Nico Hulkenberg joins Sauber for 2013

2013 F1 season

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Singapore, 2012Nico Hulkenberg will move to Sauber for 2013, the team has confirmed.

It will be the third team Hulkenberg has raced for in as many seasons. He arrived in F1 with Williams in 2010 but was replaced at the team by Pastor Maldonado the following year.

He spent 2011 as a test driver for Force India before joining their race team this year.

“I?m really looking forward to working with the Sauber F1 Team,” said Hulkenberg. “It?s a well-placed team and very competitive.”

“Plus it?s a team in which young drivers have repeatedly delivered exceptional performances. I would like to take up that baton.

“The Sauber F1 Team is currently going through a very positive development and I?m certain that together we can achieve a lot. Until that time I will remain fully focused on my job with the Sahara Force India Team. I?d like to thank the management at Sahara Force India for giving me the chance to return to Formula One as a team driver.”

Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said: “We?ve been observing Nico for some time now and his performances have been very persuasive. That was the case in GP2 and has continued into Formula One.

“An obvious highlight was how he scored pole at Interlagos in 2010 despite the most challenging external conditions. He clearly showed that he can seize the chance if it arises.

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

Sauber added the team’s second driver for 2013 would be confirmed “at a later date”.

Sergio Perez is already known to be leaving the team for McLaren. Kamui Kobayashi’s seat is believed to be under threat, with reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez tipped as a replacement.

Force India team principal Vijay Mallya said it had been “a pleasure” to work with Hulkenberg this year.

“At the end of 2010 we identified him as a star of the future and it has been rewarding to watch him develop his racing skills,” he said.

“Together with Paul he has done a brilliant job for us, helping the team score more points than ever before and giving 100% commitment every weekend. We would like to thank him for all his hard work and wish him well for the future. With three races remaining this season, we know Nico will remain totally committed and continue to deliver his best performances for the team.”

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124 comments on Nico Hulkenberg joins Sauber for 2013

  1. That’s fantastic for the Hulk. My only worry is that Sauber don’t fall backwards next year. The place where they are right now on the grid has had the potential for surprise podiums. I hope it’s the same level or better next year.

  2. Tango (@tango) said on 31st October 2012, 9:46

    Ok, so Hulk is at Sauber, replacing Perez who replaces Hamilton who replaces Schumi who is out.

    Bianchi, Frijns, Bottas, Antonio Felix da Costa, Valsecchi, Razia, Guttierez, Van den Garde, Razia, Turvey and Chilton could all hope for a seat. Same goes for Alguersari. (though it’s maybe a bit early for Frijns, Chilton, AFdC or even Evans…). If Pic goes to Caterham, only seats left and possibly under threat look like to be : both HRTs, Petrov, Senna, Glock (?), Vergne (?), Kobayashi.

    With the new talents pushing below, Bottas’s position seems difficult to hold as he hasn’t raced this year !

    This being F1, other surprises are possible.

    Interesting silly seadon ahead !

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 31st October 2012, 10:45

      I’m guessing that the second Sauber seat will go to either Esteban Gutierrez or Robin Frijns. A decision will likely be made after the Abu Dhabi Young Driver Tests.

      Force India is a much harder one to settle on, but I think it will come down to a straight fight between Jaime Alguersuari, Jules Bianchi and a high-paying GP2 driver like van der Garde. Sponsor money will probably go a long way to settling that one, simply because all three could cut it in Formula 1.

      Caterham are in a tough position. They’ve lost tenth place to Marussia in the World Constructors’ Championship, so they need money – but while Vitaly Petrov has lost his backing from the Russian government, he’s also out-performing Heikki Kovalainen. At the very least, the two are much more evenly-matched than Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli. I suspect we may see Petrov and Pic in the team next year. Kovalainen might go to Force India depending on when the team makes their decision.

  3. barkun (@barkun) said on 31st October 2012, 9:48

    bad news for Kamui? :(

    • Girts (@girts) said on 31st October 2012, 10:06

      The signs are that the Brazilian GP will be Kamui’s final race in F1. Drivers usually don’t talk that openly about the ‘need to find a sponsor’ as Kobayashi has been doing lately, it rather looks like making excuses for the expected departure. It seems that Sauber are evaluating Gutierrez now.

  4. Knightmare (@knightmare) said on 31st October 2012, 10:00

    What are the chances of Force India signing up an Indian driver now?

