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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