Boullier: Hulkenberg is my first choice

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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.

Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

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One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

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