The final seat on the 2023 grid is looking set to be announced imminently, with recent reports suggesting that Haas will declare their decision prior to next weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Many believe that current driver Mick Schumacher won’t be retained by the team and will therefore be let go when his contract expires following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
With that in mind, ‘veteran’ Nico Hulkenberg looks set to be making his full-time return to the sport next season, following his three-year stint on the side-lines as a reserve and test driver for Racing Point and then Aston Martin.
The 35-year-old’s last full season came with Renault in 2019, before he was replaced by Esteban Ocon.
It has been long discussed that the vacant seat at Haas was between Hulkenberg and Schumacher, with the Americans supposedly having decided to go for experience over youth.
Hulkenberg will make an incredibly experienced line-up with Kevin Magnussen, who himself has also been on the grid for many years.
For Schumacher, it appears that his results simply haven’t been up to standard, with the 23-year-old having come under a barrage of criticism recently, specifically from Haas owner Gene Haas.
Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko thinks this is a tell-telling sign that there is “no sign of trust” in the young driver, who has been gaining interest from Audi over a seat in 2026.
Marko predicts that a “veteran” will be announced by the eighth-placed team, with “millions of dollars” at stake.
“When a team publicly criticises a driver so massively, as was sometimes the case, it shows that there is no sign of trust,” Marko told the German broadcaster ntv.
“The situation at Haas is that they have an experienced driver in (Kevin) Magnussen, and if there was a great up-and-coming talent, I would bet on him.
“But I don’t see anyone at the moment who would have these requirements. And from a team perspective, there’s a lot of money at stake in the constructors’ world championship.
“Whether you’re tenth or eighth, that’s a difference of millions of dollars. I assume that Haas will bet on a veteran.”
Aston Martin actually gave away a huge sign hinting that Hulkenberg had signed for Haas, after announcing that reigning Formula E World Champion Stoffel Vandoorne would be the Silverstone-based side’s reserve and test driver next season.
This is the role the German has held for the past few years, suggesting that he will be departing Aston Martin for Haas.
Marko joked that a full-time return for the 35-year-old would be a “shame”, with Hulkenberg being a pundit for Servus TV, who are owned by Red Bull.
“It would be a shame for Servus TV,” said Marko.
“On the other hand, Hulkenberg has proved that he can jump into a car as a reserve driver without any test kilometres – into the cold water, so to speak – and always deliver.
“That speaks volumes for him.”
Going back to Schumacher, Marko, who has nurtured an incredible number of young drivers over the years, certainly thinks the son of Michael Schumacher has talent.
It, unfortunately, appears to have come down to how much money the driver has cost the lower-midfield side; however, Marko does think Schumacher has been victim of “some bad luck” this season.
“There were serious accidents with a lot of equipment and monetary damage, which is of course a serious issue for teams,” added Marko, referring to Schumacher’s huge crashes in Saudi Arabia and Monaco.
“Then there were very good races in England and Austria and as a result, Schumacher improved significantly in the second half of the year.
“Then he had some bad luck with Haas’ strategy and also some car problems.”
So, if Schumacher is left without a seat for 2023, then where will he go?
Marko thinks a 2024 return could be on the cards but that an immediate role could be as Ferrari’s reserve driver next season, if he remains as part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.
The Austrian thinks it’s “certainly a possibility” that this happens next year, with remaining in the paddock being vital to keep communication channels with other teams alive.
“In 2024 a few places will become available as contracts expire,” he concluded.