Hulkenberg ruled out as Raikkonen substitute

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Lotus will not be able to call on the services of Nico Hulkenberg as they search for a short-notice replacement for Kimi Raikkonen.

Raikkonen will not start the final two races of the season as he is having surgery on a back injury. Hulkenberg has been tipped to join the team next year as Raikkonen’s replacement but Sauber have said he will not be released to drive the final rounds for their rivals this year.

“Nico is driving for us for the last two races. Full stop,” a Sauber spokesperson told The Mirror.

Hulkenberg has particularly strong form at one of the two remaining tracks on the calendar. He took his first pole position in his debut season at Interlagos in 2010. Last year he led more laps than any driver during the race but finished fifth after a drive-through penalty.

Spanish media reports have also indicated the team’s third driver Davide Valsecchi will not get the drive. Valsecchi, the reigning GP2 champion, has tested for Lotus twice this year already, including when Raikkonen was taken in during pre-season testing in Spain.

With track activity for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix due to begin in 48 hours, Lotus are expected to an announcement soon.