F1 Winter Break
Hulkenberg new contract “signed”: conflicting reports on where he is heading
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Oct 2013   |  10:56 am GMT  |  187 comments

Nico Hulkenberg is the driver in demand at the moment after a series of outstanding performances at the wheel of the Sauber.

The 26 year old German is firmly believed to have signed a contract to move away from Sauber next year, but interestingly, there are conflicting reports about where he is headed. Several pundits, including BBC’s Eddie Jordan, believe he is going back for Force India, for whom he raced in 2012, while Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy has announced that he has signed for Lotus, the official announcement due imminently.

Hulkenberg, now managed by Werner Heinz, who managed ex-Jordan driver Nick Heidfeld, had hoped to land a Ferrari drive, but was passed over for Kimi Raikkonen last month, in a move that puts pressure on Fernando Alonso, but also provides Ferrari with an insurance policy against Alonso deciding to leave or take a year off.

Many in the paddock believe Ferrari should have taken Hulkenberg and looked to the future, as Red Bull have done with Daniel Ricciardo. Part of the reason Hulkenberg was at Sauber was to put himself in Ferrari’s orbit – the Italian team is the long time engine supplier to, and ally of, Sauber. The Swiss team walked out of FOTA in 2011, in solidarity with Ferrari.

But it has not worked out for Hulkenberg and now, if the Force India stories are to be believed, he may be thinking of shadowing Mercedes, putting pressure on Nico Rosberg’s (above right with Hulkenberg in Japan) seat with the team. As a Mercedes – supplied team, Force India is in Mercedes’ orbit and Hulkenberg may feel his best bet is to be patient, keep racking up results and hope something bigger comes along soon. At the same time, if the rumours on the engineering jungle drums are to be believed and the Mercedes is the best turbo engine next year, Force India is in line to benefit from a boost to competitiveness, along with McLaren and Williams.

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, however, Hulkenberg has signed for Lotus.

Lotus are delighted with the performance of Romain Grosjean, who was driver of the day in Suzuka, underlining his remarkable progress from 12 months earlier where he crashed into Mark Webber at the start. And the partnership of Grosjean and Hulkenberg would be very exciting, both young drivers yet to reach their full potential and a good mixture of raw speed and consistency.

The Achilles Heel with Lotus is the financial side, the team has significant debts and are well known for being late with payments. And Hulkenberg, unlike other candidates, does not bring any budget with him.

Cashflow issues were one of the reasons why Raikkonen decided to move, despite being happy at the team. From Hulkenberg’s point of view there is an element of risk over whether the team will be able to stay afloat, but a Lotus seat, based on their competitiveness of the last two seasons, is a definite move up and gives him the chance to race more regularly at the front, to show what he can do. Despite the financial concerns, the technical team now under Nick Chester, has done a good job to develop the car in the second half of the season and Lotus has had four podiums in the last three races. They have been the only team to take the fight to Red Bull in this Asian leg of the championship.

McLaren no longer appears to be a possibility: Sergio Perez brings budget from Carlos Slim’s Claro business, which will be important next year as McLaren have to pay Mercedes over US $20m for their engines. “Clarovideo” has been on the rear wing of the McLaren since Monaco, a deal worth around £4 million (US$6.3m) at standard rate card. Sergio Perez has not impressed McLaren so far, but the Mexican is likely to be retained pending Alonso’s arrival in 2015.

In 2015 when they move to Honda’s they are pushing hard to get the signature of Fernando Alonso, so Hulkenberg wouldn’t fit into that equation.

Hulkenberg’s destination will be made official soon, no doubt and that will leave Felipe Massa still looking for a seat. THe Brazilian out qualified his team mate Alonso again on Saturday and defied a team order to let him past during the race, coming in 10th. Many believe that Massa’s pace in qualifying shows that he is still a top driver and that in a new team he would flourish next season. He is highly experienced and also very light, both of which are first order priorities for teams in the new turbo era.

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Why does Nico Rosberg look like a fatty-boom-ba in the picture James???


Hahaha good spot. Now whenever I'm scrolling past this article I always burst out laughing remembering this comment!


Ha, ha!

Funniest comment I've read for a while! I'm sure it's just a bad pic. Although he wasn't called 'Britney' for nothing 😉


Hmmm no wonder Rosberg reacted angrily to Vettel's "spending time by the pool" gibe.


He's mincing.


Out of shot are a mini skirt and stilettos.


Yeah it seems Rosberg is out of shape, what has happened since the start of the season?


He's just trying to show Hulk that being heavy is no excuse for not having a good race seat 😉


Wow, McLaren are in financial straits - "over $20" (sic) for each engines??!?

Seriously though, you posit Alonso as a done deal for 2015 to McLaren? Would love to see them be brave and try to grab Alonso for next season, even at this late stage.

Hulkenberg? Meh, I'm sure he's good, but until he's in one of the top 10 seats on the grid in terms of car performance, I'm not particularly interested in drivers moving around in the mid-tier teams.



How does "They are pushing hard to get the signature of FA" equate to "a done deal" in your view?


Green 'Up' Arrow!

Do you ever feel your readers have been viewing the Daily Mail too much, James?

Disappointed by your lack of updates on Lewis's hip-hop career, by the way.

He he


James, I think Matt got his view from you saying "but the Mexican is likely to be retained pending Alonso’s arrival in 2015."


To be fair, I think it was less "pushing hard to get the signature" than "pending the arrival of Alonso in 2015" which provoked Matt's response.

I'd love to see FA in a McLaren. It's going to be very interesting to see how Ferrari get going under the new regulations, especially up against the powerful Mercedes engine which will be sitting in the back of the 2014 McLaren.

Mind you, I think that given that McLaren are switching to Honda a year later they are going to need to be demonstrationg superiority over the other Mercedes powered teams (thus showing it's not all down to the engine) before they'll tempt Fernando away from the prancing horse...


Yeah that "pending arrival of Alonso in 2015" shocked me as well... then read the later sentence and calmed down a little.


To be fair to Matt on first read the article does seem to assume Alonso's arrival since "... the Mexican is likely to be retained pending Alonso’s arrival in 2015"

Got all excited until I read the next sentence.


