Nico Hulkenberg’s chances of finding a Formula 1 race seat for 2020 have all but evaporated after Red Bull confirmed he was not part of their plans while other teams offered little by way of encouragement for the German veteran.
The 32-year-old Renault driver faces an uncertain future after Renault opted to replace him at the end of the year with French youngster Esteban Ocon alongside Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
His best hope had appeared to be Haas but the U.S.-owned team announced at the Singapore Grand Prix on Thursday that they were sticking with the pairing of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
That left Alfa Romeo, Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso along with former champions Williams as those with possible vacancies.
“Nico isn’t on our list,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told reporters.
“He’s a professional driver who arguably hasn’t achieved his potential in Formula 1,” he added of a man who holds the sport’s record for most races without ever standing on the podium.
“I very much hope for him that he does find a seat because he’s better than some other drivers that are on the grid and he should be in Formula 1,” added Horner.
Hulkenberg made his debut with Williams in 2010 but they are last in the overall standings with just one point and struggling with an uncompetitive car.
They have a vacancy next year after Poland’s Robert Kubica announced he was leaving at the end of the year but Canadian reserve Nicholas Latifi looks the favourite to take the position.
Latifi is second in the Formula 2 standings and, unlike Hulkenberg, can bring crucial funding to the team with his billionaire father already having invested in McLaren.
“We’ve got a number of candidates on our list,” said deputy team principal Claire Williams. “Nico started his career with Williams but we haven’t had a conversation.”
Williams said there was an argument in favour of an experienced driver coming in to help lead and guide the team but there was also no reason to say a younger driver could not do that as well.
“George [Russell] is the perfect example of the work he has done for us this year,” she added, referring to the team’s Mercedes-backed British rookie.
Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur, who ran the ART team that took Hulkenberg to the 2009 GP2 (now Formula 2) title, said his focus was on helping Antonio Giovinazzi improve.
Hulkenberg drove for the Swiss-based team in 2013 when they were known as Sauber but they have Kimi Raikkonen under contract for next year while Italian Giovinazzi is backed by engine partners Ferrari.
“I am really focused on Antonio, I think he is doing step by step a good job,” said Vasseur.
Big Question: Is this the end of the F1 road for Hulk?