Midseason Report: Grading Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg

Fraser MasefieldContributor IAugust 19, 2013

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 25:  Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Sauber F1 drives during qualifying for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Monaco on May 25, 2013 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Formula One’s silly season is almost at an end and we’ll soon know the destinations of many drivers for the 2014 season.

It appears that Red Bull are set to announce at Spa that Daniel Ricciardo will partner Sebastian Vettel for the 2014 season as reported by Bild newspaper (via Sky Sports). That means Fernando Alonso will almost certainly be staying with Ferrari with Nico Hulkenberg joining him in place of the struggling Felipe Massa.

Yes, it’s my opinion that Hulkenberg is just the driver that Ferrari are targeting for the second seat for a couple of good reasons. It’s no secret that Sauber are struggling financially with Autosport reporting that deals with several Russian companies are ongoing. And the intention is that teenager Sergey Sirotkin will be given a race seat as part of the deal.

Ferrari also know that Hulkenberg is immensely quick. Not only has he won every series en route to Formula 1, he matched up favourably with Rubens Barrichello before consistently outpacing teammate Paul di Resta at Force India last season.

And this season has seen Hulkenberg continue to impress.

A fuel system failure resulted in a DNF in Australia, but points followed in Malaysia where he finished a season best eighth. "The Hulk" was also fastest through the speed trap in Canada clocking 199.81mph before being taken out of the race by Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde.

Hulkenberg followed up his Canadian Grand Prix disappointment by recording back-to-back points finishes in Britain and Germany before a fighting 11th in Hungary ahead of both Toro Rossos.

Although it’s fair to say that Hulkenberg has not been pressed hard by rookie teammate Esteban Gutiérrez - he has outqualified him in every race of the season to date - it’s also apparent that the Sauber is one of the less competitive cars on the grid.

The German has not denied there has been contact with Ferrari as reported by Sky Sports, and his current team already has a direct link with the Maranello team through the engine supply deal:

The future is still open, my management and I are looking at all the possible options, including Sauber. Nothing has been decided and we are still quite a way away from making a decision too.

Should Hulkenberg achieve his ambition of donning the famous red overalls, it wouldn’t be the first time a Sauber driver has made that transition. Look no further than Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen for the proof.


Nico’s mid-season marks:

Temperament: 8/10

Qualifying: 7/10

Race craft: 7/10

Summary: A difficult season for Nico in one of the less competitive machines he’s had to drive. But he’s easily outpaced and outscored his teammate and that’s all he can do. Ferrari know how good he is.