James, How serious is the possibility of Alonso taking a sabbatical for next year?


He's going to McLaren. The tea leaves: Mercedes engine for 2014, a year to get used to the McLaren before Red Bull aero secrets and Honda backing to come in 2015.


@Rob Newman

He will be offered a deal where he gets paid for 2014 not to drive or jump to McLaren for 2014.

It's happened before.


Why should he take a sabatical? If he can improve his skills, beat Kimi and fight for race wins, then I don't think why he should take a sabatical.


I'm with Matt that Mclaren pushing hard to sign Alonso is a bigger story than Hulk's next move. Quite a bomb for the middle of the article!


It was also a bomb when it was first written about 2/3 weeks ago.


hahaha..great comment..spilled my drink


James any ideas Who he would replace at force India?


Di resta likely


Di Resta will probably be the one to stay - he is doing better than Sutil, even with his recent poor performances, he has been doing much better throughout the course of the race itself. Faster lapping and where they have both finished di Resta is generally higher.


Also, PdR now brings money from that Aberdeen company who pay for his cap!


Sutil brings no significant money, because when he was let go, Capri-Sun & Medion both stayed on as FIF1 sponsors, because Hulkenberg ticked the 'German Driver' box.


I do understand the supporters of Di Resta, but last year before the return of Sutil we learned that Sutil brings a lot of money from his sponsors. I honestly don't know if Di Resta has that same money behind him. Force India has right now two tall and heavy drivers which is a problem and they need money to pay Mercedes for their engine. If they choose to take Hulkenberg they will stick with all German driver line up and the cash.


James, is the holding onto Perez not slightly myopic? If Button is not around in 2015, they could have an Alonso/Hulk superteam.

I'm a big Ferrari/Alonso fan, but it feels like he will be gone come 2015.


I am sure Button will be driving a Honda powered car in 2015. He may not have many years left but I cannot help but feel his affinity with Honda and all things Japanese together with unfinished business (driving a Mercedes powered Honda car with a Brawn badge) is not unconnected with Honda coming back.

With Honda making McLaren a works outfit again I don't see Button being allowed to go for a while yet.


To me Perez is just not McLaren material.

Big mistake to sign him.


Couldnt agree more, thought it an odd choice at the time a


I agree, with Perez he is on borrowed time, he was dreadful at Suzuka and has shown no speed


Mercedes engines*

Pot calling the kettle black, it seems.


EJ was wrong when he said Kimi to RBR in Spa.

So he could be wrong about Hulk to FI.

Still looks like Hulk to Lotus. But what do I know? Ha!

If Alonso is moving to McLaren, I hope it don't happen till 2015. I really like to see the pairing of ALO/RAI at least for 2014 since we miss the chance for VET/RAI.


EJ was the first to break the story of Hamilton to Mercedes and was laughed at. He also broke the story of Raikkonen having signed a deal with Ferrari. His track record is indisputable.


EJ said at Spa that Ricciardo was going to RBR and that Horner had wanted Kimi.

I'd believe EJ based on his previous form.


Maybe we'll get to still see VET/RAI in 2015? At Ferrari.


If Merc dominates from next season, would love a HAM/Vettel pairing.


Sounds like an exotic sandwich in the making!


More likely....if Alonso moves to Mclaren.

We'll get more clearer picture next yr though


Only if Ferrari are more competitive than RBR! SV knows exactly which side his bread is buttered:-)

He signed a 1 year contract extension at RBR, which gives him a chance to see how RBR and the other teams are fairing under the new regulations. I will be astonished if he leaves RBR if they and he are still winning championships. Incidentally this post is not intended as a criticism , exactly the opposite - SV may be a lot of things, but stupid ain't one of them.


Different discipline, but Sebastian Loeb got all his championships behind the wheel of a Citroen and nobody hates on his record.

Vettel's just the media bad boy at the moment - it'll pass.


I agree with you regarding his love of statistics, as for the second part of your post, we will have to wait and see. If RBR and SV win the WCC and WDC in 2014 do you really see him walking away? Either way the argument is moot until we see how 2014 pans out, until then its pure speculation on my part 🙂


SV may well know where is bread is buttered but loving the statistics he has to be thinking about gaining championships with two teams to prove he is the driver and not a Newey passenger.

Schumi got his championships across a number of team SV will be after doing the same.


If he stays at Sauber for other year, then in 2015 he could choose between Alonso's seat at Ferrari (if Alo moves to McLaren) or Alonso's new partner in the Woking outfit.

In a team whith Alo, it wouldn't be a problem not to carry money with him, because Alo is a big commercial atraction itshelf. And it definitely would be a champion couple.


Hulkenberg is leaving Sauber because they had no money to pay him.

Raikonnen left Lotus because they had no money to pay him.

VJ is a billionare.



I have no money


I'd say join the club, but we have a $10 entry fee.


Last time Raikkonen left a team, they paid him double, so now Lopez reckons its all quits. I hope Kimi sues for every penny.... might be worth booking a seat in the High Court Chancery Division now.....get to have a chat with Kimi !


QED my eye! Have you not seen all the reports of the financial mess VJ Mallya is in with UB and Kingfisher? He may be a billionaire on paper, but in real terms, he's finding it hard to put his hands on cash.


VJ has been in trouble for a while, but still it's maybe better to be a billionaire on paper than broke on paper.


Back to FI for the Hulk would be another sideways step, he'd probably be better staying at Sauber [if he has that option]

FI constantly underwhelm, not the place to be for a talented journeyman like Hulkenberg


Regardless of where Hulkenberg goes, Force India need to dump both their current drivers, particularly Di Resta. Perhaps they could pick up Massa.


But if he goes to Force India he will have the Mercedes engine next year.


No one yet knows how the engines will compare for next year, there's always all sorts of rumours etc. but every year still seems to spring surprises.

Besides, it's all well and good have the best engine, they need to use it well and the don't have a good record.

2008 - Worst performing Ferrari engined car

2009 - Worst performing Mercedes engined car

2010 - Worst performing Mercedes engined car

2011 - Worst performing Mercedes engined car

2012 - Worst performing Mercedes engined car

2013 - Worst performing Mercedes engined car so far, even with McLaren's truly abysmal season

I may be being slightly unfair, but FI just never seem to go anywhere.


