Two of his rivals have admitted they are surprised that Nico Hulkenberg has been ousted by Renault.
The 32-year-old will be replaced for 2020 by Esteban Ocon, who is reportedly on a two-year loan from Mercedes.
“Ocon and Renault clearly liked one another and it was clear that it would happen sooner or later. That’s not the surprise,” McLaren driver Carlos Sainz said at Spa.
“The surprise is Nico,” added Sainz, who was also ousted by Renault after the 2018 season, having served as Hulkenberg’s teammate.
“With the leadership he had, Nico did a lot for Renault,” said the Spaniard. “He took them to where they are now from where they started in 2016.”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel also rates Hulkenberg, his fellow German.
“Nico didn’t deserve that, but I don’t know the background,” said Vettel.
“I just hope he will find a car for next season, because a driver of his calibre deserves to be in Formula 1.”
Hulkenberg admitted his 2019 season alongside Daniel Ricciardo hasn’t been great, but he thinks other factors played into Renault’s decision.
“Different drivers are at different stages of their careers, and teams also take into account things like commercial interests and the nationality factor,” he said.
“Renault is having a difficult season so perhaps they just decided that a change is needed.”
He said it was obvious that “something was wrong” with his relationship with Renault just prior to the summer break.
“Before that, everything was fine. The call came on Monday,” revealed Hulkenberg.
The conventional wisdom is that Haas looks like Hulkenberg’s best option for 2020. Gunther Steiner confirmed that alongside incumbent Romain Grosjean, he is an option.
“There are not so many good drivers out there,” the Haas team boss said.
“We have always said that as a young team we want drivers with experience, and Nico is such a driver.
“I will spend time with Gene Haas here in Spa and again in Monza and it will not be long before we announce something.”
Rumours that Hulkenberg holds out hope for the vacant Red Bull seat appear wide of the mark.
“I feel free and relaxed and not under pressure or at risk of falling between the seats,” he said.
“There is interest, but of course it has to be right for me. It is still in my own hands,” he said.
Both Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen insisted at Spa that their prior “suck my balls” episode dating back to 2017 does not mean they cannot work as teammates.
“You do not need to like your co-workers to do a good job,” said Hulkenberg.
Steiner, meanwhile, confirmed that Magnussen is already under contract for 2020, and that Frenchman Grosjean has not yet been ruled out.
Grosjean, who has been linked with a move to Formula E, said on Thursday: “I am confident that I will stay with the team next season. For now, Formula 1 is my main plan.”
Grand Prix Tours is once again heading to Silverstone Circuit and the British Grand Prix. Guest of Grand Prix Tours are treated to an incredible series of events including a visit to the British Motor Museum and to a private tour of not one but two Formula 1 team factories. Follow the link above to learn more about our trip to the British Grand Prix.
Grand Prix Tours has once again orchestrated the perfect race weekend for the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix. Located just outside of the Belgian city of Spa is the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps home to the Belgian Grand Prix. Known as one of the most popular races on the Formula 1 calendar because of its scenic setting, racing heritage and famously challenging turns this race is a favorite of drivers and fans alike. Follow the link above to learn more about our trip to the Belgian Grand Prix.
Join Grand Prix Tours as we head to beautiful northern Italy and the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. With a racing lineage that dates back more than 95 years, unpredictable weather patterns and the ravenous Ferrari fans makes this race and post-race celebration a spectacle like no other in professional motorsports. Follow the link above to learn more about our trip to the Italian Grand Prix.
oin Grand Prix Tours as we head to Singapore and the Marina Bay Street Circuit for the only true night race on the Formula 1 calendar. One of only 4 street circuits on the F1 calendar the beauty of the modern Formula 1 cars are on full display under the bright lights of the Marina Bay street circuit. Follow the link above to learn more about our trip to the Singapore Grand Prix.