Alfa Romeo boss, Frederic Vasseur, is an admirer of Nico Hulkenberg’s talent but says it is still “too early” to discuss the 2021 line-up.
Hulkenberg has stood in at short notice for Sergio Perez at Racing Point after the Mexican became the first Formula 1 driver to test positive for COVID-19.
‘The Hulk’ has performed admirably given that he had not stepped into a Formula 1 car since December 2019 and his qualifying performance at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, where he beat Max Verstappen to P3, has helped put him firmly in the shop window for a full-time seat again in 2021.
Hulkenberg has confirmed that whilst he is not “desperate” to return to Formula 1, he is in talks with a couple of teams about coming back on a permanent basis next season.
One of the teams interested is Alfa Romeo, who could have not one, but two open seats with current drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi out of contract at the end of the season.
But Vasseur says it is still a little too early to finalise their 2021 plans.
“Honestly it’s a bit too early for us,” Vasseur told Formula 1’s Beyond The Grid podcast.
“I need to discuss the point with my shareholders and to know what Kimi wants to do. And I don’t want to disturb the team so far. It would be the worst kind of scenario to try to have those discussions today.
“We have to recover because I want to be attractive to drivers, and I’m not sure we can convince someone to join when we are struggling. We first need to recover and then convince drivers to join.”
Vasseur worked closely with Hulkenberg as the German driver made his way through the junior ranks and rates him very highly.
“The perception of the paddock to Nico is wrong I think,” Vasseur said.
“I think he is one of the most talented guys on the grid. [The perception of the paddock is] not so high, but I think they are wrong.
“I know him very well. He raced for me for two or three seasons in a row. When you are winning it is always easy. When you have a season where you start with poles, wins, you are champion quite easy – okay, you did the job.
“But when you start the season at the back with issues, and you are able to step-by-step recover, to keep the team motivated, to keep the guys pushing in the same direction and sometimes to even be stronger than your boss when he was a bit desperate, I think this guy is a real leader. And Nico did the job.”
Hulkenberg is on standby for Racing Point at the Spanish Grand Prix, with Perez widely expected to return to action.