@Thread The Needle

Won’t be the worst this year, williams gets that title

Williams aren't Mercedes-powered yet.


OK, they're the third best Merc engined car 😉

I'm not particularly having a go at FI, I just don't think a team that isn't either at the top of the pile or looking like they'll get there anytime soon is the sort of place an up and coming star like Hulkenberg should be going.

He needs to find a team that can match and deliver similar potential to his.

He's on his way to Lotus anyway


Bit disingenuous to call them the "worst performing Mercedes engined car" for 2009-present - considering there are only three Mercedes teams and the other two are among the biggest teams in F1.

FI are doing a decent job on the budget I reckon, look where Jordan/MF1/Spyker were before.


Being an indian i do support FI for dojng their bit in F1. However i do beleive that they need a strong driver pairing. As much as i appreciate the current drivers they are really not up to the mark. Lotus in 2011 was fightng FI.now with an mproved car and a star like Kimmi they are miles ahead.i just hope vijay can pump in more funds for a great car and a star driver.

Thread the Needle

Won't be the worst this year, williams gets that title


Massa has no business being in F1 imo.

McLaren need to get rid of Button. You have no chance of winning a championship with Button as your number one. His world championship in 2009 was due to Brawn's liberal interpretation of the rules in 2009 and getting a huge jump on the field.

Hulkenberg has shown that on raw pace he's quicker than Alonso and Kimi, and can probably match someone of Hamilton's caliber. I don't think he's quite at the level of Vettel though.

How can you call this a "sport" when you have someone of Hulkenberg's ability in a Force India for 2013.


"No chance of winning a championship with Button"? Strange, did you not watch 2009 at all? And he won in a car that had ALMOST NO in-season development compared to it's rivals, that had fired one third of their engineers at the start of the season.

And isn't that the same JB that took SECOND in the WDC just two years ago, in 2011? While his illustrious team-mate had "personal issues"?

So a man who has won the WDC, took second two years later against a much faster RBR car, all in the last 5 years - cannot "win the championship" - according to your expert opinion.

Strange, strange definition of reality [mod]


Blimey this tripe about Button only winning because he was in the best car gets tiresome.

It's odd that few people say Vettels' championships are solely down to his being in the best designed car, nor any of Schuey's when the Ferrari was the class of the field, but Button constantly gets this criticism.

Yes, Brawn stole a march through their 'liberal interpretation' of the specs - though not so liberal that it was deemed illegal - but so did a couple of other teams. Having done so, though, they didn't have the development resources of the bigger teams for in-season development so by half way through the season the playing field had been well and truly levelled.

If it been one of the front running teams I'm sure that there'd be a lot of people praising them for their ingenuity, but because it was a small team with limited budget who did it there seems to be a lot of sour grapes around.

As for Jenson himself, it's been well documented how well he acquitted himself whilst driving alongside Hamilton (though I would still rate Lewis above him overall), and he outperformed a previous former World Champion in Villeneuve.

Time to change the record?


IMO if you don't have Vettel, Hamilton (when he's not upset about his gf breaking up with him) or Hulkenberg driving your machinery, then you have no real chance of winning the championship unless you come up with the clear best car or have a lot of luck on your side (like Alonso in 2012).

That's the reality of F1 in 2014.

IMO (again) Ferrari kind of resent that it was a German, Frenchman, South African and Brit that made the successful again. They want to win championships with Italian managers, Italian crew, Alonso and Massa look Italian.

Hulkenberg, well, he's another German. A German vs German vs Brit in a German car competing for championships? Not a good look. Kimi's there as backup, to push Alonso, and to help win a constructors championship. They don't expect him to win the drivers championship.

If you want to figure out who will be driving a Ferrari in 2016 you must ask yourself who has that swarthy southern European look. If Ricciardo can grab 4-5 wins in the next couple years I think Ferrari will throw some money at him. Even if Vettel beats him, people will say it's Vettel's team, Vettel being favoured, blah blah. So it won't hurt Ricciardo's currency.

Who else is swarthy? Sutil? Too slow and too German.

Bianchi? Chilton's kind of held his own against Bianchi, but he does have the southern European look that is so popular at Ferrari these days.


Chilton has been destroyed by Bianchi.


Never read so much nonsense in all my life. You think Ferrari are going to start recruiting people based on the colour of their skin?

Step away from the keyboard and get some fresh air mate.


Actually you rate Hamilton too highly there, he's fast and he can be hard to beat over a race weekend if he has a perfect weekend but those perfect weekend are probably like 1 in 5, so over a season he'll have 4-5 Vettel like wins in 1 of the best car like he did in 2007, 2008 and 2012 etc. Thats not consistent enough and I'd bet Hulkenberg and even Rosberg might beat him over a season (not Rosberg's suspect bad luck), nevermind Vettel who is actually in a class of his own, and also over a season tortoises like Alonso and Button can match and beat Hamilton.


Honestly, I just can't fathom some people's thought process.

Button comes to McLaren and everyone declares that he will be 'smashed' by Hamilton. First year he is beaten by Hamilton - by a MASSIVE 26 points!!

Second year he kick's Hamilton's but by nearly TWICE as many points as Hamilton beat him by the year before. He also beat's Webber, Alonso and the rest of the field to come 2nd in the WDC.

The third year Hamilton beats Button by a TOTALLY HUGE 2 points.

Over their time as team mates Button scores more points than Hamilton, more podiums and is the first driver to ever beat Hamilton over a season. He also scores 8 wins to Hamilton's 10.

Since being in a competitive car and before the disaster that was this year's McLaren, Button had won more races than anyone else on the grid besides Vettel and had scored more points than anyone else on the grid besides Alonso and Vettel.

All this, and still people tell us how crap Button is. I honestly don't understand some people.


I think as a button fan that you would admit that last seasons point difference should have been nearer 82 points than 2, hamilton had zero luck pit stops, reliability etc etc, apart from oz spa gps button was not on hams level last year


Nicely written! Button is a superb pilot and he does not deserve all the dirt which is thrown on him by fanatics.

