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Brazilian GP: What now for Nico Hulkenberg?

After Renault announced in the summer break that they would be signing Esteban Ocon for 2020, this left Nico Hulkenberg in a sense of doubt over his Formula One future.

With his current team no longer an option, Alfa Romeo, Haas, Red Bull and Williams all looked like potential destinations for Hulkenberg.

However not long after Renault’s announcement, Haas revealed that they would be keeping Romain Grosjean alongside Kevin Magnussen for next season – Guenther Steiner believed changing the lineup could detriment car development.

But since the American Grand Prix, his future has been in further doubt.

Alfa Romeo have since announced that they will be keep Antonio Giovinazzi, whereas Red Bull have resigned Alex Albon for 2020.

Hulkenberg was on pole for his first Brazilian Grand Prix, but how will he fare in what is very likely going to be his last F1 race in Brazil? Photograph: Bruno Domingos/Reuters

Thus meaning heading into this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, the only possible option for Hulkenberg is his former team Williams, however the chances of a return are slim.

“I think they need somebody else” Hulkenberg said.

“I think I’m not the right person, the right driver for them.

“It’s just where I am in my career, where they are, and the timings, I just don’t think it’s the right timing for us.

“With all due respect to the team, and obviously I’ve raced for them and everything, but I don’t think that’s going to happen” he added.

Although he has gone 175 race starts without a podium, the Renault driver did claim a pole position during his debut season which occurred at the very track Formula One heads to this weekend.

Yet despite qualifying on pole, Hulkenberg didn’t enjoy as good of a race finishing eighth.

Two years later however, he did lead the 2012 Brazilian race, but then lost it to Lewis Hamilton who Hulkenberg subsequently crashed into shortly after.

With an eventful history in Brazil, he arrives in strong form since the summer break following a disappointing first half, with ninth last time out in America – signs of a driver fighting for his Formula One future.

But with it now unlikely that he will be on the grid next year, an elusive first podium for the 32-year-old would be to everybody’s delight – dreams can happen.

Rumours of a move to Indy Car have surfaced, but a year-out may seem like a more plausible option for Hulkenberg who could be aiming for a spot on the 2021 grid.

However, focus for him should not be taken away from this weekend as his team attempt to claim an unlikely fourth place in the constructor’s championship – they currently trail McLaren by 38 points.

Toto Wolff to not attend this weekend

For the first time since joining Mercedes in 2013, team principle Toto Wolff, will not attend a Grand Prix weekend.

Last time out in America, Hamilton won his sixth world title to complete a sixth consecutive double championship for Mercedes, as they clinched the constructor’s title two rounds earlier in Japan.

With both championships now won, Wolff sees this as an opportunity to focus on other developments in Europe this weekend, but is certain complacency will not be an issue for Mercedes in the final two rounds.

“There is no sense of complacency. Everybody is still determined to keep on improving.

“[Interlagos] is a very short track which makes qualifying particularly challenging as the margins are very small.

“We have generally not had the fastest car on Saturdays since the summer break, but we were able to take pole in Austin and will try to fight for a front-row start again at Sao Paulo” he said.

Lewis Hamilton took both pole and victory last time around Interlagos [in 2018] but was overshadowed by the incident between Verstappen and Ocon – Mercedes also won a fifth constructor’s championship that weekend.

Verstappen was leading the race on lap 44 with Ocon out of the points, but the Racing Point driver wanted to unlap himself.

The moment Ocon and Verstappen collided. Photograph: Getty Images.

And by wanting to do so, this meant he had to go wheel-to-wheel racing with Verstappen and overtake him – a brave move for any driver in any car.

At turn two, Ocon was on the inside as he clipped Verstappen’s rear-right wheel to send them both the wrong way – Ocon received a ten second stop-go penalty as a result.

Hamilton then came through unscathed to take the victory, but the events of the crash continued after the race.

Verstappen was forced to do two-days of ‘public service’ following his confrontation with Ocon in the weigh-in room afterwards. Photograph: Press Association.

Verstappen confronted and pushed Ocon in the weigh-in room, whilst Red Bull team principle Christian Horner, believed next-year’s Renault driver was lucky to have only been pushed.

“I think Max has been pretty restrained to be honest with you.

“It cost him a grand prix victory, he’s driver his heart out with a damaged car and Esteban was lucky to get away with just a push.

“Emotions are running high, I told him to just get yourself under control on the cool-down lap because he has lost a race victory through no fault of his own” Horner said that day.

Many iconic moments have happened at this event over the years, and if the same intensity from drivers is there this weekend as it was last year, then Formula One is in for a treat.

 

By Edward Hardy

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