Formula 1: 'Super sub' Nico Hulkenberg 'not stressed' as he considers future in sport
Nico Hulkenberg, 33, has produced outstanding performances when called up at short notice as a reserve driver for Racing Point this year, but knows his hopes of landing a permanent seat rely on other team decisions.
Imola: Formula One super-sub Nico Hulkenberg said this week he is staying cool as he ponders his future in the sport – not knowing if he could be racing for Red Bull next year or watching from the stands again.
The 33-year-old German driver has produced outstanding performances when called up at short notice as a reserve driver for Racing Point this year, but knows his hopes of landing a permanent seat rely on other team decisions.
"The situation in Formula One is that there are 20 seats and that is super limited," he told The ESPN F1 podcast.
"Very few numbers... This is a thing that is out of my control and other people make the decision for me – or about me, but I'm not too stressed."
Hulkenberg said he had produced competitive performances when called up this year.
"When I had the chance – and that's the one thing, if you are not doing a full season, that is kind of difficult... You're not that visible and people tend to forget quickly.
"They always tend just to remember the last race so it's not easy to make an impression. I was happy to be able to have some races and to perform well. I think I did what I had to do and now it's up to them."
Hulkenberg has been linked with a potential vacancy at Red Bull where London-born Thai driver Alex Albon has struggled as team-mate to Max Verstappen this year.
The outfit has said it will consider Albon's future after this weekend's two-day Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola with team chief Christian Horner stressing it is Red Bull's preference to keep him.
Hulkenberg is likely to be in competition with Mexican Sergio Perez, the man he stood in for with Racing Point at both Silverstone races in July, for that seat if Red Bull decide to switch to a more experienced and reliable points-scoring driver alongside Verstappen.
Both Alfa Romeo and Haas, two teams powered by Ferrari, have yet to confirm their 2021 driver line-ups, but Hulkenberg is only an outsider as a candidate for those seats as they are almost certain to go to Ferrari-approved drivers.
Alfa are expected to retain their 2020 pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi with Haas recruiting from the Ferrari junior stable. Mick Schumacher, the 21-year-old son of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, is heavily-tipped to join them – possibly with Perez, whose Mexican funding and fan-base has an appeal to the American team.
Hulkenberg said he is not allowing all the speculation to affect his own outlook.
"I'm not someone who needs to rush into the next thing, or cockpit, now," he said.
"I think I need to be clear first really what I want to do...
"F1 - and if the door is closed, fine. I'll look at the next thing and what I want to do and if I want to do it, but we're not quite there yet."
His departure had been mooted during the Brazilian Grand Prix in November but he had denied at the time he had plans to step down.
Hamilton was poised to capture a record-breaking eighth world title at the Abu Dhabi finale in December before a controversial safety car restart allowed Verstappen to pass the British driver on the last lap.