One reason for this besmirching might be his happy, open and optimistic persona which might not fit with the projected world-view of those fiends.


Agreed MG and Basil, i love the way Anon talks about all this as casual fact. I assume it is all based on an inherent personal dislike for Button otherwise why else choose to ignore all the facts. We all know Barrichello is hopelessly slow (lol), i think Anon could drive faster than him, so no wonder Button beat him at Brawn. Wasn't the Red Bull faster for half the year in 2009 with Vettel and Webber, surely Vettel should have won it; what's your onerous excuse for that? And obviously Hamilton is not quite on Vettel's level, maybe you can just sense it- because they have never had the same equipment? Seriously f1 is pretty complicated, the cars, the politics, the drivers, the people , the infrastructure all the other stuff behind the scenes; so so many variables- yet you have all the answers. I think Jenson Button is a brilliant f1 driver, he is a world champion ffs but since we're being critical i hope you do't mind me saying that i also think you are a rubbish f1 driver and a rubbish pundit/critic/commentator too. No driver on the grid deserves a review from you.


Hamilton's better than Button. Button's had one pole since he's been at McLaren. How many did Hamilton have between 2010-12?

Hamilton had terrible reliability and luck in 2012 compared to Button. 2011 Hamilton couldn't understand the tyres. Hamilton's not a smart guy like Vettel or Button. Once Hamilton figured them out Button was comprehensively beaten.


But that is the very problem with Button isn't it? Tires!!!

Everyone is moaning at Button for doing a bad job because is he moaning about the tires, yet when Hamilton has the same issue and "doesn't understand the tires" is just bad luck (Ham fanboy much)?!

The bottom line is: Hamilton or Button if they have a good car they will deliver and no I do not say Button has the same caliber as Hamilon but he can STILL deliver. No switching the sides I bet that if you counter attack that with a Vettel in an actual McLaren or Ferrari it will not go above 5-6 place. Both Mclaren and Mercedes have serious issues this year and no matter what driver is in them can't get much more out of it, it is as simple as that.

Do not let your feelings take over the fact my friend:)


"Hulkenberg has shown that on raw pace he’s quicker than Alonso and Kimi, and can probably match someone of Hamilton’s calibe"

Yes, after all, McLaren haven't had a driver who can match someone of Hamilton's calibre have they?

Oh, hang on a minute - YES THEY HAVE!

The very same bloke who you say is no good.

Nice one there mate!


Yeah Alonso's title in 2005 was due to Mclaren reliability and in 2006 it was that mass dampers, Jenson is a top driver if not the fastest over 1 lap.


You owe me a new keyboard after i spat out my drink at "fastest over one lap".

Smoking some serious weed there. He is one of the slowest over one lap...


will people stop making the "smoking weed" comment when other folks say stupid things! i was busy smoking a big fat jay when i read the comment and it made me spill ashes all over MY keyboard!


"fastest over one lap". I hope this was sarcasm as otherwise you are clearly insane


Read it again I said "if not"...


Why get rid of Button but keep Perez? Button is clearly better than Perez, so fine, get another driver who is going to be #1, but keep Button over Perez as he shown this season he's more consistent and brings more points.

Button has 60 pts while Perez only 23.


Heres the usual anti Button rant. Hes been consistent this year in a car which is just dreadful. Perez on the other hand, too many mistakes and not a hint since Monaco of being a true great.


Laughable to compare Perez and Button... is there even a comparison? Speed over one lap does not win races or championships. Perez is overrated.


Perez brings in Mexican money and he's about as quick over a lap as Button. He doesn't have Button's consistency, but that's to be expected given this is Button's 13th or 14th season in F1.

Looking at points is simplistic. There's not much between Button and Perez. Button might be a tiny bit quicker, but Perez brings money with him. Other seat goes to Hulkenberg who has the pace to win a championship if you give him a competitive car.

I just don't rate Button as a top driver.


What proof do you have that Hulkenberg has the pace to win a championship?


As a Force India fan I have to say I would be over the moon with this. I have actually mentioned on here once or twice the possibility of him coming back. However this is me being selfish, there is no doubt he deserves a better a seat. He is as good as anyone out there outside of LH, FA and SV. He may even be in their league.


Funny you put LH as your first name there as one of the top drivers!? I think after his struggles against the journeyman Button and a average Rosberg its clear to see Hamilton being relegated to 5th or 6th best driver in F1 behind Hulkenberg and Kimi at least.


Seasons can be deceptive, remember he pushed FA all the way and I think overall he has been a little bit more special than Rosberg this year.


And yes I think he is as good as Kimi!!


Opinions, we all have them.


I hate to be picky on such an intriguing and well-considered article, but I thought of mention that it does say McLaren will pay "over US $20" for engines next year. While I don't doubt that F1 engines do cost over $20, I think it might just be slightly wide of the mark... 😉

For me, the Hulkenberg drive is the most interesting story left of silly season, and personally, I'd love him to get the Lotus seat, instead of another sideways move back to Force India.


Its $20million for all season engines, and that's right. Until now, McLaren didnt have to pay a penny for it, according to its contract with Mercedes. it expires at the end of this year


Ah yes, I did know that. The comment was more about the fact that originally the article had said $20 instead of $20m. 😉


Ok sorry, but dont worry mate.

Huw Burford-Taylor

James, how likely is it that Alonso will be going back to what would be effectively a works Honda-McLaren team? You speak as if it's virtually a done deal, but didn't Alonso himself say recently that he was contracted at Ferrari until 2016 and he wanted to extend that? Also, wasn't Jenson holding out for a two year extension recently, rather than the single year option that McLaren hold, as he wanted to be there when Honda return. What chances he will be do you think?


Huw my dear friend, I think you got that all a bit back to front....

Jenson was holding out for a one year deal it was McLaren that wanted a two year deal minimum.

All the top teams have jense on their wish list, so he wants to keep his options open as well as his purse!!

Huw Burford-Taylor

No. In 2011 he got the standard 2+1 year option contract extension, so 2012 & 2013 confirmed, 2014 option. This is the option that's been taken up for next year. What was being talked over the summer is that after the announcement of Honda coming on-board for 2015, was that he wanted a guaranteed 2 year extension that would keep him in the team for Honda's arrival.


