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Hulkenberg returns to Force India, but who will race alongside him in 2014?
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Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Dec 2013   |  5:14 pm GMT  |  153 comments

Sahara Force India today announced the news that most observers had been expecting for some time; that Nico Hulkenberg will return to the team for 2014. The German driver has impressed greatly during this season, with some exceptional qualifying and race performances in the Sauber, but despite knocking on the door of the top teams, he has not been able to create an opening.

So he goes back to the team for which he drove in 2012. It is his third move in four seasons. Force India never wanted him to leave in the first place, but he felt that Sauber was a better bet as it had scored four podiums in 2012 and driving there would put him in Ferrari’s orbit as they provide the engines for the Swiss team. Hulkenberg was in consideration for Felipe Massa’s seat, but was passed over for Kimi Raikkonen.

He was first choice for Lotus, but with delays to the mysterious investor deal from Quantum, Lotus had to take Pastor Maldonado and his Venezuelan oil company backing.

Key to Hulkenberg’s decision then was the timing and the risk of being left on the sidelines.

“I am happy to be back,” the 26 year old said. “I had to take a decision not to be left out, or left without a seat and Force India, I really felt they wanted me. They were able to answer the questions and give me the info I needed, different to other people. I have trust in this team that they will put something together that will allow us to have some special results.”

The interesting thing about today’s announcement is that the team has not mentioned who the second driver will be. This is not normal Force India practice. The Anglo-Indian team’s usual strategy is to leave it until after the end of the season and wait for the best available drivers to come to them, then announce both drivers at the same time.

Until this year, they also had an active third driver, whom they groomed via a regular Friday morning test programme. Jules Bianchi performed this role in 2012, Hulkenberg in 2011 and Paul di Resta before that.

This did not happen much in 2013, until James Calado got some late season outings, but with more opportunity on Fridays and four two day test sessions in 2014, there is a nice opportunity for a young driver to be placed there and for Force India to make some useful money from that seat.

The identity of the second driver will be revealed in due course. Hulkenberg said today that he has not been given any indication of what that will be, only the candidates; most people expect Sergio Perez to get the nod, but today’s announcement shows that there is still room for negotiation. Current incumbent Adrian Sutil has been courting Sauber, while di Resta said on Sunday night at the Autosport Awards that it was looking difficult for him to stay in F1 next year.

Sauber’s team principal Monisha Kaltenborn paid tribute to Hulkenberg as he left her team, “After an overall difficult season in 2013 Nico leaves our team. Especially the first half of the season did not turn out as both parties expected it would. However during the second half of the season we made significant progress together and worked hard to move forward. Nico played an important role in that process. We would like to thank him for his dedication and hard work.

“Nico has proven to be a fast and efficient driver, who always used the full potential of the C32 in order to score as many championship points as possible. We wish him all the best for his future endeavours.”

There are six seats still available on the F1 Grid 2014.

Force India – One seat
Sauber – Two seats
Caterham – Two seats
Marussia – One seat

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153 Comments
  1. Simmo says:

    You should have called your book “James Allen on F1 2013 – The Worst Year of Keeping Secrets” ;)

    I really hope di Resta can once again stay at Force India. They were such a strong pairing in 2012, and to get Sutil at Sauber and not Paul is also a shame.

    Back to the point, I’m happy for the Hulk, who really deserves it.

    Imagine this: two ex-Sauber drivers go to Force India, and an ex-Force India driver goes to Sauber.

    Does anybody know who is rumored to be in the other Sauber seat?

    1. Random 79 says:

      Was going to be Sirotkin, now it seems to be swinging toward Perez, but could still be Gutierrez.

      Take your pick :)

      1. Sebee says:

        2 seats open at Sauber. I bet they take Perez and merge with Marussia. Leaving us with 3 seats.

      2. Random 79 says:

        I’ve heard that rumour too. Can’t see it happening, but if it did…

        Engineer: What are you doing Perez?
        Perez: Just cruising in Masauber :)

      3. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

        Three car teams are specifically prohibited.

      4. James Clayton says:

        What would Sauber get out of a merge with Marussia?

      5. Sebee says:

        Adrian,

        6 seats open, 2 disappear if we have sauber/marussia join forces. 1 at marussia taken, leaving 1 more seat for Perez. 6-2 gone -1 for Perez leaves us 3. No 3 car team proposed.

      6. Random 79 says:

        Maths with Sebee: It’s fantastic!

    2. Tealeaf says:

      Well Hulkenberg must be looking at that Mercedes powerhouse behind that FI next year as the main attraction here, I believe he’s made that right choice in not staying at Sauber, he could be a dark horse for a victory especially if he has the reported 100hp advantage over Renault and Ferrari, I believe Hulkenberg is the best driver next year in a Mercedes powered car.

      1. Sebee says:

        100hp Mercedes advantage? Where did you get that info, a tealeaf?

      2. Michael says:

        Yes, exactly. A tealeaf. lol

      3. Tealeaf says:

        No need for that tone of attitude the EH, as I’ve said its just these reports and gossip as everyone already know anyway, whether its true or not we’ll find out won’t we…

      4. Sebee says:

        I should point out there are reports that Ferrari is running it’s F1 engine in a car aleady, and that Renault did likewise.

