Lotus team principal Eric Boullier has named Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg as his first choice replacement for the Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen, with the Frenchman dismissing any rumors suggesting that the driver’s weight could deter the team from signing him.
Lotus look set to retain Romain Grosjean but a number of drivers have been linked to the second seat that Raikkonen has opened up. However, Boullier confirmed in an interview with the official Formula One website that he had made his feelings clear to the team’s management.
When asked who the next best driver to Raikkonen was outside of Lotus, Boullier said: “Nico Hulkenberg.
“I would love to [sign him]. This is the recommendation that I gave to my board.”
With the new regulations in 2014 appearing to penalize heavier drivers, many pundits had suggested that Hulkenberg – at 74kg – would be too heavy for some of the front running teams despite his evident pace. However, Boullier rejected this notion.
“It would matter if you have a problem over weight with the car,” he explained. “I believe we will not have that problem.”
However, the final decision appears to lie with the Lotus board who could place greater importance on the financial incentives that are part of the deal. According to NBC Sports’ Will Buxton, Pastor Maldonado is the other driver in contention for the seat with the Enstone-based team for 2014.
So it appears Lotus will keep Grosjean and board must decide between Hulkenberg and Maldonado. All depends on whether investment arrives.
— Will Buxton (@willbuxton) October 25, 2013