Nico Hulkenberg makes massive prediction about F1 driver market

14 drivers are set to be out of contract at the end of 2024, ahead of Formula 1's new engine regulations.

Nico Hulkenberg is expecting the driver market to become a bit like “musical chairs” ahead of the new power unit regulations in 2026, with 2024 set to be potentially a crazy season of driver changes.

Silly season ahead of 2024 has actually been somewhat relaxed, with the only change so far having been Daniel Ricciardo permanently replacing Nyck de Vries.

Other than that, every driver who required a new contract has been given one by their side, with only Logan Sargeant’s seat at Williams left to be confirmed.

The general expectation is that the American will be given a second season by the Grove-based team, meaning the 2023 and 2024 grids will be almost identical.

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However, with the vast majority of the grid set to be out of contract at the end of next season, several changes could be seen ahead of 2025.

Both Ferrari seats are currently available for 2025, as is Sergio Perez’s spot at Red Bull.

Fernando Alonso is another key driver without a deal for 2025, highlighting just how much action there will be in the driver market over the next 12 months.

Of course, with the new power unit regulations fast approaching, some teams will be signing drivers with the new regs in mind, considering that anyone offered a multi-year deal next season will enter the new era with that outfit.

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Hulkenberg is expecting there to be “quite a bit” of movement next season ahead of 2025, meaning that performing well is vital for so many drivers in the upcoming campaign.

“I think there’s still so much gap between now and then,” Hulkenberg said, as reported by Motorsport Week.

“I mean, sounds like quite a big change [the regulations]. And for sure, I think beginning of next year, you start to wonder about that.

“The Musical Chairs I think will move in and work quite a bit next year and I think naturally things will fall in place for people so yeah, depends what happens, how you perform and how strong your value is.”

Alex Albon is in complete agreement with Hulkenberg that a lot of change could be on the cards ahead of 2025, as every team is already “paying attention” to the new engine regulations.

Teams are starting to plan on what drivers they want to enter the new regs with, something McLaren are already finalising having extended Oscar Piastri’s deal until the end of 2026.

Albon notes that there’s been a “big push” in the paddock towards preparing for 2026, something which will have a huge say on the driver market.

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“Yeah, I think just as Nico said,” Albon added. “Of course we are paying attention to it, I think it’s more that it’s the teams that are paying attention to it more than drivers.

“We’ve just got to focus on our jobs. I think it’s as Nico said we will have our own stock and then it’s our performances that raise or lower it. And then, that’s it really.

“I think more than ever this… I don’t know, I haven’t been in the sport long enough but it does seem like there’s been a big push around 2026 in general from the whole paddock about keeping… there is a big move around then and that’s when we’re going to get the big Musical Chairs like Nico said.”