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Nico Hulkenberg

Transfer market: Audi still aiming for Hulkenberg

Following a strong comeback season with Haas this year, Nico Hulkenberg's stock is on the rise and the German has already caught the eye of another team.

Hulkenberg Brasil
To news overview © XPBimages

Haas's driver line-up of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg is an experienced one, with the duo having strong resumés to their name.

Nevertheless, it is still somewhat surprising to see both drivers back on the grid again next year - not because of their performance in 2023 but rather due to the fact that a couple of years ago, a return to a seat in Formula 1 seemed improbable.

Magnussen experienced a very strong 2022 season in which he had an advantage over Mick Schumacher. As a result, the Dane went into the 2023 season with confidence, although it soon became clear that Haas did not possess a competitive car this year.

Even the update the team brought to Austin did not ultimately make a large difference, with Hulkenberg even switching back to the old-spec car. As always, the German was honest with the team and that feedback was put to good use at Haas.

The relatively small F1 team does not have the resources to make a major change throughout a season, so it will have to move in the right direction immediately with the 2024 car.

In doing so, the team desperately needs feedback from Magnussen and Hulkenberg - a resource that is valuable to the squad and saw it go in the direction of employing experience rather than taking a chance on youth.

But Steiner will worry whether he will still have Hulkenberg at his disposal after 2024 as the 36-year-old driver is being eyed by Sauber/Audi. The Swiss-based team, which will be taken over by Audi in 2026, hopes to sign in Hulkenberg for the 2025 season.

With his experience, Hulkenberg can contribute a lot to the construction of Audi's first F1 car in 2026. The German confirmed earlier this year that talks had taken place with Audi, although it seemed at the time that they would not be followed up directly.

2024 opportunity at Sauber

RacingNews365 understands from several sources that Hulkenberg was offered a 2024 seat at Sauber this year. However, because Haas took up the German's option in his contract, Hulkenberg was unable to consider the offer from Sauber/Audi at all.

Magnussen, who is entering his ninth F1 season, is a well-respected driver in Formula 1 who had no trouble alongside Schumacher - but the case was different with Hulkenberg.

Last season's statistics speak for themselves: 15-7 in qualifying duels, 13-9 in race results and 9-3 in World Championship points, all in Hulkenberg's favour. These statistics have given Sauber/Audi even more confidence in the value of Hulkenberg.

It is apparent that Hulkenberg has the experience, something Audi in particular is looking for, but it is also clear that despite Hulkenberg's age, there is no wear and tear on the German yet. Perhaps Hulkenberg, like Alonso, may also be able to continue in the sport for years to come.

Hulkenberg is now in an ideal position - while he knows that there is great interest from Sauber/Audi, additionally, he can wait for the first races of next year to watch the development of Haas.

Regardless, even if Haas does manage to make strong gains with its car, the Audi project for the future will always be more interesting for a driver. But there is still pressure on Hulkenberg to follow-up his strong comeback season to ensure that Sauber/Audi maintains interest in him.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Fierce battle for 2025 and 2026 seats at Sauber/Audi

The current driver duo at Sauber, however, will not give in easily. The drivers will do everything they can to win themselves the 2025, but especially the 2026 seat.

2026 will mark the time that the team will finally go through life as a factory outfit and it should be possible for the Swiss team to fight for points - perhaps podiums - every week. It's an opportunity that as a driver you don't want to miss, but of course, the competition is aware of that as well.

Carlos Sainz, for example, is also often linked to Audi. After all, Sainz Senior has an excellent record with the German manufacturer.

Sainz Junior is performing well at Ferrari but rumours regarding a possible switch are quickly circulating.

Nevertheless, for now, the Spaniard seems to prefer a longer stay at Ferrari, despite the fact that Charles Leclerc still seems to be the front-runner for the Scuderia.

It will soon become clear whether Sainz will re-sign with Ferrari for one or two years, which will paint a clearer picture over the competition for a seat at Audi in 2026. At the moment, however, Hulkenberg appears to be in pole position to secure one of the two seats at Audi.

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