  5. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 31st October 2012, 10:17

    So that leaves us with the following situation for 2013 ( and I’m assuming here that Grosjean will stay put at Lotus, and that Kovaleinen will stay put at caterham)

    Mclaren: Button/Perez
    Ferrari: Alonso/Massa
    Lotus: Raikonnen/Grosjean
    Red Bull: Vettel/Webber
    Sauber: Hulkenberg/EMPTY ONE
    Mercedes: Hamilton/Rosberg
    Force India: Di Resta/EMPTY TWO
    Torro Rosso EMPTY THREE/EMPTY FOUR
    Caterham: Kovaleinen/EMPTY FIVE
    Marussia: Glock/EMPTY SIX
    HRT: De la Rosa/EMPTY SEVEN

    So by my count 7 empty seat/unconfirmed seats for 2013, while we have the following candidates:

    Champion and runner up from FR 3.5 and GP@ (main feeder series)

    1) Frijns
    2) Bianchi
    3) Valsecchi
    4) Razzia

    current drivers:

    5) Petrov
    6) Ricciardo
    7) Vergne
    8) Karthikkian (spelled wrong , I know)
    9) Pic
    10) Kobayashi

    Test drivers who might get promoted:

    11) van de Garde
    12) Gutriez
    13) Algesuarie

    So that’s 13 hopefulls for 7 seats, might eb others i left out, but if any drivers outside this gruop have a ligitemite shot at a seat next year, it would surprise me. Here’s my 2 cents:

    The most deserving of the new crop would be Frijns for me , but he’ll probably lose out on a seat due to not having any money.

    I expect the Force India seat to got to either Algesuarie or Bianchi, I hope the former
    The Sauber seat should go to Kobayashi or Frijns, but I’m afraid they will have no choice but to promote an in my oppinion undeserving Gutriez.

    Torro Rosso is the key I think, although both Vernge and Ricciardo have preformed pretty well, neither has stood out (in what si a dog of a car admitted) But I suspect at least one of them will be dropped. My guess is Vergne will stay on, and will be partnered by Pic

    Caterham will see dollar signs and give the seat to van de Garde, of whom (although I’m dutch) have no high opinnion.

    Marussia have a trend of picking a driver high in the GP@ championship, so probably Valsecchi will drive for them.

    That leaves HRT seat, if algesuari goes to Force india , this will probably go to Bianchi.

    That means Frijns, and Kobiyashi, two of the most deserving drivers of the 13 in my oppinion will probably be out of a seat for next year :(

    • Tango (@tango) said on 31st October 2012, 10:23

      You forgot Bottas and Antonio Felix da Costa

      • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 31st October 2012, 10:32

        You’re right, as a matter of fact I’ve foprgotten Williams al together :s haha

        So, ok Williams: maldonado/EMPTY EIGHT
        Test drivers 14) Bottas

        Bottas will probably get the williams seat

        ;)

      • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 31st October 2012, 10:34

        Da costa will probably get another shot at the FR 3.5 title I think, he’s impressed, but has not won a major title yet. In that aspect he’s got the advantage over Frijns, both are the same age and would do well wit another campaign in FR 3.5, unfortunatly for Frijns this would be seen as a step back. He’s kind of the victim of his own rapid rise I think :S

        • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 31st October 2012, 10:47

          I agree. Da Costa seems destine for Formula 1, but I doubt Red Bull will be in any hurry to put him in a seat. I expect he’ll join the grid in 2014. The only way he might join sooner is if Vergne or Ricciardo are ditched by Toro Rosso mid-season next year. But that will be a difficult decision to make, because this year’s car has been rather lacklustre.

    • Bob (@bobthevulcan) said on 31st October 2012, 10:26

      @melkurion – A very nicely done assessment of the driver market you have here!

      In my opinion, Alguersuari will probably get the Force India drive, and Marussia will likely pick Max Chilton to replace Pic. Sauber will promote Gutierrez – he wasn’t very impressive at India, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

      Could help but notice Williams missing from the list, though. Maldonado is pretty much set for next year, so the big question is, Bottas or Senna? Judging by his Friday appearances, I would think Bottas.

      • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 31st October 2012, 10:36

        Yep, tottaly forgot about Williams, my bad, but I agree with you Maldonado and Bottas seems bvery Likely , Senna…well…enough said, I suppose :s

        Why Max Chilton? I know he’s in the marussia junior team, but he’s still evry young, I would expect he gets another year to prove himself in GP2 or FR 3.5

        • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 31st October 2012, 10:47

          Chilton actually did pretty well for himself in GP2 this year.

