Nico Hulkenberg laughed off speculation on Thursday that this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix could be his last for Sauber but remained coy about whether he had been paid by the Swiss Formula 1 team.
“It’s rubbish,” the German driver told reporters of rumours swirling around on the internet that he was on the verge of walking out.
“They make me laugh, make me smile. I read it on my Twitter page where people can write to me. A bunch of people were having a discussion and I was thinking: ‘Where has that come from?'” he added.
Hulkenberg said he expected to be with Sauber until the end of the season but was evasive when asked about his wages. “That is contractual detail which I don’t want to talk about,” he said.
Sauber are struggling for cash but announced on July 15 that they had agreed a partnership with three Russian entities which they said would give the team a solid foundation for the long term.
As part of that announcement, which has left many questions still to be answered, Sauber agreed to set up a development programme to prepare Russian 17-year-old Sergey Sirotkin as a racing driver for the team next year.
Sirotkin’s father Oleg is the head of one of the three entities, the National Institute of Aviation Technologies.
Hulkenberg said that the partnership looked to be good news for Sauber but was short of information on it.
“Fresh support, strong partners and especially cash which as we know is very powerful and important in F1, to move forward and develop. It’s a good sign,” said the German.
“I’ve not been involved with the deal. I don’t know all the details, you will have to ask the management or [team principal] Monisha [Kaltenborn],” he added. “As far as I’ve been told, and am concerned, it is good.”
Hulkenberg recognised that it would be a tall order for a driver with such a lack of experience to come into Formula One in the time envisaged.
“Me, I wasn’t ready for Formula 1 at that point. It is ambitious, maybe a bit risky, but it’s not my decision,” he said.
When asked how Sorotkin could prepare, he said: “He will keep on racing in Formula Renault, beyond that he could do lots of simulator running, but that isn’t real life. And Sauber does not have a simulator so that is not an option.”
Hulkenberg has been linked to other teams, notably Lotus and Ferrari, for 2014 if Kimi Raikkonen or Felipe Massa move on but he gave away little about his plans.
“I’m looking at all my options but I haven’t decided yet or done anything,” he said. “Making a decision is a bit further down the line, but I’m talking to people, including Sauber.” (Reuters)
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