Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Nico Hulkenberg to Sauber

 Nico Hulkenberg is to join the Sauber team for 2013, the long-expected announcement having duly been made.

The German's career is without doubt on an upward curve, and the move to Sauber would appear consistent with this momentum, but the switch also gives rise to a few questions.

Is this what could be described as a sideways move?  And if so, would he have been better off remaining at Force India?  Does the move to Sauber indicate a growing closeness to Ferrari, with the long-term hope of securing a race seat at Maranello?

Although Sauber have undoubtedly displayed more dynamism and flair than Force India during the 2012 season, a glance at the Constructors' standings lends weight to the notion that this is a sideways move.  Force India have been consistent if admittedly largely unspectacular.  On the other hand, Hulkenberg may fear losing career impetus if Force India do not progress from their current place in the order of things.  If the move to the Swiss team can be viewed as a gamble, then he possibly feels that it is one worth taking. In addition, Sauber have a sound reputation for stability and permanence.

It would seem that Hulkenberg has gradually begun to attract the notice of the leading teams, and his name was tentatively linked with the second seat at McLaren before Sergio Perez got the nod there.  When the future of Felipe Massa at Ferrari was in jeopardy, the young German was mentioned as a possible candidate to replace him. Time will tell whether the decision to join Sauber is part of a strategy to strengthen these links with Ferrari.

In amongst the bright young things of Formula 1, it has taken some time for Hulkenberg's potential to be more widely recognised, but it seems that many in the sport, and its followers, are beginning to wake up to it. It is up to him to capitalise on this opportunity, and to the Sauber team to equip him with a competitive car, to ensure that the aforementioned upward curve maintains its current direction.

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