        Meanwhile, there were other reports that a Mercedes F1 V6 on a bench caused the fire department to have to make a call to the factory.

        Toto has been doing some trash talking. And I have no idea where these assumptions turned to fact. But I hope for sake of Mercedes F1 program that 2014 doesn’t turn out to be a disaster. And we know it could. I think quiet discretion would have been a better choice by Mercedes/Toto just in case they have their bottoms handed to them and end up choking on that trash talk.

      5. Miha Bevc says:

        And I read somewhere that Ferrari engine burns too much fuel, so it could turn out Renault will once again be the most drivable engine.

      6. Grant H says:

        How could they run the engine in a car testing is not legal!

      7. Erik says:

        I love how the rumour mill has escalated about the Merc engine. Now they reportedly have 100hp more than the field. This is before anyone has ever even seen the Renault or Ferrari engines run in a car, let alone the Merc engine. Nice PR excercise by the Merc marketing team, the YouTube videos seem to have worked, lol.

      8. James Allen says:

        Reliability is as important as power/efficiency in first season and this is the bit that is not proven yet as far as Mercedes is concerned

      9. Random 79 says:

        100bhp advantage?

        That’s so yesterday. I just heard now they have a 200bhp advantage with optional warp drive.

      10. pepe-le-pew says:

        zerik, if its reportedly the majority of the sport that believes mercedes have an advantage, don’t you think its because a few insiders have been exposed to the numbers produced by the engines, me thinks there is speculative comparison happening behind the scenes that pegs Mercedes at number 1.

      11. Kevin Loo says:

        Could we be going back to the turbo grenades of the 80s?

        Would definitely make things more interesting to bring back that fear when your favoured driver was in the lead:

        “Please don’t blow up. Please don’t blow up.”

        Must admit I do miss that element of the unknown/suspense.

      12. KRB says:

        JA there was a story that Renault asked for a rev limit increase, but it was blocked by Mercedes. It was portrayed as being a sign of weakness, but it would seem to me the opposite. Can you shed any light on things you’re hearing re: the engines?

      13. James Allen says:

        I’ll look into it

      14. Grant H says:

        100hp advantage I doubt it somehow

      15. furstyferret says:

        On what evidence do you put hulkenburg ahead of hamilton rosberg etc?

      16. Tealeaf says:

        Evidence? Well driving much slower cars for 2 seasons and often able to race the Mercedes and beat them suggest a very good driver.

      17. Monza 71 says:

        “I believe Hulkenberg is the best driver next year in a Mercedes powered car”.

        You must be joking – or are you forgetting who will be driving the two works Mercedes cars ?

        Hamilton is at least as good as Hulkenberg and would probably be faster in the same machinery.

        Rosberg isn’t far behind his teammate either.

      18. pepe-le-pew says:

        what about the other mercedes powered cars…

    3. Simon says:

      Di Resta burned his bridges by intimating he wanted a bigger team, ow he would do anything to stay at Force India. He is quite unpleasant when you meet him, where Sutil is charming.

  2. Spinodontosaurus says:

    Is this another backwards move? I know Sauber are reportedly strapped for cash, but they were much quicker than Force India for the second half of the season…

    1. Khars says:

      As far as I remember FI looked a much better option for 2013 on the first couple of races (not counting pit stops).
      Sutil is not one of my favourites, but his comeback in Australia was a nice one.

    2. Grant says:

      It’d be a shame if the Sauber turned out faster than FI next season.

      Now that’d be bad luck for real for Hulk.

      1. Random 79 says:

        If Sauber are faster than FI in 2014 it would be either laugh or cry time I think.

      2. Andrew M says:

        Doesn’t really matter, he wasn’t going to keep his Sauber seat anyway, they need someone who brings some cash.

      3. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

        He really needs an open contract with Force India and Sauber where he can decide after free practice what to race. Particularly if Pirelli end up altering the tyres mid-season again ;)

      4. Grant says:

        Hahahaha
        Okay that one really made my day…..

  3. jim says:

    Does Sauber still owe Hulkenberg money, and if so, how much and what are the chances he ever collects on it?

    1. Random 79 says:

      So far as I know yes they do, but I’d be surprised if he ever sees it.

      1. Sebee says:

        Sauber sells assets to Marussia and declares bankruptcy. Debt gone. Possibe?

      2. Grant H says:

        Wheres this maurissa story come from?

      3. Random 79 says:

        Wow.

        When I read your other reply I had the impression (despite my joke) that Marussia would merge with Sauber leaving them Sauber, not the other way around.

        Possible I suppose, but it would be very sad to see. Like most I don’t like the thought of pay drivers, but if they help Sauber get cashed up in the short-medium term I’ll get over it.

      4. J Hancock says:

        Possible, but given how tenaciously Sauber clung to life after BMW dropped them it would seem unlikely. I’m not sure what the benefit to Sauber is with the supposed Marussia deal, Marussia aren’t particularly strong financially either and performance wise Sauber is in a different league, so what do they gain by ceding even partial control to Marussia?

      5. stu.b says:

        not possible if they want to race next year.

      6. Sebee says:

        stu.b

        How is that Marussia 2014 car coming along? I’ve heard nothing. But I did hear that one of the back markers was first to pass a 2014 crash test recently. Not sure who.

