NOVEMBER 18, 2013
Hulkenberg still in frame at Lotus, Force India, Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg is still the big player at the tail-end of the 2014 driver 'silly season'.
Actually, as recently as Sunday in the Austin paddock, most insiders now expected that Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado's PDVSA millions had resulted in a done deal for the most competitive race seat still vacant on next year's grid.
That might be why Maldonado suddenly toned down his astonishing attack on Williams, including suspicions of sabotage, on Sunday -- perhaps he was told behaviour like that is not welcome at Lotus, even despite his PDVSA power.
"In the good times we were together, and also the bad times," he said, referring to Williams as his "family".
Maldonado also had a bad race to go with his bad qualifying in Texas, as he clashed on the first lap with Force India's angry Adrian Sutil.
"We've had many incidents with this driver," said the German, "so maybe he needs an emergency area around him to avoid these kinds of things."
Lotus may be holding out hope that the albeit very delayed investment by the 'Quantum' group eventually hits its bank account.
Quantum chief Mansoor Ijaz has made clear he wants the highly talented, but mainly unsponsored, Nico Hulkenberg at the wheel in 2014.
Asked about Hulkenberg on Sunday, Ijaz told Britain's Sky: "We're going to make that part of it happen in terms of making sure he (team boss Eric Boullier) gets enough money.
"We're very close now -- I'm pretty sure we'll get it done this week," he added.
Hulkenberg, then, can still hope. And many believe he is also still in the running for Paul di Resta's Force India seat.
Indeed, Hulkenberg's manager Werner Heinz was seen in the Force India hospitality area, speaking with deputy boss Bob Fernley, after the US grand prix, according to French television Canal Plus.
And Britain's Sky claimed on Sunday that Monisha Kaltenborn wants the German to stay at Sauber in 2014.
"That's good news, isn't it?" Hulkenberg smiled after hearing about his options on Sunday, after finishing the US grand prix in a strong sixth place.
"All I can do is keep delivering on the track."