Nico Hulkenberg is at the front of queue to replace departing Kimi Raikkonen so long as Lotus can afford him in 2014, team boss Eric Boullier admitted ahead of the Japanese GP weekend.
Frenchman Boullier said that Felipe Massa also has not been ruled out to fill the vacant seat at Lotus, but the team is waiting on pending deals with investors as well as with Renault.
Raikkonen caused a stir recently when he revealed he decided to switch to Ferrari next year only because he has been left waiting for his pay.
The main holdup, it seems, is the conclusion of a deal between Lotus and a group of investors known as Infinity.
“I think we are nearly there,” Boullier said at Suzuka. “Once we have done this we can afford to pick the driver we want.
“It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, but I will not bring Nico here if we see we cannot afford him,” he added.
Boullier admitted, however, that some staff at Enstone – although all have been paid – have become “nervous” about the situation and begun to circulate their CVs in the paddock.
But he says they shouldn’t be nervous, because an even closer relationship with engine supplier Renault beyond 2013 is in the works.
“We would like to discuss a branding opportunity with them and maybe something even closer,” said Boullier. (GMM)
Subbed by AJN.