Guys, read what James actually wrote. There's a world of difference between pushing hard to sign Alonso, and it being a done deal. As for contracts precluding moves - well, Alonso left McLaren early, Raikkonen was paid to leave early. Look, everyone knows that contracts are designed to protect each party against default by the other party. If both parties choose to negotiate the cancellation of that contract, that's another matter entirely.

I think Hulk to FI could be a smart move. More secure finance than Lotus, and could gain hugely if the Mercedes engine is as good as rumoured. Perez does one more year, then if they don't sign Alonso Hulk moves to McLaren. Might even see Button leave after 2014, although I think he'd love to stay for the Honda engines, and I think McLaren-Honda's preference would be Alonso/Button.

By the way, does the title McLaren-Honda bring excited memories to anyone else...?


Yes it does, I was 12 in 1988 and I just remeber the red and white cars winning.

I so hope they drop the awful silver Mercades forced on them and take the Honda red back.

I'm very excited by the prospect because if I was pushed to choose 1team to support from here on in, it would be McLaren.


For whatever reason, Alonso doesn't feel or get back as much love at Ferrari as he did only a short while ago.

Sure, he's frustrated at the lack of pace in the car but something else is going on.

You can see a change in his demeanour since Spa, it's probably no coincidence that they announced Kimi shortly after that, indicating that FA was in some way being informed or consulted about it and it didn't go the way he wanted and now he feels a bit let down.

If the 2014 car is not on the pace from the word go, he'll be looking to go and McLaren would seem to be the ideal choice after Red Bull.

I can see Ferrari with a 2015 line up of Hulkenberg and Bianchi


I don't say Alonso to McLaren is a done deal. But I know they will move heaven and earth to get him for 2015. They may not succeed, time will tell


Given the acrimonious divorce that Alonso and Mclaren went through in 2007, if i were Mclaren, i would try to put heaven and earth together to sign Vettel for 2015. Alonso will be 34 2015. And he is known to be impatient if results dont come his way soon. So he may just bicker once again and hang up his boots for good if Mclaren is unable to produce a good car within the first 2 years of the contract.


There are only 3 first league names here -drivers-.

And currently we count 5 big teams, no?. Even if McLaren is out at the moment, it counts.

So, if you have one of them in your team, you would not make that Ferrari move for Kimi -or against Alo-.

Then, logically, something more -and big- is happening. I Highly respect Alo-Maca rumore!!!


Well maybe if they made Alonso felt more at home and not back a rookie in 2007 Alonso would have claimed at least 2 championships for them by now, if Alonso's family and guests had to use Renault's hospitalities in the 2nd half of that season and old Ron didn't come out and say "basically we're racing Fernando" and dodgy tyre pressure for China quali then maybe Alonso would go back there, as things stand Ferrari or Redbull are more likely Alonso's drives till the end of his career, but he will try and dodge Vettel wherever he can, I doubt he could handle Seb's raw speed hence why he veto'd Vettel's Ferrari move whilst he's there.


As good as Alonso is he is just not quick enough to beat Seb, they have similar racecraft and maybe Alonso is 2% more consistent which is not enough to overcome Vettel's raw speed, on the cutrent grid only Hulkenberg andaybe Ricciardo and Bianchi can challenge Seb now, the rest are on their way down and Seb is coming into his prime this year and the next 2, it'll be tough for the likes of Alonso, Raikkonen, Button and even Hamilton to claim another title unless they have the best car and luck on their side.


Yago...which Alonso is this you're talking about..."equaliy by the team..."...you must be talking about his 1st cousin Benjamin Alonso.... lol.


Alonso said in an interview to spanish TV that being in the same team as Vettel was very attractive to him. But that the way things are now it was very difficult for that to happen. If Alonso's approach to Red Bull is to be believed (at least for James Allen and many other pundits it is a fact, but I'm not convinced at all), it is a proof of Alonso's wish to share team with Sebastian. I think he really would pray for that to happen, but he is not a foul and he needs to know both would be backed equally by the team.


Alonso, why not retire? I think we are guickly getting to a point where there is going to be one top driver and then the rest..... Much like MS in the early 2000's.....


I disagree with that....if the other teams can get their cars on par with the RedBull things could really get interesting.


So when the prodigal son stories of Hamilton back to Macca begin.

Reality, is, Lewis has two years to win big with Benz or else [mod] will be sniffing around for the Vettel/benz partnership

James, how are Mercedes viewing Hamilton's year so far?



Its clear to see on Ross's face when Nico beats him that they have hired a overhyped driver, they know without all the bad luck reliability and suspect strategies Rosberg is actually ahead...


Is it really true that Alonso has a performance clause on his contract?

Alonso and Hulk at Mclaren-Honda in 2015 would be a dream team, alongside Peter Prodromou, which in my view is a large RBR leak, but inevitable at some point. Interesting times ahead.

I fail to put Massa in a proper seat, for now... Sauber, Force India, back to Ferrari?

On a completely unrelated point, it was lovely to see strong performances from both Sauber and Lotus as teams.


who knows, Maybe Ferrari will go one better and NOT pay him not to race, but rather pay him to race for McLaren. lol

I cant help but feel Ferrari has been mis-managed since the end of 2006. Alonso/Kimi as good as they are, are not the positive force Ferrari require.


Indeed seen as Grosjean is faster in terms of raw lap speed than Raikkonen too, who's going for banzai qualifying at Ferrari then??? Luca get the chequebook out sign Vettel sooner rather than later and make him the face of Ferrari, it's the move that will actually save Ferrari as a brand over the next decade, only Seb can bring you another 3-4 titles in 10 years and in turn in his own right probably beat Schumi's record, win win for both, it's the only way to break up Vettel/Newey stranglehold by taking half that away, £30million a year shall do it, if even better somehow convince Newey to join as well, another £30million a year shall do that too, Luca do you have the balls for these moves? Alonslow is getting them nowhere.


"as McLaren have to pay Mercedes over US $20M for their engines."

