Is Hulkenberg his own worst enemy?

Jason Watt, a Danish former F3000 winner turned pundit, says he is not surprised that Nico Hulkenberg’s Formula 1 career is coming to an end.

Having lost his race seat at Renault for 2020, Hulkenberg was in the running for drives at Haas and Alfa Romeo but instead will bid farewell to the F1 paddock next weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Watt says the German’s ten-year career has been up and down since 2010, but he achieved a “pretty good reputation” by dominating his teammates at Force India.

“After that, the curve stagnated severely. For the past five seasons, including 2019, he has finished ahead of his teammate in the championship only once,” Watt told Ekstra Bladet newspaper,

“He looked good in 2018 with Carlos Sainz though, so I was excited to see him against Daniel Ricciardo this year,” he added.

However, he thinks it is possible Hulkenberg’s 2019 form went awry once it became clear to team management that they were moving on.

“Every Dane remembers when Magnussen said no thanks to a contract extension with them and immediately Jolyon Palmer was faster,” he said. “The only similar thing about the two cars was that they were yellow.

“I don’t think that’s what happened with Hulkenberg, but I don’t think it’s controversial to say Renault was more interested in Daniel Ricciardo.”

Watt thinks Haas then turned down Hulkenberg for 2020 because of his “high wage demands”. He thinks that is bad news for both the American team and the 32-year-old driver.

“It doesn’t do much for Kevin [Magnussen] when Romain Grosjean has those periods of stupid mistakes. So for Kevin’s sake, I would have liked to see Hulkenberg there in 2020,” said Watt.

“Now it seems that he will end his days in the DTM or Formula E, and in my book he has himself to blame for that.”

Big Question: Is Hulk his own worst enemy?


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Wolff: Our drivers don’t have 2021 contracts so all doors are open

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has vowed to look into the way Valtteri Bottas’ contract uncertainty affects his mid-season performance while revealing that for 2021 the German team have no driver under contract.

Bottas replaced Nico Rosberg for the 2017 season, on a one-year deal. Subsequently, he was also signed one season at a time for 2018, 2019 and now 2020. He admits the constant uncertainty affects him.

“There were a lot of rumours. I had no idea what was going on,” Bottas said of this season, when it was rumoured throughout that Esteban Ocon might take his place.

“As an athlete and a driver, that is certainly not ideal. There was no peace of mind to focus completely on my work, and the situation will be similar again next year. At the moment I’m not too worried because my pace is good and I enjoy driving,” he is quoted by Sport.de.

However, Mercedes boss Wolff has acknowledged the way the uncertainty affects Bottas, “Apparently it has an influence on him so I will try to take that into account and do my job better.”

“In 2021, all the doors are open: none of our drivers have contracts with the team, so it will be a very interesting situation,” he added.

The 2021 season coincides with the coming of age of the new F1 rules package.


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Wolff: Lewis has no reason to consider other teams

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is keen to have Lewis Hamilton to sign a new contract with the team that has brought him so much success since he joined in 2013.

Hamilton, who could wrap up his sixth world championship during the forthcoming Mexico-Austin double header, signed a new two-year deal in 2018 that extended his commitment to the end of 2020.

Now, boss Wolff wants the 34-year-old to sign another.

“As long as we are able to provide the winning car, Lewis has no reason to consider other teams – and we have no reason to look elsewhere,” he said.

“What we have said to Lewis is that we would like to finish the season on a high, breathe a moment and then discuss what happens in 2021.”

The sport’s rules are changing fundamentally for 2021, so Wolff thinks other top teams will also be contemplating what drivers to sign up.

“Loyalty and integrity is something that binds us together and the most important discussions about 2021 will be with Lewis and Valtteri,” he said.

“Ferrari will also look at the options they have. They have a good lineup now that causes hiccups sometimes, so they will also be thinking: What do we want for 2021?’”

Big Question: Why would Lewis move from Mercedes?


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Vettel: Leclerc is fast but you can’t compare teammates

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel is not willing to say if Charles Leclerc is his best ever teammate in Formula 1 claiming its.

In less than a full season, 22-year-old Leclerc has managed to challenge quadruple world champion Vettel’s number one status at Maranello.

“He’s young, he’s very fast. I don’t think anyone doubts that,” Vettel is quoted by Speed Week.

But is he the best teammate Vettel has ever had?

“You can’t really compare them,” Vettel said, “because you’d have to put Mark, Kimi, Daniel and Vitantonio in the same car at the same time. So it’s not fair,” he said.

“In terms of pure speed, Leclerc is very fast, but it is still very early for him. It’s only his second season, so it’s something completely different than Kimi or Mark, who spent a lot of time in Formula 1 and had much more experience,” Vettel added.