      7. Nick says:

        One of the Marussia owners is sick of forking out money from his own pocket, but wants to stay in F1 so apparently was looking to buy Toto’s 16% share in Williams, but it was veto’d because they want to stay independent.

        So the next option would be Sauber because of the Russian links that are already there….so they merge the Marussia team into Sauber and Sauber get money one would assume.

        At least thats what I read.

    2. ramsa says:

      Ferrari paid his dues to ensure that he does not join Lotus for the last 2 races

      1. Grant says:

        Oh Ferrari should’ve just allowed him.

        Greasjean would’ve crushed him.

      2. Random 79 says:

        Hulk had no experience with the Lotus and was smart enough to know it would only end badly for him, which is why he said no :)

        But given an equal chance in the same team where both are used to the car they’re driving, would you still say that Grosjean would crush him?

      3. Tealeaf says:

        Grosjean would have ‘crushed’ him? I somehow doubt it, as good as Grosjean is and even with the car knowledge advantage I doubt Grosjean would have been much ahead definitely not like how it worked out with that useless Kovalainen, that engine blowup and alienating Raikkonen probably cost Lotus 2nd in the constructors, oh well they do have Madanaldo’s money to fall back on, I suggest order more materials for extra parts, they’ll need it and as for the Hulk for next year he will somehow shine through, maybe with an eye on Alonso or Rosberg’s seat in mind for 2015.

    3. ian says:

      “Does Sauber still owe Hulkenberg money”

      Rumor has it ferrari paid hulks wagess to prevent him driving for Lotus in the last two Grand Prix.

      1. James Allen says:

        There is that rumour and some sensible people were saying it in Austin – it’s one of those stories that is very hard to verify. But that kind of thing does get done in F1 at that level

        I think he also realised that it wasn’t worth the risk to go up against Grosjean in a car he didn’t know, when his stock was already so high. Especially as it was looking increasingly likely that Maldonado was heading there

      2. Smeghead says:

        There’s some merit to the notion of Hulk not wanting to drive an unknown car for the last two races against an in-Form Grosjean. Look at what happened to Kovalainen, especially with his race pace.

        Hekki had little to lose, whereas a performance like that may well have torpedoed Hulkenberg’s chances.

        In the end it didn’t really matter. He’s been screwed over instead by the money side of the sport. They’re not a new phenomenon, but paid drivers are a real waste of space in F1 (both literally and figuratively) especially with so few cars on the grid these days.

  4. Paul says:

    James Calado was in that role at the end of the season wasn’t he? Is he likely to retain the third driver role? and would it be too far fetched to suggest he might be in with a shout of getting that 2nd driver slot? Do they need the money too much?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, we’ve added that note, thanks

    2. James says:

      Calado was paying to be third driver, as confirmed on Sky. It seems reasonable to suggest he’ll stay in that role so long as his backing remains.

      1. James Allen says:

        I think he might do DTM

      2. deancassady says:

        I’d like to see Calado racing in F1, more than Magnusun.

      3. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

        Mag will be very interesting to watch next year. The spotlight will surely grow and grow, I don’t think there has ever been so much pressure on a rookie in the past.

  5. mjl says:

    Off topic (but slightly related!)

    James, do you know if there has ever been thoughts about restricting the number of test session each driver can take part in per season?

    Say, if the limit was 50, each team would need a 3rd driver who would get a run-out most weekends. It would help driver development and hopefully mean that young drivers would get some much needed millage…

    Finally, it would stop situations like at Lotus this season where the team don’t trust their 3rd driver when they are required!

    1. James Allen says:

      No and that would be resisted

  6. Sami says:

    With a Merc power unit and his enormous talent it would be much more than poetic justice to see him give Force India their first victory.
    This boy deserves every success he will get.

    1. Random 79 says:

      I don’t know about poetic justice, but it would be great to see :)

      1. Kevin Loo says:

        Agreed, on both counts.

        Would love to see Hulk win his first GP, and FI win theirs (as FI) too.

        Don’t get the poetic justice comment, as it would imply that somehow Hulkenberg was unjustly denied a victory somewhere along the line.

  7. AuraF1 says:

    I can only assume Ferrari are expecting Kimi to retire back to some other motorsport (or open a Vodka Ice Cream lounge) in the next couple of years. That seems to be Hulk’s only chance of a move up to the top tier. I guess the only other possibility down the line is taking Jensons seat at McLaren when he finally calls it a day (I always assumed from JB’s remarks about Schumacher that he’d be hanging on for a lot more years than others – but his recent claim that he wouldn’t see out 300 GPs or even close suggests he’s looking at 2015 as the exit year).

    The downside for Hulk is I can really forsee Bianchi moving up and stealing his thunder. It would be an absolute waste to have Hulk stuck scoring points but never wins in the midfield shuffle. He might not ever put a full championship year together against the likes of Vettel, but he deserves a shot.

    1. JEZ Playense says:

      Given that Ferrari have had to swallow their pride and pay an enormous amount of money to Kimi in 2014, I can’t imagine why you draw those conclusions.

      I think it’s more likely that Ferari hope Kimi will net them many points in the next years an possibly another drivers championship an a couple of constructors!

