With his Formula 1 future still the centre of paddock rumour and gossip Nico Hulkenberg put aside the question mark hanging over where he will drive in 2014 to have a promising day at the Yas Marina circuit.
The German, who has raced under a cloud of speculation for most of the year, looked confident throughout the day’s running and finished the day ninth fastest. The Sauber driver was sandwiched by both Ferrari’s and trailed Fernando Alonso by one tenth of a second.
Speaking to the media, including crash.net, at the Abu Dhabi circuit the German was pleased with his performance. When asked about his prospects for the weekend Hulkenberg admitted that it was pleasing that the team had met their targets and he pointed to a strong stint on the prime tyres as an encouraging sign:
“Today quite OK,” said Hulkenberg. “It was challenging and I think that our long run pace is quite competitive. Even after our low fuel runs I’m pretty happy. There were no big surprises in terms of our performance and I think that we can be happy with the day. There’s still room for improvement but we can be quite happy. The long run was good, in terms of degradation.”
With Pastor Maldonado having been strongly tipped to be close to agreeing to move to Lotus, a seat that Hulkenberg had been touted for, he was asked about the difficulty of racing with no deal in place for 2014:
“If Maldonado goes to Lotus it is what it is and you have to work around that. I’m not worrying too much about the speculation. I have nothing signed but there are options and negotiations and I’m confident that we’ll come up with something. Normally patience is not my strength but at this time of the year every year it’s the same. As a driver you have to be able to completely blind it out. Once you touch the race track on a weekend you focus on the performance. When we go home you work on the future.”
The most likely option for Hulkenberg for 2014 appears to be a return to Force India but with options shrinking rapidly as the grid for next season takes shape it is clear that time is running out for the promising German.