But he admitted that it’s good that Leclerc is doing so well, “It’s good to have a real reference, and especially good at those times when I had a bit of trouble getting the most out of myself and the car.

“And as a team, it’s good to have two riders fighting eye to eye on the track, ” added Vettel who made his grand prix debut.


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Time for Verstappen to make decision on 2021

Red Bull Max Verstappen will know within “one or two” races next year if he will stay at Red Bull in 2021 according to his Dutch compatriot driver Robert Doornbos.

2020 is the final year on Verstappen’s current contract, and he has made noises about potentially switching to a faster top team for 2021.

“Nothing will happen in 2020,” Doornbos told Ziggo Sport. “Max can’t go anywhere yet. “After that it will be a difficult choice, because you simply cannot see into the future.

“Max actually has the choice of two other teams, or three if you include McLaren. They’ve done extremely well and can become a serious team when they go to Mercedes engines.

“One thing is for sure and that is that Mercedes will not continue to dominate Formula 1 for another four years,” added the former Red Bull driver.

However, Doornbos thinks it is possible that Red Bull-Honda will succeed in retaining Verstappen beyond 2020, “It’s important for them to develop that car as well as possible next winter.”

“Max wants to see a good car next year if he is going to be convinced to stay. Max will be able to tell what kind of car he has after one or two race weekends. Based on that, he will make his choice quickly.”

Verstappen, 22, is hopeful Red Bull-Honda can step up to the top two teams in 2020.

“We already have many ideas for next year about how we can make ourselves stronger,” he said. “Some things have worked well this year, some a little less, but there are always things that could be better. I always try to analyse everything that could be improved.

“I think we know what went wrong this year and have taken measures for next year, so we are going to find out,” Verstappen added.

Big Question: What’s in store for Verstappen in 2021?


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Villeneuve: Hülkenberg doesn’t even have a podium

Jacques Villeneuve keeps calling as he sees it and for that reason he is not high in the paddock popularity stakes, and he has not held back in his take on Haas retaining their drivers for 2020, the 1997 Formula 1 World Champion obviously caring less who he annoys.

In the wake of the surprise news that the American team would retain their drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean for another season. The latter was expected to make way for Nico Hulkenberg who was ditched by Renault for next season.

But Hulk and Haas did not find enough common ground to strike a deal and Grosjean remains alognside KMag for another year of guaranteed bent metal.

While most lamented the decision, of course, Villeneuve had his unique view on Hulkenberg/Grosjean story and told journo Andre Wiegold, “These are the two drivers with the most races without a victory. Hülkenberg doesn’t even have a podium, so why would you want to change?

“If you wanted to swap Grosjean, then you should either go for a young driver or an older one who knows how to win… like Ricciardo,” added the Canadian.

After the tragic Anthoine Hubert accident, Villeneuve waded in with suggestions that young drivers are brought up in sim racing where ‘virtual’ crashes have little consequences. In other words: use of simulators as a hobby as part of an F1 driver’s tasks was luring young drivers into a false sense of security.

It was an explosive accusation that prompted Lando Norris to respond, “I don’t think it has anything to do with sim racing, it’s just something [Villeneuve] wants to use as an excuse.

“Safety is getting better, especially compared to his time in F1, but it’s not like we completely forget the danger, we recognize the danger!”

When questioned on the same topic, Lewis Hamilton took a swipe at Villeneuve, “I almost never agree with his opinions, but who does, personally I don’t listen to the opinion of that individual.”


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Jan Magnussen: Haas is the right place for Kevin

Jan Kevin Magnussen

Jan Magnussen, father of Kevin, believes his son is in “the right place” at Haas who are said to be looking for at least one new driver to replace either the Dane or Romain Grosjean or both.

It is believed that Haas will shortly unveil Nico Hulkenberg as Magnussen’s next teammate, although the German may also be looking at the Alfa Romeo and Red Bull seats.

Magnussen, though, has a firm 2020 contract at Haas, and his father Jan says it has been a pleasure to watch the 26-year-old evolve through the more difficult times with McLaren and Renault.

“It’s been great to follow him through the ups and downs and see where he is now as a person and a driver,” Jan Magnussen, who also raced in F1, told BT newspaper.

“It feels a little like I’ve been given the opportunity to see my own career again, just from the outside,” he added.

46-year-old Jan’s F1 career was less successful, as he lost his seat at Stewart mid-way through 1998. He contested just 25 races in total, compared to Kevin’s 95 so far.

Jan admitted that he also would have needed a place like Haas to settle into.

“The way he (Kevin) has developed both on and off the track shows me that he is in the right place,” said Magnussen senior. “When he’s under pressure and not feeling appreciated, he doesn’t perform as well as he does when the team is as supportive as it is now.”

Big Question: Kevin or Romain to be dropped by Haas?


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