F1 veteran could play big part in silly season with Lewis Hamilton dominoes in effect

Oliver Harden
Nico Hulkenberg at the VF-24 launch in Bahrain with prominent badges of Haas, Audi and Aston Martin alongside him

Nico Hulkenberg could emerge as a key player in F1's driver market this year

Nico Hulkenberg is keeping his options open in the F1 driver market as the domino effect of Lewis Hamilton’s shock switch to Ferrari plays out.

Hamilton shocked the F1 world earlier this month by announcing that he will leave Mercedes for Ferrari at the end of 2024, with the repercussions set to be felt up and down the grid.

Hamilton’s exit has left a vacancy alongside George Russell at Mercedes, with Carlos Sainz available to be snapped up having lost his Ferrari seat alongside Charles Leclerc to the seven-time World Champion.

Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari to trigger F1 driver market explosion?

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, the 17-year-old sensation, is widely regarded as Mercedes’ preferred candidate to succeed Hamilton, while current Aston Martin driver and two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso could emerge as a potential alternative.

Sainz, meanwhile, has been heavily linked with a switch to Sauber ahead of Audi’s highly anticipated F1 entry in 2026.

The fluidity of the driver market could open opportunities for the likes of Haas star Hulkenberg, who is also seen as a potential target for Audi despite being set to turn 37 later this year.

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Speaking to media including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher at pre-season testing in Bahrain, Hulkenberg claimed he is relaxed about his future and revealed he is yet to commence renegotiations with Haas.

Asked about his preferred timeline to get his 2025 plans in place, he said:  “It doesn’t work like that, when I want.

“It’s not what I wish – it’s always what opportunities you have; what the opposition wants; your team or whoever else.

“Historically, the bigger teams sort out that kind of stuff earlier and the smaller teams always take more time for one reason or another.

“But I don’t have any particular stress there. I want to get the season started and hopefully I can have a few good performances and then we’ll see what opportunities might arise from it or not.

“To be honest, we haven’t even spoken here because it’s early days.

“You’ve seen how the focus is on the pre-season and on the testing and I suspect over the next few months a conversation will start to happen here.

“Your current team is always an option, I think that’s pretty obvious.

“But there might be other options opening up too, but I think that’s quite early to foresee or to know.”

Asked if a strong start to the season could open doors for him, he added: “Every race is important, but if you have a good start to the season immediately there is that [positive] dynamic or that [negative] dynamic.

“And that always can point you in one direction or another.”

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