The German, currently racing for Force India, had been expected to replace the outgoing Sergio Perez and can now concentrate on the last three races of the season with his current employer.
The news came without any indication from Sauber as to who will partner Hulkenberg with current driver Kamui Kobayashi looking likely to leave due to his inability to bring a budget to the table for next season.
Even so the hiring of Hulkenberg is clearly an indication of Sauber’s determination to continue to improve and move up the grid. The 25 year old has been superb for much of the season and throughout the second half of the season he has outperformed his highly regarded teammate, Paul di Resta.
Speaking today Hulkenberg commented on the strength of Sauber in developing young drivers. Since the start of 2001 the team has been used a springboard to the leading teams by the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Robert Kubica and most recently Perez.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the Sauber F1 Team,” said the former GP2 champion. “It’s a well-placed team and very competitive. Plus it’s a team in which young drivers have repeatedly delivered exceptional performances. I would like to take up that baton.
“The Sauber F1 Team is currently going through a very positive development and I’m certain that together we can achieve a lot. Until that time I will remain fully focused on my job with the Sahara Force India Team. I’d like to thank the management at Sahara Force India for giving me the chance to return to Formula One as a team driver.”
Hulkenberg, who started from pole position in the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix, was also strongly linked with a move to Ferrari but that possibility was scuppered when the Scuderia resigned Massa on a one year contract. With the close ties between Sauber and Ferrari however it is clear that a “one and done” season with Sauber is a possibility for Hulkenberg should be meet expectations.
That would be getting too far ahead of ourselves at this point but it is definitely a situation that needs to be keep in mind during the next year.
“We’ve been observing Nico for some time now and his performances have been very persuasive,” said Kaltneborn. “That was the case in GP2 and has continued into Formula One. An obvious highlight was how he scored pole at Interlagos in 2010 despite the most challenging external conditions.
“He clearly showed that he can seize the chance if it arises. But high spots like that are one thing; systematic teamwork is another – and on that score I have confidence in Nico too. I’m sure he will fit in very well with the Sauber F1 Team. We look forward to working together with him.”