Nico Hulkenberg in talks with Lotus?

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With not even half of the 2013 season complete, the annual event of Formula One’s rumor mill going into overdrive concerning next year’s driver market – a.k.a ‘silly season’ – has begun in earnest at the German Grand Prix.

After Mark Webber confirmed last weekend that he would be retiring at the end of the season, all eyes have been on Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne and Kimi Raikkonen who are the contenders for his seat at Red Bull. Despite all three drivers refusing to jump to any conclusions or reveal any details, the knock-on effect of any move has now been considered.

According to German publication Bild, Nico Hulkenberg is thought to be in talks with Lotus F1 Team over a potential move as the rumors concerning Sauber’s financial state continue to intensify. Hulkenberg joined the team at the beginning of the year from Force India, but he has scored just six points whilst his former employers enjoy their best-ever start to a season.

Furthermore, Bild reports that Hulkenberg has already cancelled his contract with Sauber beyond the end of this season, failing fresh investment at Sauber.

Should this rumor materialize, it would imply that Kimi Raikkonen may be poised to join Red Bull, thus leaving Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso for the foreseeable future. Alternatively, Romain Grosjean may be facing the exit at Enstone after a string of poor results – or perhaps a combination of both, with Lotus taking on Hulkenberg and promoting Davide Valsecchi from the reserve driver role for next season.

Either way, silly season has well and truly begun in 2013.

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”