Hulkenberg thankful to “come home,” retain spot on grid

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The outside world is lamenting Nico Hulkenberg’s being passed over, once again, for a top flight seat on the Formula One grid. Yet Hulkenberg is thankful to have any seat in an F1 world where commercial interests have played such a major role in seats of late.

“I believe I’m in a good place and just maintaining a drive in F1 is worth a lot these days,” he admitted, in an interview with the official F1 website. “I’m a Formula One driver with a team that is ambitious and aiming high for the future. Of course I want to be winning races, but I’m still young and 2014 will only be my fourth season as a race driver in Formula One.”

Hulkenberg returns to Force India for the first time since his two years there from 2011 to 2012. He stepped into a race seat for 2012, but moved on to Sauber after a single year.

“I’m excited to be back. It’s a team I know very well,” he said. “I’ve spent two years here before – in 2011 and 2012 – so indeed it’s a bit like coming home. There are still a lot of familiar faces that I know and have worked with before, so it will be a sort of happy reunion.”

Without giving anything away, Hulkenberg thought the identity of his teammate for 2014 is likely to be someone to “score points when the chance was there.” Most of the free agents on the market – Sergio Perez, Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil – have shown an ability to do that.

Hulkenberg also said he felt bullish on Mercedes’ development of its new V6 engine. Mercedes will also supply three other teams (Mercedes, McLaren, Williams) in 2014.

‘Still quite early’ for Ricciardo to think about Red Bull F1 future

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Daniel Ricciardo feels it is “still quite early” to make a decision about his Red Bull Formula 1 future despite seeing teammate Max Verstappen announce on Friday he would be staying with the team until 2020.

Verstappen, 20, put pen to paper on an enhanced F1 contract with Red Bull, with his previous deal due to expire at the end of next season in parallel to Ricciardo’s own agreement.

Ricciardo was asked following practice on Friday why he is yet to strike a new deal for himself with Red Bull, and explained he is in no rush to make a final decision when he has over a year to run on his current contract.

“It’s not that I’ve said no to anything. It’s just still quite early I think,” Ricciardo explained.

“People talked a little bit about contracts and the silly season for next year, but I thought that would still happen next year. It’s still quite early.

“If I’m to try and extract some positives out of his news it’s that it gives us good confidence for next year. He and his management see a lot of positives in the team to continue like that.

“I’m 100 per cent here next year, I can at least say that, and I think it gives both of us confidence that we’ll keep progressing the way we are.”

Red Bull said upon announcing Verstappen’s new deal that it wants to “build a team around him”, with the 20-year-old standing out as a once-in-a-generation talent.

The focus surrounding Verstappen has not left Ricciardo feeling as though he is in the shade or in any way playing second-fiddle to the Dutchman, stressing he has no internal concerns at Red Bull.

“For sure, as far as media goes, he certainly gets a lot of attention. He’s broken records for his age and things like that, so rightly so,” Ricciardo said.

“Take the media out of it, as far as inside the team, new parts on the car, things like this, there’s always been parity and equality.”

Verstappen is only the third driver to commit to a deal beyond the end of next season, following Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari and Fernando Alonso at McLaren on multi-year contracts.

All 10 F1 teams have at least one free seat for 2019, making Ricciardo a possible candidate for seats with either Mercedes or Ferrari were he to consider a move away from Red Bull.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky Sports, Red Bull F1 advisor Helmut Marko said he felt Ricciardo was “putting himself on the market” by waiting to make a decision on his future, but that talks would take place when possible.