Surely the new engines are going to cost a lot more like $5M to $6M each next year, or is Merc going to subsidise them?


In fact why not make F1 a not for profit enterprise and distribute all that cash to the teams to build decent cars and employ decent drivers and have a salary cap for drivers!


Why doesn't the commercial rights holder pay for the engines? Would make things much more affordable for the teams.


Nobody pays per engine, its a supply contract for a year covering testing and the races and all tallk has been in the $20-25 million region for all three manufacturers.


Hi James.

Did you see this link I had tweeted to you http://t.co/nwainskrWG ?

Says Alonso to McLaren is a done deal, and they are pushing for his arrival in 2014 itself.

When Alonso is staunchly denying any of this, how can this be true?

Any insights? Or any words from EJ?


Looks like one of those posts which gets a lot of notoriety, like the Santander conspiracy one which has been around a while

It's easy on the Internet to write what the fans want to know about, whether its true is another matter..


James, there are two more credible people stating that Alonso is heading to McLaren.

Reproducing David Croft's tweet:

"Hulk to Ferrari. Alonso to McLaren. Chilton to Force India. Magnussen to Marussia"

And Johnny Herbert's tweet:

"Yes @CroftyF1 I concur...Alonso - McLaren, Hulkenberg - Ferrari, Massa - Lotus, Chilton - Force India, Magnussen - Marussia #crediblesource "


Why would Alonso have already tied himself for 2015 now? There is a no way of knowing how strong any team will be under the new rules, and Mclaren have the added uncertainty of new Honda engines for 2015.

If Alonso is sitting in a winning Ferrari next year then he is not going any where. If he isn't then he might look around at all his options at the time. Anything before that is just people showing a bit of ankle to each other.


You are right.

Except if anyone feels or suspects Ferrari turbo charge V6 engines arent going to be the best invention coming out from Maranelo at all.

Only two years ago, when they (Ferrari, Ecclestone and some other big guns) were trying to stop this engine rules move, Montesemolo said v6 turbo eficient engines were not part of theirs business...

Even tough, I agree Alo will stay at Ferrari in 2014, for his own interest, even if he then moves to Maca.

Only his 3rd WDC in 2014 will stop this!!!!


Fantastic piece James, thank you.

Do you think there is any real possibility of Alonso electing not to drive in 2014?

An Alonso- Mclaren deal for 2015 is looking like an increasing possibility. Do you think Honda will be looking to buy into the team? there was a reference to a changing business model in the last annual report.


It would be helpfull if they buy Dennys's 25%. Helpfull for Alo's arrival.


I said in a post two days ago that Honda

would eventually purchase a customer team

and install Ross Brawn as principal.

I was shouted down.


James, Martin Brundle let slip that he spoke to an unidentified team manager who claimed he was not quite sold on Hulkenberg. I know we probably will never know who it was but is there a feeling in the paddock that he is overrated in any way?

From my observation he's very quick and deserves a top drive. I suspect some team managers may not be sold on him only due to his lack of funds. His height and weight make no sense to me, the guy is fast. I would rather have a fast, tall and heavy driver determined to battle it out at the front than an over the hill, small and light weight one who is fast in qualifying but continues to go backwards in races. No guesses for who I'm comparing there.


Ferrari said that. He was an option for them but they went for Kimi as they weren't quite sold


"He (Hulkenberg) was an option for them but they went for Kimi as they weren’t quite sold"

Which I personally think they will regret in the long term. Time will tell.


James-in your opinion what more does Nico Hulkenberg have to do to convince others that he deserves seat at a top team.

In last few races he is even challenging Alonso, Hamilton and Kimi with stronger cars with his Sauber.


And he has to be on his top form when the proper seat emerges.


Just keep doing what he's doing


Good analysis of the situation at hand but after yesterday I'm becoming increasingly hopeful of the attractive prospect of Grosjean-Hulkenberg at Lotus, despite the financial constraints. I do like Felipe Massa but his last few races have not been a huge endorsement of his qualities for the role at Lotus and I think, looking at a longer timeframe, he'd be fortunate to remain in one of the Top 4/5 teams, even though I'd like him to stay in F1.

EJ's prediction of Hulkenberg to Force India has been well documented but after yesterday's race he also pointed to a breakdown in the relationship between Maldonado and Williams. Is there any other evidence to back this up? If so I wonder what the implications are for the team, whose financial stability in recent seasons has been helped by those PDVSA funds. Lest we also forget that Maldonado was very quick in 2012 with a strong car underneath him and, though his move yesterday was on the border of acceptability, I kind of admired him for being willing to give it everything just to finish 16th and ahead of his team-mate.


Most people are ignoring the fact that the Sauber is a good car since the tyre changes and updates, and the FI is not!

No way of the Hulk staying put if Lotus falls through?


Great read, thanks.


I can't see Button being in a Mclaren in 2015 to be honest. His form has never been great in anything but the very best car and he seems to be falling further and further away from championship form. Hulkenburg could be an option then particularly if Alonso makes the move.

I'd have to disagree now more than ever with your assessment that Button is more naturally talented than Hill, James!

However, Alonso could be a risky option in 2015 as a lead driver. He isn't getting younger and personally I think he is starting to drop past his peak (not by much, but the signs are there_. Whilst he has still put in some great drives this year, he has again slipped away in the second half of the season and his qualifying form is now quite poor compared to a few seasons ago.

I don't mean this as a complete slating of Alonso, at this point he would be in my top 3 drivers, but you have to be looking at the long term and in two years time is he really going to be as formidable as he is now? In 2015 any team worth their salt at the front who are signing a new talent need to be looking 5-6 years ahead. Alonso will have, realistically, another 2-3 seasons max at that point.

It is sad, but age catches up with everyone eventually.


"I’d have to disagree now more than ever with your assessment that Button is more naturally talented than Hill, James!"

When did James say that?

Hey James did you say that?


"He isn’t getting younger and personally I think he is starting to drop past his peak (not by much, but the signs are there_"

Fully agree on your first point - the one about ALO (and a few more) not getting younger! I do however struggle to understand how you arrive at the conclusion that he is "starting to drop past his peak"? Last time I checked the standings I found (again) ALOs name in 2nd place, behind the redbull of VET and by a good margin ahead of...everyone else! The Ferrari is probably behind Merc and Lotus pace-wise and sometimes even behind Sauber. That looks more like over-achieving than anything else...but hey, I could be wrong.


