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Nico Hulkenberg relishing opportunity for new challenge

Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg is refusing to waste any time thinking about the circumstances that led to him being overlooked by Lotus after securing his Formula One future by agreeing a “multi-year” deal to return to Force India next season.

The German was one of the stand-out drivers of 2013, achieving a string of eye-catching results for Sauber that brought him onto the radar of Lotus, who have lost Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari for next season.

Lotus made no secret of the fact that Hulkenberg was their number one target but were equally open that any deal was dependent on reaching an agreement for the Quantum Motorsports consortium to take a 35 per cent stake in the team.

With that deal so far having failed to materialise, Lotus instead moved for Pastor Maldonado, who brought with him a major sponsorship package from Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas giant PDVSA.

Maldonado’s is not a unique case. Hulkenberg’s former employes Sauber are also likely to field untried Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin in 2014 as a result of the financial clout he is poised to bring to the team, while McLaren outcast Sergio Perez is tipped to land the second Force India seat in part due to his personal sponsorship backers.

With the cost of running an F1 team astronomically high, Hulkenberg appears to be the most high-profile victim of the increasing need for teams to top up the balance sheet where they can - even at the expense of signing the most talented drivers.

But the 26-year-old insists he is not fazed by the situation, and is looking forward to progressing his career at Force India, for whom he also raced in 2012 after a year as the team’s test driver.

“I think everyone will have their own opinion on it,” said Hulkenberg, who has contested 58 grands prix since making his debut for Williams in 2010. “It’s not a completely new situation, it’s been around for some years now that some drivers come with financial backing, which is probably positive for them.

“I don’t have something to offer like that and have to work around it, but it is what it is.

“It’s not the first time I’ve experienced something like this. I’ve lost a seat once in Williams (at the end of 2010). But the situation is like this for some years but to be honest I don’t spend too much time thinking about it.

“I try to get my energy on the important subjects and take my career in the right way.”

Hulkenberg returns to Force India after a year at Sauber, where he finished 10th in the drivers’ standings with a best result of fourth place in the Korean Grand Prix.

“It’s where I feel very comfortable,” Hulkenberg said of his return to the Silverstone-based team.

“I had good success in 2012, for the future they’ve taken good decisions in terms of engine partner (Mercedes), the team’s growing. The structure’s getting bigger.

“I’ve not been here for a year, but quite a lot has changed and it’s moving forward.”

 

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