Nico Hulkenberg has turned down an offer from Lotus to replace Kimi Raikkonen for the final two Grand Prix of the year in the United States and Brazil.
Hulkenberg has long been tipped as the firm favourite to replace the Ferrari bound Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus full-time in 2014, but it is believed the German, who in a similar vein to Raikkonen went unpaid this year, will only commit to Lotus if the Enstone-based squad can secure a financial deal with Quantum Motorsports.
However, Pastor Maldonando, who has been dropped by Williams for 2014 and comes with substantial backing from the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA, is also believed to be a possibility for Lotus if the Quantum deal was to fail to materialise.
Hulkenberg’s manager Werner Heinz revealed to Bild that: “We had an offer from Lotus and are available. We have discussed it, but we decided that Nico will drive the last two races with Sauber.”
The confirmation that Hulkenberg will not take the Lotus seat for the final two races leaves Davide Valsecchi, the team’s Reserve Driver as the most likely option to substitute for Raikkonen, although former McLaren and Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen, who had a stint with the Enstone team under its former guise as Renault in 2007 has also been linked with the seat.
Former Formula One driver Mika Salo, a fellow compatriot of Kovalainen, believes that the Finn would be a perfect substitute for Kimi Raikkonen, as he holds a wealth of experience and has made a number of free practice appearances this season, unlike Valsecchi, who has been limited to just a single day’s testing in the Lotus E21 since winning the 2012 GP2 championship.
“I have thought about this for a while and I think getting Heikki would be a smart idea,” Salo told the Finnish broadcaster MTV. “He has experience and miles underneath him, and has up to the last race driven in practice sessions.
“Valsecchi is unlikely to be able to do anything on a completely new track. Heikki has already driven in Austin and Caterham also has a Renault engine. He’s been waiting for something like this and, if I was a team boss, I would take him over Valsecchi.”
Image courtesy of Sauber F1 Team