"I can’t see Button being in a Mclaren in 2015 to be honest. His form has never been great in anything but the very best car and he seems to be falling further and further away from championship form"

Once again, unbelievable comment!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but was he not driving the same McLaren as Hamilton the last 3 years?

So are you saying the same is true of Hamilton???


I'm not sure what bit of that statement you take issue with. I feel comfortable saying Button struggles in anything bar an exceptional car. He doesn't have the ability to drive around problems.

I don't really want to get into Hamilton, but by contrast he won in the 2009 challenger which was one of the worst Mclarens built, and has won in every season that he has competed.


Alonso going back to McLaren makes about as much sense as Räikkönen going back to Ferrari.

Since the latter happened I wouldn't rule it out like I probably would have a couple months back, but considering the history between Alonso and McLaren wouldn't there be a more than a few sour grapes?


Alonso has previously said his problems were with Ron Denis who is now very much hands off with the F1 team.


I think Nico Hulkenburg is getting a little desperate though its hard not to blame him. Because of his budget situation or lack of he's worried that he might be frozen out again as he was at the end of 2011 and now after the latest snub from Ferrari he'd rejoin Force India to be at least on the grid.

Its starting to look as though Alonso might sit out 2014 prior to a return to McLaren in 2015 and both parts are really hard to believe.

Yet I read something from Gary Anderson on the BBC web site and he's agast at the management behaviour inside Ferrari, they really seem to be in disarray. An example for all to see was the absurdity of the radio message to Felipe Massa during the Japanese Grand Prix to move over for Alonso...

It's not credible, tyre issues or otherwise, that Ferrari with a double podium in Spain could have fallen back so far since then. They can blame Massa or Alonso or tyres or anything else they choose but ultimately the team and team management are responsible and its begining to look as though their next clue will be their first.


Hulk really deserves a top 5 car and I would be surprised after all the talk from Boullier lately if he signed Massa. Massa has a very extended stay in a top team and looks past it while Hulk has shown proper flashes of brilliance throughout his F1 career.

As for Alonso and Honda, I think that depends on how good the Ferrari is next year. If he can mount a genuine challenge at the front, I can only see him moving if Raikkonen gets the better of him.


IF Honda Mclaren were to go all out for Alonso in 2015, and are finding themselves somewhat in bed with the Slim family and as such Checo. Where does that leave Magnussen & Vandoorne? Arguably they are both ready for a crack at F1, but with who and what short term chance would they have at moving up to Mclaren?


I really feel sorry for Magnussen, Vandoorne and Frijns. All three belong in F1 without a doubt but you talk to the smaller teams and they say "how much will you give us" whilst the top teams wont risk taking a rookie now because they'd loose a lot of points whilst he gets up to speed.

It really makes me wonder what the quality of the grid will be like in 5-10 years time.


Martin Whitmarsh told the BBC that McLaren are doing everything they can to get Magnussen onto the grid.

It's unlikely that they will pay money but a transfer of Mclaren technology would be worth a lot more than a few million dollars in cash to a junior team.


Could a return to Williams be an option for Hulkenberg? With Mercedes power and Pat Symonds for 2014, they should be quite formidable.

Given Pastor's recent spate of outbursts against the team it seems like he's trying to find a way out.

Force India to my mind got lucky in 2013, the car seems like one of the least developed on the grid. The car happened to suit the initial design of tyres. Sauber could well outscore them come the end of the year. They don't have the resources of a team like Williams to deal with new regulations and the challenges they could bring. Nico would be better placed going back to Williams if he wants to cosy up to Mercedes long term or if Lotus is not on the cards.


I don't think they got lucky. They got it right. Remember, in 2011 they were stronger than the other teams.

Although I think Sauber lost out in not keeping Kobayashi.



Is the possibility of Hulkenberg staying put at Sauber for another year ruled out then? They seem to have made a step forward and be at least as competitive as FI now. Or, is the relationship irreparable?


I do not see any sense in Hulkenberg's reported move back to FI. If he cannot get the Lotus seat, shouldn't he just stay at Sauber for another year and aim to replace Alonso or Kimi at Ferrari for 2015?


Same thoughts here, but I am afraid the deal goes beyond that. He is either battling with his weight issue for 2015 or he is required to use 2014 as a filler as advised by the big boys. Lotus might want to lock him for more than 1 year which could cause problems for him with possible move to Mclaren or Ferrari if Alonso drops the bomb. Sounds odd I know, but I am thinking that everything that happens in 2014 is just a setup for 2015.


Good points, but with it being so difficult to break into the top teams now, he should grab his opportunity while he can!


I just noticed...a little slow I admit, that DRS wings have menant many teams don't use the lower element for branding. They just leave it white as when it is open it looks like half a message. What a waste! Surely they can't be happy about this prime space being wasted and reduced in size.


They should find another sponsor to go there, or re-enforce the branding in the bottom section some way. Well noticed!


James, there are rumors that Maldonado fancies a move to Lotus? In this light, Eddie Jordan's Force India prediction might be right.


Clash of oil companies - Total with Grosjean and PDVSA with Maldonado

My understanding is that Williams feel they have a contract with PDVSA for 2014


Was it not rumoured that the PDVSA contract stated they could choose a driver, rather than that it had to be Maldonado? Several Venezuelan drivers floating around F1 with superlicences at the moment..


James, who do you think is most at risk of losing their seat at Force India if EJ is correct? I have never rated Sutil and he seemed to make his name by having a couple of decent races in the rain. I think Hulk/Massa/Maldonado if available would all be upgrades on their current driver line up. Obviously Di Resta hasn't done great recently but he's shown that he may be more than a completely mediocre driver like Sutil for me.


Didn't Adrian lead in Melbourne?


Sutil brings some money. Di Resta did have a Mercedes connection, not sure how relevant that is today in terms of his placement. He was Norbert Haug's man.

Probably in place of Sutil is what I understand, but Massa has a shout there too.

