Le Mans winner Nico Hulkenberg may still be in the running to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari next year, despite reports to the contrary.
Late last week, a report in Italy’s Corriere dello Sport fired up the ‘silly season’ as it appeared Valtteri Bottas had been snapped up by the Maranello team.
But the authoritative La Gazzetta dello Sport claims Williams is actually demanding from Ferrari a whopping €18.5 million to relinquish the firm 2016 ‘option’ on Finn Bottas’ services, and now it emerges that a deal may not yet be done.
“As far as I know, Valtteri does not have a contract with Ferrari,” insists Oskari Saari, a well-placed insider reporting for Finland’s MTV3. “Although an agreement could arise, the Italian report was at the very least premature. There may be negotiations behind the scenes, but also with other drivers.”
Ferrari and Williams declined to comment, and so too did Sauber’s Monisha Kaltenborn, amid suggestions it is the Swiss team’s Felipe Nasr who would replace Bottas at Williams.
And one of Bottas’ managers, Toto Wolff, said: “The chance that there will be an agreement (with Ferrari) is 50 per cent.”
Another obvious candidate for the potential vacancy at Ferrari is Hulkenberg, the impressive and experienced German and new reigning Le Mans winner.
He told the German broadcaster ZDF: “I think in the next few weeks everything will become clear.
“Naturally there are some options that interest me, and no one would say no to Ferrari. And I am knocking on the door as well,” Hulkenberg admitted.
It has been suggested that the major hurdle to a Ferrari deal for Hulkenberg is his nationality, as German Sebastian Vettel already drives for the fabled team.
“The nationality factor is not really in my favour,” Hulkenberg admitted, “but whether it is a knock-out factor or not, I don’t know. In any case, there are other options.
“There are a few other teams who show an interest in me. Let’s see,” said the Force India driver. “It depends how the events unfold. What happens with Kimi? What does Bottas do? “As soon as the first things happen, there will be a domino effect.”