      1. AuraF1 says:

        I was just assuming with the age factor as Kimi is now the elder statesman on the grid and even if he hangs around as long as Webber he’s likely to be bored again by 2016. I think hes on short contracts and so they’re looking at him shoring up the constructors or taking lead if Alonso should have a bad year. It’s clear they are still talking about Alonso as their primary hope but Kimi is there to give him a kick and show him he’s not bigger than the team structure.

        I’m not suggesting Kimi will definitely retire at 36/37 but he’s shown he’s willing to walk away and won’t cling on with both hands if he’s not feeling the urge anymore. That’s Hulks best bet for a top flight seat in the next few years anyway. Mercedes and Red Bull have a younger line up and won’t be changing soon. McLaren will likely say goodbye to Jenson at the end of 2015 (unless he’s utterly demolished by Kevin in which case he might leave earlier).

      2. I’ve got the feeling that Kimi is a kind of “sword of Damocles”, in order to warn Alonso to behave himself.
        Many of us feel that the top brass at Maranello may not be very willing to put up with his outbursts for very long.
        Should Kimi start to better Fernando time and again next year, and should the latter explode in the media, I would not be surprised if he was given the sack.
        Wait and see.

      3. ManOnWheels says:

        Who has allowed you to speak out my thoughts? ;-)

      4. Torchwood Five says:

        Ferarri policy is “to have a Champion in the car”.

        Kimi is there as backup in case Alonso moves on.

        I would assume that Luca De Montezemolo is privately aware that championship-wise, the onus is more on the team providing a championship-winning car, than on either of the drivers doing the necessary.

    2. Chris C says:

      I have to agree with JEZ Playense

      I think the Ferrari ship has sailed and Hulkenberg is not on it (at least medium term).

      He repositions himself for a Mercedes role as a possible replacement of Rosberg, after all Rosberg himself is already 4 years in the team and will have a fifth with them, his contract is bound to be close to finish. Hulk being a german guy would fit nicely in a Mercedes role and next to Lewis they would make a powerful driver duo.
      Can’t see Hulk in RBR, they are quite focused on their academy of drivers.
      Mclaren is quite possible though especially if Magnussen does not deliver next year. I think Button will stay there at least for the first year with Honda and possibly also 2016. With his affiliation to Japan, Honda will be keen to have him on board.

      Just my 2cents

      1. AuraF1 says:

        I assumed the same thing with JB, I think Honda would love him and Alonso together as a dream team. However Jenson suggested at Brazil this year as he became the most capped English driver ever that he will never see out 300GPs – which means he’s looking at retirement at the end of 2015. He’d be a lot younger than Webber when he went then but perhaps starting younger means he feels these are his final two seasons coming up.

    3. Arnie S says:

      ALO in Macca 2015 would give an open seat to Hulk. Regardless of Iceman

      1. AuraF1 says:

        It would unless Ferrari are impressed enough with Bianchi to promote him up the grid – they don’t tend to like untested rookies but they might consider Jules’ apprenticeship served by then. All in all it’s a lot of tough breaks for Hulk.

  8. deancassady says:

    It was this year that I really started to recognize Hulkenberg as a top talent; he has earned it.
    Glad that he’ll still have a drive in 2014; there is always a better chance of advancement to a top team, from within the circus.
    I believe that he will make it to an elite team, probably faster than most suspect.
    Of the mid-field teams, Force I has as good a chance as any of them to lead the best of the rest, and likely challenge Lotus next year; so maybe missing the Lotus drive will not look so bad by June 2014.
    I would also like tosee both DiResta and Perez on the grid next year, but we’ve already seen DiResta against Hulkenberg, so I guess I’d like to see Perez against Hulkenberg in the same car for 2014.
    Unfortunately, there is no team after McLaren who will have a drive for someone who does not bring a good chunk of cash, and this is a sad state for the pinnacle of motorsports to be in, and a trajedy for DiResta, who has earned his seat in F1 by capability, in my opinion.

    1. RVSP says:

      Force India is also hiring based on talent….

    2. Sebee says:

      I’m starting to think that no one can beat Grosjean. He was a has-been write-off in 2012, and today he’s probably the hottest potential on the grid. Some compare him to Vettel – crash in 1st year, then black belt after that first year.

      How did that even happen?

      1. AuraF1 says:

        That sports psychologist he’s seeing must be fighting off clients now!

      2. Sebee says:

        To clarify, I mean no one can beat Grosjean as a top talend candidate.

        As everyone knows here, Vettel is the only true unbeatable one in a genaral sweeping statement kind of a way.

        Oh boy…am I ever itching for a colon, a minus, and a bracket right about now. Must be strong.

      3. furstyferret says:

        Hes not won a race yet, your getting a bit carried away

      4. Sebee says:

        He’s been second during Vettel era. Not bad I think.

      5. Robert says:

        It happened because he admitted his mistakes, publicly, and learned from them, and had raw talent to start. Boutiller has been an AMAZING manager for him, worth every centime of his fees…

      6. Kimi4WDC says:

        It did not happen. Unless you want to see it that way. Same thing happen last year, after bad results, good results look amazing. And considering the situation in Lotus, those “amazing” results must be hyped.

        I pretty much stopped having high hopes for Grosjean after Suzuka. He did amazing job with his start, the rest of the race showed me that he is a very fast F1 driver, but nothing special.

