F1 driver heavily linked with Audi move leaves door open to switch

Thomas Maher
Nico Hulkenberg pictured in the paddock at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Nico Hulkenberg has left the door open on the possibility of switching to Audi in the future.

Nico Hulkenberg hasn’t ruled out being open to a switch to Audi in 2026, but is eager to give Haas every opportunity to be competitive first.

The German driver secured a return to F1 with Haas for 2023 as the American team plumped for an experienced pair of hands to replace Mick Schumacher, with Hulkenberg impressing throughout the year as he usually had the upper hand over Kevin Magnussen.

Hulkenberg’s experience and performance level has resulted in his name being linked as a possible target for Audi when the German marque formally enter the sport in 2026 in partnership with Sauber, and it’s a move Hulkenberg hasn’t denied would be attractive.

Nico Hulkenberg: You can still be fast at an ‘advanced age’

Speaking in an extensive interview with Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, Hulkenberg broached a wide range of topics before he was asked about the chance of him joining Audi.

Could he be tempted by a move to race for the returning manufacturer when their work with Sauber begins, particularly as he previously raced with the Hinwil-based squad back in 2013?

“Only time will tell,” he said.

“Let’s first see how the season goes next year. Do we have a competitive car? Which people are recommended for which tasks?”

With Hulkenberg currently 36 years old, age is slightly against him as he would turn 39 during Audi’s first season, but he pointed to the examples of fellow ‘older’ racers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton as evidence that age is not the obstacle it once was in F1.

“Fernando and Lewis are good ambassadors,” he said.

“They show that you can still be fast at an advanced age.”

With Alonso turning 42 years old this year, does Hulkenberg see himself racing at the same age? “I’m 36 now, [and] as of today: Yes,” he replied.

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Nico Hulkenberg: Complex issue hampered Haas’ performance in 2023

Haas struggled with excessive tyre wear throughout 2023, hampering their efforts on race day despite numerous strong qualifying outings.

It was a similar situation at Ferrari, whom Haas shared a suspension design, and Hulkenberg suspects getting on top of that will be key to unlocking Haas’ competitiveness in 2024 – perhaps eventually proving critical in the driver market when Audi go on their recruitment drive.

“It’s a complex issue,” Hulkenberg said of the tyre wear issues that hamstrung Haas.

“We have Ferrari’s suspension and they had similar problems, even if not at the same level as us. Maybe it’s a question of concept.”

While Ferrari’s struggles with tyre wear improved towards the end of 2023, Hulkenberg isn’t yet confident enough to say whether that solution will also help Haas out with the next car design.

“[It’s] not yet a consolation. I would never praise the day before the evening,” he said.

“Let’s wait and see what happens next year.

“Every team ticks a little differently, but in the end they all do the same work, with marginal differences. The partnership with Ferrari has been in place for a few [years] now. The two teams are well attuned to each other.”

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