Nico Hulkenberg drops Haas contract hint

Nico Hulkenberg hasn't raced full-time in Formula 1 since competing for Renault in 2019, but he looks likely to return in 2023.

The competition for the vacant 2023 Haas seat appears to be nearing a close, as many are reporting that Aston Martin reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg is edging closer to taking Mick Schumacher’s seat.

Schumacher has been told by the team that his fate is in his hands; however, Haas team owner Gene Haas has revealed that the 23-year-old has cost the Americans a lot of money this season through heavy crashes.

The son of Michael Schumacher suffered two terrifyingly huge crashes at Saudi Arabia and Monaco, with both having resulted in his VF22 breaking into two parts.

Should Schumacher claim some points in the final four races this season, starting at the team’s home race this weekend, then that might just about save his F1 career and his seat with the eighth-placed team.

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This is easier said than done, though, with the team having failed to score points staggeringly since the Austrian Grand Prix.

There is no doubt that Schumacher is fast; however, he has at times had a tendency to have unnecessary collisions, something that could explain why they are supposedly favouring the incredibly experienced Hulkenberg.

Hulkenberg’s last full season in the sport came in 2019 with Renault, where he was then replaced by Esteban Ocon.

The German went onto become Racing Point’s and then Aston Martin’s reserve driver, where he stood in for first-team drivers on five occasions, mainly as a result of those who contracted Coronavirus.

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He stood in for Vettel at the first two races of this season, with his previous appearances having come in 2020.

With his appearances being few and far between, his training has understandably, been less intense than if he were racing full-time; however, that appears to have changed.

In a recent interview with Lissie Mackintosh, the 35-year-old revealed that he’s increased the “intensity” of his training, hinting that a move to Haas is further over the line than perhaps believed.

“No, because obviously I’m the third driver but it’s only in some emergency cases [I’ll be driving],” Hulkenberg said, after being asked if his workouts are as hard as they’ve always been.

“So the training intensity also is probably a little bit less and lower than at the beginning of my career or than when you’re active.

“But who knows? Maybe there’s an opportunity for next year for the future. So recently, I’ve been picking up the training intensity a bit again.”

Hulkenberg, who has never claimed a podium despite starting 181 GPs, revealed that there is some form of adaptation needed from being a full-time driver to a reserve, with the weekends being a “bit more relaxed”.

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“Obviously if you are not in the car, you are not in the hot seat,” added Hulkenberg.

“You don’t have the performance pressure, you don’t have to answer to the media or anyone.

“So from that point of view, it’s a bit more relaxed. But of course there are times when I miss the competition – being on the grid, feeling that adrenalin, the excitement, the kick of racing in Formula 1.”