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.
Dale Coyne Racing will field a third entry at the Grand Prix of Portland and the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma for former Haas F1 test and reserve driver Santino Ferrucci, the team revealed earlier on Friday.
Ferrucci previously raced with Coyne at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, where he finished 22nd and 20th, and will drive alongside Sebastien Bourdais and Pietro Fittipaldi. The entry, the No. 39 Honda, will also feature sponsorship from Cly-Del, a Connecticut-based manufacturing company.
“I am extremely grateful to Dale (Coyne) and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing for giving me this opportunity to get back behind the wheel of an IndyCar in Portland and Sonoma,” said Ferrucci, who had been racing in FIA Formula 2 this year until it came to an unceremonious end in July.
Ferrucci continued, “I’m also excited to be bringing my long-time sponsor Cly-Del on board and introducing them to the world of IndyCar racing. I truly enjoyed my time with Dale Coyne Racing in Detroit earlier this season and I couldn’t be more excited to be back with them for a couple more races as I look to the future and enter the next chapter of my career.”
Team owner Dale Coyne highlighted the team’s experience with Ferrucci as a motivating factor in signing him up again for the final two races.
“We were very impressed with Santino at Detroit this year, and not just by his performance behind the wheel, but also by his professionalism and maturity outside of the race car,” said Coyne.
Coyne added, “We’ve had lengthy discussions with Santino in the past few months and we’re excited to have him back for the final two rounds of the season. We look forward to seeing what he will do with this opportunity as he gets back behind the wheel of an Indy Car. We’re also happy to welcome Cly-Del to our ever-growing family of sponsors.”