Tornillo Amarillo

I like to believe HULK has secure a Force India seat, but he is just waiting the opportunity to grab the Lotus seat. Anyway, it's a middle-field team. As a fan of him, I cannot believe he missed in Red Bull and Ferrari... His manager is not a top one, isn't he?


It might be an option tho but I still think there is a bigger fish in the end. As we all know Alonso/Ferrari love has raised some questions and this is the whole issue causing problems for the next transfers. Vettel will not go there as long as Alonso will drive there or as long as he can win with RB. Therefore Ferrari and Mclaren are looking for a long term driver.

While Alonso is still on the limit with Ferrari not being sure about him, here pops the Hulk. Ferrari will prolly take him if Alonso goes and then will score Vettel, but not if they still have Alonso (for obvious reasons). On the other hand I will not see Vettel in a Mclaren and here comes the Hulk again as a possible takeover from Button when the time comes. Lotus? Lotus is a done team. With Raikonnen gone and Gro's XP they do not have the power to full throttle in 2015.

Mike from Colombia

Come on James - Martin Brundle must gave told you!


I am sure James knows far more than Martin Brundle

Mike from Colombia

But Brundle said he knows


James, Kobayashi was seen in the paddock this weekend and said he's still pushing for a drive next year. While that may be a long shot, does he potentially have a shot for McLaren in 2015 when Honda returns? I understand they're keen on having a Japanese driver, and may work a deal on the finances of the engine supply if McLaren can agree to it...along with Kobayashi's fan fundraiser (not enormous, but still quantifiable), do you think he has a shot James?


I thought Kobayashi was a Toyota man. As such, I think it would be unlikely to drive a Honda.


I think it's unlikely

More likely they want a top champion on the car


Plus Kobayashi used to be a Toyota backed driver. Not sure Honda would be the one supporting him.


"Several pundits, including BBC’s Eddie Jordan, believe he is going back for Force India"

If Eddie says it, it is correct! 😉

In all seriousness, that would be a mistake. In my opinion he needs to settle somewhere and get on with is. Not rot at a team like I feel some drivers have done, but get into a stable position.

"Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy has announced that he has signed for Lotus, the official announcement due imminently."

If this is correct, then yay! Two relatively young drivers who are both quick! It will be a great team to watch.

I feel that next year will be one of the best in F1 history — new engines and an overhaul of the regulations meaning that the cars are 'reset', two strong drivers at Red Bull (hopefully in a year or two Ricciardo will be able to challenge Vettel), the best two racers at Ferrari (in my completely unbiased Ferrari-fan opinion 😉 ), a much better Mercedes car with two very strong drivers getting everything out of it, and a fast young and strong paring at Lotus.

All we need now is Pirelli to sort out the tyres and not mess it up, and for Williams, Sauber, Caterham, and Marussia to not go for pay drivers left right and centre (technically only left and right, as there is no centre car in an F1 garage 😉 ).


Wouldn't mind seeing Rubens getting a final year in F1, although somewhat unlikely, I feel he never got to go how he deserved to.

And also getting Kobayashi, Alguersuari, Glock and Kovalainen back — they were my favourite non-top-team drivers. They had talent but no money 🙁

And I forgot to mention — really long season should be great to watch with the return of Austria!


Let us just put the Hulk's performances into perspective.

The reference is Gutierrez. He was highly ranked, coming into Formula One, but his ability is far from confirmed.

Sauber has been quietly working hard on a couple of difficult airflow management systems, which they have finally got: DDRS, and a similar rear wheel air flow solution which keeps the Red Bull the most firmly planted back end on the grid.

So those are facts around the potential performance of the machinery at Sauber.

Let's not forget the points haul both Sauber drivers got last year.

Watching the races, you can see that he appears to be driving well, passing, defending, and bringing home the points.

He's heavy.

With little to no supporting facts, I feel that Hulkenberg is going to Ferrari for 2014.

If he doesn't go there, a move to Lotus seems the best option for his career, though it could be a repeat of Sauber across 2012-2013.


I'd like to see Massa and the funds he brings in Sauber. Sauber are in more desperate need of funds, and have the potential to be a top team. Perhaps a strong 4th/5th place or so.

Renault should recommit to F1, and grab Lotus while they can. Hulk deserves a seat at Lotus. Lotus will then have long term money and drivers that set them well for the future.

Just my wish list.


Renault should definitely retake Lotus while RoGro is there.

Adrian Newey Jnr

James - last silly season we saw a lot of driver deals being done for financial reasons rather than picking the best available drivers. Given your relationship with your American friend who appears on your podcast (sorry can't remember his name), do you get the feeling that the sponsorship market is improving to the point that, even top tier teams like McLaren, can afford to take their driver of choice, or still rely on drivers bringing money?


Zak Brown.

I'm not sure it's filtering down to the medium sized and smaller teams

Also next year will be very expensive with new turbo engines costing over $20m, so you are more likely to see drivers with budget in my view


Interesting, Thanks James.

I believe Caterham and possibly Force India have saved much of the 2013 budget, and in Caterham's case took on a pay driver, to pay for 2014.

Caterham will run Heikki again next yeat, alongside Pic. Pic has Renault support. My certainity of Heikki's return to a race seat is based on his chosen residence. i.e. Norfolk.

I just hope Tony's interest in F1 is lifted. He sounded a bit disillusioned by it all in your most recent podcast.

I think mid field / lower end teams will be able to run 1 driver with experience and 1 'pay' driver .


James is wrong. They have done one thing to their car. Made it slower!


Force India definitely, they haven't done much to their car for months


I have nothing to suggest so, but I have a feeling that Perez may get the boot to make room for a surprise Hulkenburg to partner Jensen.


James... I don't doubt the Hulkenberg/Lotus connection. But in all this media swarm I have not seen the Richard Mille tie in with Massa and Lotus. Any comment on why it hasn't had more weight? Felipe has his own Richard Mille signature watch(which is only 75K). Most likely doesnt change what is being rumored here...but interesting nonetheless.


this clearly confirms that hulkenberg's weight is not a major issue.


That is so funny:

"He is highly experienced and also very light" 😀

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