        • Tango (@tango) said on 31st October 2012, 10:57

          Well he is a GP2 rookie with good results and a F1 connection. So he has half a chance (and just as much as GvdGard)

        • Tango (@tango) said on 31st October 2012, 10:59

          But to be honnest, I agree, Chilton, Da Costa, Frijns all have enough time to perfect their racing in the lower categories. But if the two last carry on winning, there will be a time when quesitons will be asked ! But seriously, 23 seets is not enough for the whole world to climb in !

        • Bob (@bobthevulcan) said on 31st October 2012, 12:25

          Chilton has close ties to the Marussia team, has GP2 experience, and is due to drive for them in Abu Dhabi Friday practice. I’d say he’s in contention for a seat, especially with the speculation that Pic is moving on to the midfield. That being said, I do agree that he may need a bit more experience before making the leap into F1. Let’s see how he performs this Friday.

        • @melkurion If we look at Marussia’s history…

          2010 Driver: Lucas di Grassi
          2009 GP2 Result: 3rd

          2011 Driver: Jérôme d’Ambrosio
          2010 GP2 Result: 12th

          2012 Driver: Charles Pic
          2011 GP2 Result: 4th

          So logically…

          2013 Driver: Max Chilton
          2012 GP2 Result: 4th

    • William Brierty said on 31st October 2012, 12:19

      No, a Valsecchi/Kovalainen line-up at Caterham is nearly a certanty. For the following reasons…
      1. Every GP2 champion in history has competed in F1 – although Pantano became GP2 champion AFTER driving in F1
      2. Valsecchi is well-known to the team, he drove in FP1 at Malaysia 2011. He also competed in the Lotus/Caterham GP2 team.
      3. He brings extensive sponsorship – especially from Italian property giants Ediltecnica
      4. He is a class-act, and has extensive single-seater experience, something, as demonstrated by De La Rosa, that is valuable to the smaller teams

      • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 31st October 2012, 13:35

        Argument 1 is true, but this year the GP2 field was not exactly stellar when it comes to talent, Valsecchi GP2 title (although deserved) I fear will be percieved as worth less then previous ones. So in my oppinion GP2 champion does not guarantee a seat this year. I was not aware of the link between Valsecchi & Caterham, but van de Garde has scimilar strong ties and drove GP2 this year for their junior team, he also has extensive sponsers (from his father in law) and he has been getting a lot of friday free practices for Caterham lately. Although I personally agree he would do a better job than van de Garde by far, I’m not so sure he’ll get the Caterham seat.

        • William Brierty said on 31st October 2012, 15:45

          I agree that perhaps the crop of GP2 talent is poorer than other years, but if Chilton and Gutierrez can get seats, Valsecchi and Razia certainly deserve ones. Perhaps Valsecchi is lacking in raw speed, but so is Perez, and he’s going to McLaren next year. Valsecchi won the title with consistancy, intelligence and a great ability to preserve the Pirelli tyres, assets that are equally valued by modern F1 teams than speed. And if you want to compare Valsecchi and Van De Garde, then obviously Valsecchi is faster, he brings MUCH more sponsorship, and whilst Van De Garde’s Friday drives make his links with the team more obvious, Valsecchi did another straight-line test for Caterham the weekend before last. And as I said, Valsecchi drove for the then Lotus team in Malaysia last year. This move is certain, as certain as Hulkenberg’s move to Sauber was. If I had a spare house I would bet it on seeing Valsecchi at Caterham next year.

          • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 31st October 2012, 17:16

            Mmm, good arguments, I was very cnvinced it was going to be van de garde, but you sir, have swayed my oppinion ( and I do hope you are right)

  6. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 31st October 2012, 10:44

    It is a great move for the Hulk. Sauber have historically been able to get the best out of quick young drivers (Frentzen, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Massa, Perez) and they have built a very solid racing car this year. The Hulk will be hoping this rich vein of form continues into next season.

    However, this news is definitly a big “oh dear” (or “Deer” if you are Juan Montoya) moment for the likes of Kobayashi, Gutierrez and Alguersuari. It also limits possible options for Bruno Senna, who looks likely to loose his place to Bottas. Alguersuari seems certain he has a seat for next season…based on this his most likley destination is Force India alongside Di Resta. With Kobayashi having been told he needs to bring cash to Sauber to save his drive it seems more and more likely that Gutierrez will have the second Sauber seat. That would mean that the best seat Kobayashi and Senna could hope for would be with Caterham.