      7. Tealeaf says:

        Nothing special? He was racing supposedly ‘best’ car on the grid and the best driver on the grid so I say Grosjean did a great job I doubt anyone apart from Vettel snd Hulkenberg could have done better.

      8. Michael says:

        Grosjean has always been very fast. He was just very erratic. Now, it seems he has gotten over all that. So, his results lately shouldn’t really be a surprise.

      9. deancassady says:

        Grosjean is trending well, but there may be no one else like SV… ever. I don’t know; history is still being written, but I rate Vettel substantially above MS, in every way, especially sportsmanship, and humanity.
        And I bet you, Sebee, were looking forward to a Grosjean-Hulkenberg head-to-head?!? Non?!?
        Yeah, it would have been great; the actual outcome could disrupt the upward trend of BigJohn, and I kind-of like the redemption stories.

      10. Sebee says:

        I just had a feeling that the Hulk to Lotus thing was never going to materialize, so my hopes were non-exsitent, and I was taking a wait and see attitude. It was all because of Quantum deal, I just didn’t believe at all that it was going to materialize, and that was the only way Hulk was going there.

        That’s OK. At least he’s on the grid. Makes many fans quite pleased I’m sure.

      11. stu.b says:

        you forgot the!!!!

  9. JimmiC says:

    Three moves in four seasons. I think that is a measure of the guy’s talent. When you hear about drivers taking time to assimilate themselves into a team and waiting to have a car underneath them that suits their driving style – The Hulk flits from team to team and is always quick. Imagine what he’d be like if a top team built themselves around him.

  10. Stephen Taylor says:

    May the Force be with you Nico.

  11. Vin S says:

    Breaking News:- Quantum has just offered Lotus more fake Zillions ‘next week’ to buyout Hulk from Force India’s new contract, and pay unpaid salaries to driver/staff with extra Bonus from Brunei.

    Either Lopez fell for it, or was poking fun playing funny games with Quantum. The money never existed, and it seemed like they were trying to Dupe Hulk into signing on fake promises like with Kimi. Good choice by Hulk not falling for the Lotus weird games they are still playing with Quantum.

    1. deancassady says:

      its getting even weirder?!?

    2. Torchwood Five says:

      On Joe Saward’s blog site, I found it interesting to note that some monies from Quantum did actually hit one of the Genii bank accounts earlier in the year, only to disappear due to a ‘banking glitch’.

      Shows that Lotus were not purely chasing air and promises.

      If I were in the team’s shoes, I don’t know if I would keep the charade going this long, but seeing money appear like that, even if it didn’t hang around, I think I would be less likely to abandon the ‘deal’.

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        It seems this Quantum money has a quantum nature to it. It appears to exist but an observer can never know where it is at any particular time. ;)

    3. Chris C says:

      I think Lotus prolonged this story as much as they could to lure a guy like Maldonado or Perez who got serious financial backing. Now that the Lotus team got the money from Venezuela they will soon confirm that Quantum story has ended.

  12. McLaren78 says:

    I guess Hulk tried to be in Ferrari’s “sphere” and since that didn’t work out, he tries Merc again. Maybe he hopes that either Rosberg or Lewis will vacate a seat for the 2016 season, hence his “multi-year” deal at Force India. Most probably for 2 years.

  13. shri says:

    - Good Luck to Hulk and happy for him.
    - Top seat opening will come in next 1-2 years. Ferrari and McLaren most likely. Maybe even Merc.

    1. Laurence H says:

      Or if Ricciardo is not up to the job at Red Bull there could be a top seat there soon enough…

      1. Shri says:

        Kvyat would be ahead in the queue if that is case.

  14. Vamshi Bandi says:

    Honestly, Force India would have obliterated McLaren in the constructors, fought for podiums and may be, even beaten Lotus in the standings if not for the tyre changes mid-season, thanks to some high profile lobbying by RedBull and Mercedes.

    Force India is Hulk’s safest option and it bodes well for him to be with them next season. Things are looking increasingly good for the team with the new engine regulations.

  15. ramsa says:

    How come Paul Di Resta lost out on the musical chairs… beating Vettel in F3 does certainly mean he had some talent…. atleast he could have had a career like DC.

    1. AuraF1 says:

      A few reporters have suggested DiResta is seen in a negative light as grumpy and complaining. Once you’ve got a reputation in F1 it seems to take a big positive performance (pole, podium or win) to break the cycle of dislike. Sadly DiResta hasn’t had the stunning results to offset his perceived lack of team inspiration.

    2. SteveS says:

      That has to be the most cliched talking point in all of F1. Let’s set aside the fact that Vettel beat PDR in F3 the previous season, or that in 2006 Vettel was dividing his efforts between F3, F3.5, and flying around the world to test drive in F1.

      In 2006 Hamilton barely edged out Nelson Piquet Jr to the GP2 title in the last contest. That should mean that Piquet could at least have had a career like Coulthard, but instead he had a brief stint in F1 notable only for his role in Crashgate.

      In 1983 Ayrton Senna won the British F3 championship in the final race of the season after battling with Martin Brundle all season. Senna went on to become at the time the winningest F1 driver of all time, while Brundle had a long F1 career without a single victory.

      Alonso had an unusually poor record in junior racing categories, being beaten by, among others, a certain Mr Webber.

      The point being, the only way to tell how a driver will do in F1 is to put him in an F1 car and see how he does in F1. A drivers record in junior categories has weak predictive power.

