Hulkenberg To Rival Alonso For Vacant Mercedes Seat?

Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg

Fernando Alonso says he will not leave Aston Martin hanging for too long as he decides and negotiates his next move in Formula 1.

The 42-year-old Spaniard is regarded as a top contender to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next year – especially if the team wants a stop-gap solution whilst developing the 17-year-old teenage talent Kimi Antonelli.

Toto Wolff’s actual top pick to succeed Hamilton, however, is Max Verstappen – with the Mercedes team boss admitting he has rekindled his friendship with Max’s father Jos, after it fell apart in the 2021 title head-to-head.

“Jos and I were born in the same year and we have had a good relationship for many years,” Wolff told Osterreich newspaper.

“Every team would love to get Max because he is the strongest driver, so it’s just logical,” the Austrian added. “But as I’ve also said, a driver will always try to sit in the best car.

“That’s why we have to do our homework so that the car performs and Mercedes becomes a real alternative for Max.”

On that level, then, a better stop-gap solution for Wolff might be Nico Hulkenberg, who was brought back into Formula 1 in his mid-30s last year by former Haas boss Gunther Steiner.

“If I were team boss at Mercedes,” Steiner told RTL, “I wouldn’t say no to Nico. “When you see what he has managed to do again, it is very cool.

“He was often underestimated and usually in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe now he’ll be in the right place at the right time,” Steiner added.

As for two-time champion Alonso, some suspect he would jump at the chance to leap out of the midfield Aston Martin car and into a Mercedes next year.

His manager, Flavio Briatore, met with Wolff in a Monaco cafe recently, with Alonso – who has not even ruled out retirement – now pledging to quickly decide his next move out of respect for Aston Martin.

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to delay it too much,” said the Spaniard, “for the sake of the team and its options.”

For now, however, Wolff says he has the luxury to wait – given that he even has the budget, given Hamilton’s looming departure, to pay for someone of Max Verstappen’s calibre.

“In every career there are moments when you want or should try something new,” Wolff said.

“But as it now turns out, that could be a good fit, especially as we – unlike Ferrari and McLaren – have not concluded contracts quite so early.”

He dismisses the notion that Mercedes is no longer a particularly attractive destination to truly top drivers.

“There will be completely new regulations from 2026, especially when it comes to the engine,” said Wolff. “This gives us the opportunity to hopefully do as well as we did in 2014.

“If you as a driver can be here for that early, that is of course an advantage. But I won’t commit to anything for now and will leave the seat vacant for as long as possible.”

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