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Nico Hulkenberg and Lotus are perhaps the two biggest names floating around to complete the driver line-up next season.
With Kimi Raikkonen joining Ferrari and Red Bull confirming Daniel Ricciardo for 2014, it has left Lotus with the best vacant seat in Formula 1 next year.
And Hulkenberg may be the driver with the most potential without a seat that could end up at Enstone.
But things aren’t so simple.
NO PLACE FOR HULKENBERG AT SAUBER
Hulkenberg left Force India at the end of the 2012 season to join Sauber, who had impressed with four podiums last year, but the Swiss team’s performance is just a shadow of its former self.
Like many other teams, Sauber is struggling financially and may opt for drivers who bring in a significant sponsorship package to the team.
Esteban Gutierrez’s Mexican links, notably from Telmex (chaired by one of the richest men on the planet), is one option that could be retained. But the rookie has tough competition from Sergey Sirotkin, whose Russian links have almost certainly guaranteed him a seat next year.
Jules Bianchi is another option. Currently driving for Marussia, the Frenchman may end up at Sauber as well as he is the member of the Ferrari driver academy. Sauber races with Ferrari engines providing the team with an incentive to select Bianchi in return for perhaps a discounted power unit.
LOTUS’ FINANCES AND RISKY MASSA
Lotus, meanwhile, has made it clear that it wants to sort out its financial status before confirming its line up. Should that fail, it may have to resort to signing Felipe Massa, discarded by Ferrari, as the Brazilian is believed to have a significant sponsor backing.
Massa, though, is a high risk candidate. His years of experience may help but the worry is that his performances have declined since he returned to F1 since his horrific accident in Hungary in 2009. Since he was paired with Fernando Alonso, he featured on the podium just eight times while the Spaniard recorded 11 victories to his name in that period.
If, however, Lotus manages to smoothen its financial issues, further enhanced by Romain Grosjean’s strong performances in the final few races of the season, it could leave the door open for Hulkenberg.
Frenchman Grosjean’s apparent association with French manufacturer Renault, which Lotus has been trying to convince to deepen its involvement in F1 with Enstone, and oil company Total will further assist the team.
McLAREN EYEING HULKENBERG?
Hulkenberg, in the meantime, is exploring as many options as he could. McLaren is a prospect as it is yet to officially confirm Sergio Perez for another season. Should the German end up at Woking, Massa may emerge as a prime contender for a seat at Lotus.
There could be a possibility that Lotus may announce its second driver late, as late as Force India did when it announced Adrian Sutil during the third and final pre-season test earlier this year.