  7. Enigma (@enigma) said on 31st October 2012, 11:44

    Great! Sauber have underperformed this year, through bad luck (Spa, Monaco) and drivers being inexperienced, inconsistent and possibly not fast enough (impossible to really know though). The car has been really fast on occasions.

    I believe Hulkenberg would have achieved more this year than Perez has, possibly a win or even two.

    I’m really happy about it – Sauber, my favourite team, hasn’t really had any really likeable drivers recently (for me at least) – and now they’ve taken on Hulk, who is my favourite driver alongside Heikki!

  8. William Brierty said on 31st October 2012, 11:58

    Yes, the C32 is able to look after it tyres better than other teams, and when setup properly, is capable of putting Kobayashi on the front row. The C32 is fundementally better than Mercedes’ W03, which was designed with the money of a 4th place WCC ranking and the engineering might of Mercedes-Benz, whilst the C32 has no big manufacturers behind it (apart from its Ferrari engine and gearbox) and was designed with only the revenue of a lowly 7th placed constructors ranking. What a great acheivement the C32 is for Sauber, it being the 5th fastest car on track. and a great base for the 2013 car. Their inevitable 6th WCC ranking will give them more cash to play with too. So a fast C33 coupled with finest young driver there is, and a near certain future champion in Hulkenburg, sounds like a package able to challenge for early season victories to me.

  9. My prediction is he will do worse generally at Sauber next year than he has done at Force India. He may however by the end of next season sneak a podium. If Esteban partners him, I predict Sauber will slip back to 7th in constructors. It very much depends on who the 2nd driver is as to what direction the team go in imho.

  10. MahavirShah (@mahavirshah) said on 31st October 2012, 13:35

    Really happy for Nico Hulkenberg. He has been one of the most underrated drivers of the year for me, however I feel a bit sad that Force India will lose him to a direct rival. Force India needs to really start working on retaining their good drivers. They could not prevent Fisichella going and now they couldn’t retain Hulkenberg.

    I think it will probably be Bianchi for the FI seat. They usually seem to promote their test drivers and Bianchi has done a decent job as well. Should be interesting to look out for.

  11. sozavele (@formula-1) said on 31st October 2012, 14:11

    I really hope this move works out for him as he has talent, but sometimes when we see teams pull out surprisingly good cars compared to previous ones, like Sauber have done, the following car is a bit of a let down, to partner Hulkenburg in my opinion they should start afresh with a new line up, personally I don’t think they should go with Guitierezz, even though I did not watch the practice session he didn’t really impress me, considering Van der Garde was in the Caterham and beat him (even though he has had more practice) but this tells me I don’t think he is ready for F1 yet, but other fanatics may disagree, I think they should go with somebody with experience, Senna is out of the equation, even though I do like he has not impressed me, if Williams want the cash they’ll keep him, for some stupid reason I think they might but I don’t know why they would, I think Senna might be Sauber or Force India test driver next year. I think somebody like Heikki Kovalainen would be good for Sauber he has the experience of Alguersuari or Buemi.

  12. Fixy (@fixy) said on 31st October 2012, 14:47

    Great: my second-favourite drivers in my second-favourite team. I have always had high hopes for Hulkenberg and perhaps I’ve overrated him a little, but I trust him and I think he’ll be fighting for the WDC soon.
    It’s a shame for Force India as I was liking the team less and less, as I’m doing with Paul di Resta, and now having lost Hulkenberg there is little reason for me to support them. Hopefully Bianchi can get the second seat there and Gutierrez the second Sauber seat. The Sauber line-up would be a dream one for me!

  13. Good Move for Hulkenberg, Force India for 2013, naaaa

  14. F1 98 said on 31st October 2012, 19:44

    Congrats to Hulkenburg…

  15. I think it’s a good move for Huilk and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some sort of contact with Ferrari about it. Would have been good to see Ferrari take a chance on him I mean, surely he cant be even further behind Alionso than Massa is on average.

    Hopefully Sauber build a solid car and he can regularly be in the points with potential for a podium or 2 but like others have said I wouldn’t be surprised if Sauber fell back next year, they are a small team after all.

    Of the younger drivers, Hulkenberg is the best I think, better than Di Resta, Ricciardo and Vergne. So I hope it works out for him.

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