Out-of-contract Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg says he won’t accept just any deal at any team as he fights to keep his Formula One career alive.
Hulkenberg, who lost out to Esteban Ocon for a drive with Renault in 2020, is running out of available seats to keep himself in F1 next season, with the latest blow coming at the Singapore Grand Prix, where Haas announced it will retain Romain Grosjean for another season.
Haas boss Guenther Steiner says he didn’t even get so far as offering Hulkenberg a deal, though the German suggests the lack of enthusiasm was mutual.
“I didn’t pursue that deal,” he said. “We didn’t agree it, we didn’t get together with Haas, so that’s the consequence out of that.
“It was serious, but it’s hard for me to go into too much detail, it’s all confidential and sensitive information.
“We just didn’t get together on this occasion, we couldn’t agree a deal.”
The withdrawal of the Haas seat from the driver market reduces the number of uncontracted drivers to four for 2020, though Hulkenberg’s hopes may have received a boost from Robert Kubica’s announcement that he’ll leave Williams next season after a single year racing with the team.
However, the 32-year-old was noncommittal when asked about the possibility of a move to Williams, suggesting the team’s lack of performance during the last two seasons was a turn-off.
“Maybe yes, maybe no,” he said. “To be honest that’s very new news, I’m not sure at this point.
“As much as I want to continue in Formula One, for me it needs to make sense, it needs to be sensible.
“It needs to be the right deal. I’m not desperate to stay in Formula One and just take anything.
“We know unless you have the right weapon or crazy circumstances, it’s tough.
“I’m not disregarding or disrespecting Williams; I mean in general, globally, even with Haas. That is most important for me.”
In any case, Kubica’s Williams seat is already linked to Canadian Formula Two driver Nicholas Latifi, who would likely come with a substantial sponsorship package.
“That’s not something that I can bring to the team,” Hulkenberg said, noting his own modest personal sponsorship. “I think for me I’ve also found it’s very hard in Formula One in the midfield personally to find sponsors. It’s not that easy. We’ve tried.”
Alfa Romeo presents as the next-best option, but the only available seat at the Swiss team next season is understood to come under the purview of Ferrari and as such is currently occupied by development driver Antonio Giovinazzi.
Giovinazzi has been comfortably outperformed by teammate Kimi Raikkonen so far this season, though Ferrari has since intimated it intends to back the Italian to come good as he recovers from two years out of the sport.
“I think you just see and understand what’s still available, which seats and which not,” Hulkenberg said. “I think it’s to a big extent out of my control now, out of my hands.
“We just need a bit more time. I think there are still possibilities and realistic chance, but at this game you can never be too sure.”
The only other seats available are at Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso, though neither is expected to source candidates from outside its driver programme, and Hulkenberg admitted that a contract with either is unrealistic.
Therefore only a driver outside Formula One seems likely to keep Hulkenberg racing, though the out-of-luck German is adamant he isn’t yet thinking about alternative categories.
“My head is very much here still,” he said. “That would be only something I would consider really a little bit down the line if I knew things weren’t going ahead here.”