      PDR’s biggest enemy is his own personality. He has none of Vettel’s accomplishments yet has twenty times the arrogance and entitlement. He’s made it clear he feels he’s too good for his team, so he can hardly complain if his team bids him farewell.

      1. Jamie Norman says:

        Think you might want to go and look again alonso junior record, say karting where all is equal :)

      2. KRB says:

        In 2005 Vettel and Di Resta were not in the same team; in 2006 they were. That’s where the comparison between them is more valid. The whole divided attention angle for Vettel is excuses, he was behind PDR on weekends where he had nothing else.

        Another F1 comparison between former teammates is Sutil to Hamilton in 2005.

        Agreed about PDR’s attitude, it sucks.

      3. Tealeaf says:

        Veey true what you said, also Hamilton’s first season in F3 was also lacklusture, then you get drivers like Glock, Maldonado, and Kovalainen winning GP2 but look at the state of them in the end!!! The fact is apart from Vettel, Alonso and Hulkenberg the only other driver of the current generation that has shone was Webber I just believe his speed was unbelievable even faster than Alonso.

      4. KRB says:

        Heikki never won GP2, he was 2nd to Rosberg.

        Your crusade to pump Webber’s tires is just odd. With the best car he was frequently out-qualified by Hamilton. At least when Button found himself in the best car, he wrung the results out of it.

        Alonso is faster than Webber, and Hamilton’s faster than Alonso.

        As for Hamilton in F3 in 2004, he was with Manor. In 2005 he was with ART, the best team, and won 15 of 20 races. The same team Vettel and Di Resta were at in 2006.

    3. Michael says:

      Maybe, it’s because he’s not that good.

    4. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      James – Could you shed some light on why Di Resta has never attracted the attention of the Tier-1 team principals?

  16. ManOnWheels says:

    Probably the best choice available. Force India seem to be financially stable, they have been among the best mid field teams in recent years and he already knows what to expect from the environment. You can’t go wrong with that.

    1. Random 79 says:

      Summed it up perfectly.

  17. All revved-up says:

    Given his luck to date, Force India will be slower / less reliable than Sauber in 2014!

    2012 Hulk in FI. Sauber was quicker than FI in 2012.
    2013 Hulk moves to Sauber. FI quicker than Sauber for 2/3rds of the season.
    2014 Hulk moves back to F1. . . . .

    1. J.Danek says:

      hope he gets paid at least. is it true that FI had to provide Hulk w/ a bank guarantee confirming that monies were available on top of those required for the 2014 campaign to pay his back FI wages (1.2-1.3 million?)?

    2. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      I suspect it also has something to do with financial stability in the current era.

  18. Rich B says:

    did I dream it or did anyone else hear Helmut Marko say ‘we want a driver like Hulenberg’ when he was talking about Red Bull a while back?

    1. Random 79 says:

      Hulenberg?

      Dream, definitely :)

  19. James says:

    As Sky confirmed, Calado paid to be third driver, so there’s every chance he will stay there.

  20. Hello says:

    If I was Mc Learen as soon as Button’s contract was up, I would put the Hulk in his seat. Jensen belongs in Hulks seat and vice versa.

    Although, it’s going to be fun watching Jensen using all his skills trying to unsettle the new young guy and I’m not talking about his driving skills.

    1. rad_g says:

      It’s McLaren and jenson, ffs, fans and can’t get such simple things right…

      1. Hello says:

        My lack of spelling doesn’t make the statement any less true.

  21. James says:

    All this engine talk is silly. It is well documented that the Mercedes engine is bulletproof, 100% efficient, and 1000 bhp more than the nearest challenger.

    1. zx6dude says:

      you forgot the warp drive, the nitrous boost, the phenomenal exhaust system that will glue the car to the ground and the go faster stripes! don’t tell anyone but I also heard that it consumes less 133% of fuel when compared to nearest rivals :)

  22. Bear says:

    …if I were Ferrari I wouldn’t pay just to avoid Hulk sitting on a Lotus… I would make him also sign an option as driver to be exercised in the next three years if one of the two current drivers leaves… meantime park him at FI to gather more info on the powertrain… just sayin…

  23. Jonathan Powell says:

    As with most people ive become very impressed with Nico Hulkenberg and he is the driver ive had the most pleasure of watching this season. I dont mean this disrespectfully but its a shame he has ended up back at Force India as he more than deserved to be driving for one of the top teams and has been very unlucky in that Lotus need the money so have had to take Maldonado and Mclaren were worried about weight issue so have taken Magnussen!

    Nevertheless I look forward to Nico continuing to take on the big teams and top drivers and outperform them at times next season.

  24. Andrew says:

    Not looking good for Paul. It’s shocking state to F1 when good drivers are fighting over each other for seats and the pay drivers are banking the best ones.

    1. Mansell Mania says:

      Even more so since the new Lotus driver was only too recently accusing his team of cheating and nobbling his car. Even Paul and his ranting never went that far.

  25. Lee says:

    I think Whitmarsh dropped the ball here by not grabbing the Hulk how much more does the boy have to do than dragging a Williams to pole and running top 5 for 2nd half of the season in that Sauber.
    He deserves a run in a top team !

  26. paxdog says:

    Who is Nico Hulkenberg’s manager?

