. Lets be honest, Sauber have proven their ability to finish on the podium and the potential to win races. If they can maintain that level of form then moving to Sauber will indeed be a step forward for Hulkenberg.

  18. Methusalem says:

    Hulk, the quietest and most underrated driver — he would have destroyed Vettel had he joined the Bulls.

    1. Irish con says:

      I hate the way people don’t give seb the credit he deserves. The list numbers he is compiling at the age of 25 is simply amazing. I do think alonso is the best but I don’t think seb is that far behind him. Wiping the floor with a guy as good as mark webber isn’t easy.

  19. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Yes I knew, great! He did a pole, Perez did not, I think Hulk es very well on track in his career.

    Who will replace Hulk a Force India?
    Easy, sombody who is 6 feet tall… not Bianchi, not Buemi, not Kobayashi, not Kovalainnen…

    Yes Jaime Alguersuari!!!

  20. Eric Weinraub says:

    I think this is a good move for him as I think the future of FI is very much in doubt and those same troubles are keeping the forward progress at FI moving more slowly by the day. I do hope that Nico does not sufer the same fate of Sutil which is to be quite talented by never landing a high quality seat.

  21. Tim says:

    Hate to say it, but Kobi has 2 chances of being
    in the 2nd Sauber seat: between “$lim” & none.

    Tim

  22. G Hindle says:

    So why has DiResta been overlooked? He’s clearly cool and intelligent. I guess it’s either speed or money?

    1. multisync says:

      Err because he isn’t as quick as he thinks he is, always blames the car and upsets the team and umm no one actually likes him for starters..

      But yes he starts off strongly and everyone say “wow look at him -future Mac/fer driver” Then his season wilts and he drives round nothing special. This year same as last.

      Never going to be a top driver -a Caulthard in the making at best (damned with faint praise indeed)

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        Yes, I’ve never really rated Di Resta that high. He is a fantastic touring car driver though.

  23. Timmay says:

    She did not like curry!

    1. rad_g says:

      What curry was it?

  24. Jordan says:

    James,

    Many people are expressing surprise that Paul di Resta hasn’t secured a better seat for ’13, but we’ve also been hearing suggestions he’s not too popular within his current team. Do you have any info that can can expand on his rumoured reputation?

  25. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    James – where does this leave Jules Bianchi? Ferrari seem to have abandoned their driver development program. First Perez has been let go, and then it seems like the second Sauber spot will go to a sponsored driver rather than some in the junior Ferrari program. Does this add weight to suggestions that they don’t need an up and coming driver if they have more experienced ones already lined up for the next few years?

  26. surya kumar says:

    It is very sad for Force India and a very good move by Nico. Sadly I would have like to see Nico and Jamie in that force India which would have been exciting as both are better rated than PDR who has been a disappointment of late. All Force India needs is a younger and daring driver than somebody like PDR who waits for his chance and ensures that the media keeps his Rating intact.

  27. Thys Kotze says:

    Any news on Kobi?
    I hope he gets another shot.
    I realize hehasn’t set the world on fire with overtaking moves like in his first year (on lasting tyres).
    Entertaining as the tyre regs are I think if we still had tyres that didn’t need to be nurtured so much, Schumi’s comeback might have been a bit more successful (I do realize Bridgestone made him slicks to his preference).

    If the tyres weren’t such a huge influence we’d see the real overtakers like Hami, Kobi, FA, MS and Kimi come to the fore. I can only wish.
    Vettel is also brilliant and a good overtaker as well, but the tyre situation really suits him, not forgetting Newey’s genius of course.
    Some good designers out there but the only guy to really have counterred (perhaps bettered) Newey was Byrne.

    Of topic Joe, but have you seen this video?
    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/10/360-red-bull-f1/
    AMAZING!
    We probably won’t experience this soon because Bernie is counting his money somewhere ;)

    1. Thys Kotze says:

      :o Sorry, I meant James!

  28. DobzF1 says:

    Good luck to Hulkenberg. Sauber are probably the more stable option to be honest and their car has been better most of the season. As for Force India, not sure about the second seat. I don’t think Di Resta is good enough tbh. If I had the chance I’d put Kovalainen and Algersuari in the car. Kovy is experienced and a phenomenal qualifier (probably one of the best on the grid) while Jaime’s tyre knowledge may come in useful.

    As for PDR, didn’t hear the rumours of him being not so popular within his own team. That may result in a shock departure if he isn’t careful. I too rate Hulkenberg higher than Di Resta.

  29. nusratholla says:

    Interesting move…. typical Willi Webber was of thinking…. building a team around him… Sauber will most definitely will provide him with it… going by the performance of Hulk this year he thoroughly deserves a team tailored around him.

    Having said that… I would have loved to see Hulk partner Kimi in Lotus next year.

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