Revealed: The reported favourite to take Nico Hulkenberg’s seat at Haas

Thomas Maher
Valtteri Bottas, Oliver Bearman, and Carlos Sainz.

Oliver Bearman is a leading contender for a vacant Haas seat, but experienced names are also on the market...

Haas will now definitely have at least one new name in one of their cars next season, with Nico Hulkenberg leaving for Sauber.

With Nico Hulkenberg’s contract at Haas coming to an end at the conclusion of 2024, the team has confirmed it will part ways with the German driver as he departs to join Sauber next season ahead of Audi’s arrival in 2026.

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Hulkenberg’s departure may secure Kevin Magnussen’s position for at least another season, with the Dane’s contract also up at the end of this season.

Magnussen hasn’t performed as consistently as Hulkenberg over the past 12 months but, unless the team wants to completely switch up its driver line-up and not keep a known baseline performer, Hulkenberg’s departure may come as something of a relief for Magnussen.

But the big question now is who Haas turn to in order to replace the departing Hulkenberg, the first driver-related decision new team boss Ayao Komatsu will have to make following his replacement of Guenther Steiner as team boss.

Steiner’s final driver decisions during his tenure was to turn towards seasoned veterans after giving rookie drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin a shot – a call that Steiner later turned back on by plumping for experience and longevity within the sport, a decision he stood by in his final months as team boss.

But, according to F1’s own paddock journalist Lawrence Barretto, the favourite for Hulkenberg’s vacant seat is a fresh-faced rookie – albeit one who has already impressed mightily during his one and only race.

“Haas are not announcing who will replace Hulkenberg for 2025,” Barretto said, “but sources say Ollie Bearman is favourite to get that seat.”

The young English driver stood in for Carlos Sainz at Ferrari in Saudi Arabia as the Spaniard was sidelined with appendicitis, and kept his composure to come home a sterling seventh on his debut race.

Bearman is one of Haas’ current reserve drivers, and has carried out some testing for the American squad – including FP1 appearances last season in Mexico and Abu Dhabi. recommends

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Speaking in Saudi Arabia after Bearman’s performance, Komatsu said that Bearman did “deserve a chance next year” but defended his existing driver lineup as Magnussen and Hulkenberg had each delivered on that occasion.

“So how can I sit here and say, [Bearman is] ‘our driver for next year’?” Komatsu said. “Based on today’s performance, Nico and Kevin.”

But, with one of those drivers now falling out of contention, Bearman appears the most likely candidate to get the second seat – particularly as he’s already earned the praise of the Japanese team boss.

“Straight away it was totally clear to me and most of us that he is something special,” the Japanese engineer explained of Bearman’s FP1 appearances with Haas.

“It’s not just the speed. It’s the total package and he understands the objectives, he handled himself very well.

“Even during a run, he’s able to sort of absorb the information from the previous lap and then make minor adjustments to make the next step better.

“He just showed maturity straight away as if he’s been doing it for some years.”

Bearman is enduring a tough start to the F2 championship where he’s competing this season, not helped by missing the Jeddah races due to his F1 call-up. He has scored just two points, but is set for a comprehensive F1 programme this year as he’ll drive in FP1 for Haas at Imola, Barcelona, Silverstone, Hungary, Mexico, and Abu Dhabi.

As part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur has an interest in seeing the British driver rise through the ranks, and said in Jeddah that, as long as Bearman applies himself all the time as much as he did that weekend, his future will be bright.

“You have to consider Jeddah is a step, not the final target,” he said. “He did well this weekend, but he will have other challenges in front of him in the future with F2.

“He will do a couple of FP1s with us and Haas during the season and all of you, including me, in six months’ time we won’t speak any more about Jeddah, we’ll speak about Mexico, Brazil [sic], and if he’s doing well or not.

“And every single day will be a new challenge. But for sure, if he’s keeping the same approach as today, it will go well.”

But, while Bearman enjoys the advantage of having existing ties with Haas and the backing of Ferrari, Haas’ predilection for choosing more experienced drivers could count against him – particularly at a point where there are plenty of experienced drivers out of contract.

Bearman will therefore have to see off rivals like Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Zhou Guanyu, or even the likes of Carlos Sainz or Sergio Perez, if he’s to land the seat at Haas.

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