    1. James Allen says:

      Now it’s Werner Heinz. He has changed a few times

      1. paxdog says:

        The manager question is an interesting twist as the drivers scurry around looking for available seats before the music ends. Paul di Resta is in legal dispute with his ex manager, Hamilton. I was wondering if a list of drivers and managers/agents could be listed? I am not sure if there is a strong connection between seats and managers versus seats and paying sponsors but it would be good to see.

      2. yellowbelly says:

        57 times, by any chance? ;-)

    2. Mansell Mania says:

      Does your post imply that he should get a new one then?

  27. Chris says:

    Force India fan here!! With out a doubt we have signed the best driver we possiblely could have, and someone who I rate among the best in F1. I would argue he is stronger than the drivers McLaren have, but I will admit I don’t know to much about their new driver.

    Welcome back Nico, over the moon to have you, but I will admit you deserved one of the top drives next season, just hope we can spring a surprise and give you a great car. Also, if you leave us in 2015, I just hope it’s for the drive you truly deserve, you are my favourite driver on the grid!!!

  28. JohnBt says:

    Shucks! The pay driver thingy have messed up the talented drivers like Hulk. It’s a huge set back for F1 in the past few years. I really wonder without Kimi, Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton what will F1 be really like, of course there will be new stars but how exciting will it be? Many will find Vettel not exciting though which is not the case for me. We shall see.

    Pastor M should be out IMHHO, but his win in Spain 2012 will be continuously repeated. He sure drives like an unlicensed taxi driver. Never did we hear him apologize for his countless mistakes. Then again, cash is king.

    1. Mansell Mania says:

      His win came at a time when before F1 had settled down into the new tyre requirements and it seemed like luck of the draw at times.

      You are correct – too much emphasis has been placed on that win in relation too his numeours mistakes.

      Taking money out the equation then the order of talent is as follows:

      1) Sutil
      2) Di Rester
      3) Perez
      4) Maldonaldo

      And it tools like 3) and 4) are will get to the avaialble seats instead of 1) and 2). Well 4) has been confirmed at Lotus already, of course.

      1. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

        Putting on my tin foil hat, Bernie and Frank have always been close. Given the difficulties of the Williams team, it might be possible that Bernie arranged for a good showing by the car at one race so that the Williams team could survive financially at a crucial point? In return Frank supports the F1 float and Concord agreement negotiations?

  29. Steve JR says:

    The paid driver concept is basically very annoying and keeps the best talent from ever being seen. Would the world have ever heard of the name ‘Usain Bolt’ if the cost of entry in Athletics had been on a par with F1?

    It sounds like Hulk has been very unlucky and should really be driving a better car than the Force India he’ll be pottering around in next season. Still, I’m sure the pay checks, the hot girls and the odd glass of Krug in Monaco next May will more than compensate for his loss.

    1. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      Only the relatively wealthy (or those from wealthy countries with scholarships) could afford to train 24/7 to compete. So athletics isn’t really any different. Whats to say there isn’t someone faster in some remote town in Africa, etc?

  30. Scuderia McLaren says:

    “…but with delays to the mysterious investor deal from Quantum…”

    My favourite line from the article. A masterful display of avoiding libel, yet communicating something without saying it.

    Yet as a commenter I can say it James and I will do you a favour. This should really say, “…but with continued spurious claims of international transactory delays espoused by a figure who is proven to historically lack credibility in many dealings of this nature, it seems Lotus have realised that they have been duped in their desperation and went with oil money from Crashtor Maldonado’s Venezuelan Oil backers.”

    I much prefer my version James. :D

    1. Giles Vidgeon says:

      As do i, but i do not prefer the outcome Crashtor should not be promoted above Yuji Ide, Let alone Nico Hulkenburg!

  31. OffCourse says:

    What a curious sport…..is Hulk’s situation potentially a symptom of dis-function in the sport that may turn serious?

    1 driver position at RBR
    1 driver position at Lotus
    1 driver position at McLaren
    1 driver position at Ferrari

    If Hulk is so good (and btw I’m not saying he isn’t)then how come he can’t score one of these seats?

    If Hulk is so good (and I would have thought, highly marketable) then why is he not attracting the sponsorship like other drivers that he could then bring to a team.

    If the sport is so successfully managed, with countries lining up to be part of the calendar, why is it that the 4th and 7th team in the WCC were technically insolvent through the 2013 season and the team that finished 10th is looking to merge?

    If the sponsorship pool is growing (as per an earlier article this year) how can the only team able to take it to RBR with possibly the most marketable driver, not be able to secure a reputable sponsor or pay their bills?

    If the sport is so successfully managed & if the sponsorship pool is so good, why doesn’t the sponsorship go straight to the teams, but instead to the (pay) drivers?

    If the sport is so successfully managed, how can the owning parties of F1 take such enormous amounts of money out of the company and expect it to stay in a healthy state to float?

    If the sport is so managed, how can it remain in any form of healthy state over the next decade?

    I hope for the best but fear a lost decade. Good luck Hulk.

    1. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      Some great points. I have been asking the same questions about sponsorship. In particular why teams like Lotus are struggling to attract sponsors despite getting podiums.

