Hulkenberg ruled out as Raikkonen substitute

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Lotus will not be able to call on the services of Nico Hulkenberg as they search for a short-notice replacement for Kimi Raikkonen.

Raikkonen will not start the final two races of the season as he is having surgery on a back injury. Hulkenberg has been tipped to join the team next year as Raikkonen’s replacement but Sauber have said he will not be released to drive the final rounds for their rivals this year.

“Nico is driving for us for the last two races. Full stop,” a Sauber spokesperson told The Mirror.

Hulkenberg has particularly strong form at one of the two remaining tracks on the calendar. He took his first pole position in his debut season at Interlagos in 2010. Last year he led more laps than any driver during the race but finished fifth after a drive-through penalty.

Spanish media reports have also indicated the team’s third driver Davide Valsecchi will not get the drive. Valsecchi, the reigning GP2 champion, has tested for Lotus twice this year already, including when Raikkonen was taken in during pre-season testing in Spain.

With track activity for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix due to begin in 48 hours, Lotus are expected to an announcement soon.

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.”