Hulkenberg: Audi deal came through Seidl

Nico Hulkenberg said that his Sauber, aka Audi, deal has come through Sauber group CEO Andreas Seidl, also revealing that it was not the first time the pair have talked about a potential race seat.

Hulkenberg became the first driver to commit to Audi’s Formula 1 project, as Sauber, under the leadership of Seidl continue their transformation to become the German marque’s works team by 2026.

Seidl has left McLaren before the start of the 2023 F1 season (Andrea Stella replaced him) and took over the role of Sauber Motorsport AG CEO to lead them into the Audi era, and Hulkenberg insists his compatriot was the driving force behind his contract with the team.

He said, quoted by F1’s Official Website: “He’s the driving factor there, one of the deciders, one of the top, key people in the management at Audi. Of course, it came through him, and he’s a very direct and straightforward guy with me.”

At the end of 2019, Hulkenberg was out of an F1 drive, and revealed that he spoke to Seidl regarding a potential McLaren drive in 2020.

“I remember in 2020, before the season had started, and I was not sure what I wanted to do,” he said. “I phoned him up, and he was at McLaren at the time. I was like, ‘Is there maybe a chance for me?’, and he was like a straight, ‘No, don’t even get your hopes up, it’s not going to happen’.

“This time around [with the Audi project], a few years later, it was very different, and he was very keen to sign and to have me,” the Hulk added, who next year will kit up in the colours of the Stake F1 Team until the Audi journey begins.

The Audi deal a reward for hard work

Hulkenberg: Most races without a podium statistic actually speaks for me

Before signing full time with Haas in 2023, Hulkenberg’s F1 involvement was only in reserve roles that meant he stood in for for Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll at Racing point in 2020. He was also asked by Aston Martin to replace Covid-stricken Sebastian Vettel for the two opening racing of the 2022 season.

Since his return with Haas he has impressed, especially with his qualifying performances, and believes Audi’s faith in him a reward for his decent form.

Hulkenberg said: “I’m happy, and I think it’s reward to the good work that I and my team have put in – I think it’s credit to the good work over the last year-and-a-half.

“Since the comeback, I feel… of course, I’ve done the odd mistake, but on balance the performance I think was good, it was there. I think that’s always convincing in your best arguments.

“I also know how much I have invested and worked for it. I’m in a happy and good headspace now, since the comeback, compared to let’s say the end of 2019.

“I’m embracing it, probably living through it more consciously, enjoying it more also, the bad days as well as the good days,” the 36-year-old concluded.

With Hulkenberg locked in, Sauber/Audi are now looking for a teammate for the German, and they have not hidden their interest in free agent Carlos Sainz, as the future of the team’s current drivers Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas becomes increasingly uncertain.