      The natural targets of the teams should be global Fortune 500 style companies, but the field has very few of them. This suggests to me that outside of a few billionaire owners, F1 marketing still has a long way to go to prove to those with the marketing funds that its a worthwhile opportunity. I suspect that there is a perception that the viewing figures are being cooked and all money is going online instead.

  32. Kevin Green says:

    My tip is it will be a case of Perez goes back to Sauber as it is by far his best option of developing for the future after his backward step from Mclaren and it will pose as a more likely route back into a top team if he gets it right ie Ferrari, as if he fails to impact at Force India his F1 time is likely to be up and of course he will be wary of the likely fact Hulk is better which will clearly show up within the same team, Force India seat 2 well after his silly season of critisising the team and car let’s just hope Paul has had the sense to offer his services to drive the car salary free for this season i don’t believe Sutil has a chance in hell of retaining his seat think he has now fell into a lower team development/race day driver for lower teams with the ammount of quality/pay drivers here now.

  33. jb says:

    driver who brings a sponsor = paid driver
    and deluded fan hate.
    Of couse you could sigh some hot shot from east beldovia that just won f3 and find nobodies interested in sponsoring you cos they dont sell many widgets in east beldovia
    At least the fans will give you plucky shoestring oufit the thumbs up every race while secretly not giving a stuff if you survive the season.
    If you think about it maldonado and his sponsors were let down by williams who seem to struggle to make a decent car anymore. They have a right to take the cash somewhere it may do some good.
    Yes i know this is Hulkenberg thread but if perez arrives as well just think it through.

    1. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      well said.

  34. Spoo says:

    This SFI-F1 team is starting to really grow on me. They are a robust and compact team who stay within their limits. I have never heard FI running around pulling their hair out saying F1 is too costly (DUH!). Even when the Sahara deal was done, it was relatively smooth and straight forward according to F1 standards. They are definitely doing better than Midland and Spyker (their previous avatars)and established themselves as a respected midfield team.

    I never see their drivers crying foul over unpaid salaries and yet they have never felt the need of getting in paid drivers. They function within their budget (unlike Lotus) and set their aims accordingly.

    What I really like is the quality of drivers they have had. They have arguably had, the stongest (non world champion)drivers line up in the recent years.

    Sutil, Fisichella, Liuzzi, PdR, Hulkenberg and additionally giving development opportunities to PdR, Hulkenberg and Jules Bianchi. As most would agree, this is a very stong bunch of well respected drivers and maybe even some future stars given the right machinery.

    They were the Hulk’s saviour in 2011 after the Williams fiasco.

    One more fact is that Mallya has always categorically stated that he won’t stand in the way of any of his driver, especially if a big team like Ferarri or Macca came calling. Yes there is always some money involved and this is a business after all but he was true to his word with Fisichella and promised something in that lines when PDR was in contention for other seats.

    Ok I re-read what I wrote and it seems I am already a Fan.

  35. Sumedh says:

    So Eddie Jordan has been right on ALL that he has said this year (and previous few?)

    Schumacher to Merc
    Hamilton to Merc
    Maldonado to Lotus
    Hulk to FI
    Brawn leaving Merc

    How does he do it!! I hope he writes a book..

  36. Rick says:

    James it is so frustrating and infuriating to see great drivers like The Hulk ending up in drives like that, while Maldonado cashes in on seats like Lotus! The scalps at F1 have to make sure that the teams receive enough money from the commercial rights to ensure they can afford the drivers they deserve and that drivers get the seats they deserve! Maldonado in a Lotus and Hulk in a Force India! Preposterous!

  37. KGBVD says:

    So no more Moany MacGoo to complain about the team, or the tires, or the weather, or another driver…

    Can’t say I’m surprised that no one wants a ray of sunshine like Paul in one of their cars.

  38. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

    From a racers point of view, and going on past performances, then it has to be Hulk VS di Resta at Force India. For me this is the best pairing, their driving styles are close and they would surely bank the most points for FI.

    Sutil VS Perez at Sauber would be a closer talent match and would provide less consistent but entertaining racing. Sauber also appear more desperate for cash! Perez simply makes too many mistakes and has been very lacklustre in 2013 and the 2012 races since signing for McLaren. He was also flattered by the Sauber somehow unlocking amazing speed at Monza 12 and at the race he should have passed Alonso but spun.

    Quite amazing just how many petty views there are on here regarding Paul di Resta supposedly moaning or being overly critical of the team. Who cares when he is the best and fastest guy left without a seat!

    Paul showed a bit of spirit to drive the team forward over the radio, after, it has to be said, some very poor strategic calls at times. It was no worse than Hulk rightly being a bit critical of Sauber at the start of the year and certainly nowhere near Perez and Button’s moans, Maldo’s self destruct, Hammys radio calls and he didn’t ever ask for ‘someone else’s car’ like Alonso ;)

    Maybe it has been highlighted more as Force India took the worst hit in the mid-season tyre change.

    In general though, isn’t it more entertaining to hear a driver pushing on a team rather than the usual stale boring PR guff about thanking the team, engine manufacturer, oil provider, sponsors, etc etc zzzzzz.

    It’s also a bit sad to see that Hulk has to sign a multi-year deal. Ok, he may get to go to a good team in ’15 but again talent doesn’t matter as much as it should.

    Ultimately though, alongside Hulk we will see if money trumps talent for Vijay Mallya…

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