File this one under the “out of left field” category. Autosport’s Jon Noble reported Monday that three-time and reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer, also a World Champion in the FIA World Endurance Championship, could make a shock Formula One debut with Caterham at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The car’s expected to have significant upgrades and Noble reported that bringing in a fresh face to the team could help. Lotterer would replace Kamui Kobayashi, who coincidentally, he raced against in the FIA WEC last season.
Lotterer has past ties to the new management group at Caterham. As a rookie at Le Mans in 2009, Lotterer drove with Colin Kolles’ customer Audi R10 TDI program, and the sister car was driven by Christijan Albers. Albers and Kolles are now involved with Caterham, having been identified in the management shake-up earlier this year.
Both Lotterer’s main program, Audi Sport, and his Super Formula effort would need to sign off on the deal to allow it to happen.
The move would be a surprise. Lotterer, the 32-year-old German, served as Jaguar’s test driver in 2002, taking over for Tomas Scheckter in the role. But he never sniffed a race seat.
If it happens, this would be the first in-season driver change of 2014. Each of the last two years, there’s been only one, both times at Lotus (Jerome d’Ambrosio in for Romain Grosjean at the 2012 Italian Grand Prix and Heikki Kovalainen in for Kimi Raikkonen at last year’s United States and Brazilian Grands Prix).
Car No.: 27
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Championship Position: 10th
Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.
With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.
Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.
When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.
But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.
Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.
Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.