A manic Thursday of news in Singapore shed more light into how the grid will line up in 2020, with just five seats now left for next year’s grid.
Haas confirmed Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will stay on for a fourth year together, while Robert Kubica confirmed his exit from Williams at season’s end.
Both decisions have seemingly closed the door on Nico Hulkenberg making a return to F1 next season, with the German to be replaced at Renault by Esteban Ocon from 2020.
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Magnussen already had a contract in place with Haas, but the team’ decision to retain Grosjean is perhaps the most significant shock, considering the American outfit held talks with Hulkenberg.
Kubica’s departure keeps Hulkenberg’s F1 hopes alive, but the team is struggling and may opt for youth via current reserve driver Nicholas Latifi.
Speaking in Singapore, Hulkenberg admitted “things changed for whatever reason” in the summer break and admitted his 2020 plans are now out of his hands, despite his head “very much here still” in F1.
“There are decisions I can’t have full influence over and I can’t steer,” the German said.
“I’m still here and I think there’s still hope — and there are still options.”
Most other drivers come off contract at the end of 2020, including current Renault teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who will be among many to face uncertainty this time next year.
Hulkenberg would be an asset to any team — he is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid with 170 starts and 91 points finishes.
However, his agonising wait for a maiden F1 podium continues, and will likely end should he fail to secure a 2020 drive.
However, the 32-year-old won’t sell himself short just to keep himself on the grid.
“For me, it needs to be a good deal, a good seat, with a good prospective as well,” he said.
“I don’t want to just stay desperately in Formula 1. That’s not my style, that’s not what I’m looking for. After 10 years in Formula 1 that’s not what I’m after.”
Three Red Bull seats — one at the senior team, and both at Toro Rosso — are yet to be filled, although it’d be a monstrous shock should any of Alex Albon, Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly miss out altogether.
Kimi Raikkonen’s 2020 Alfa Romeo teammate is also yet to be confirmed, although current driver Antonio Giovinazzi is expected to cling onto his drive.
While Williams could go with Latifi, Hulkenberg has ties to the squad, having made his debut with the team in 2010.
Hulkenberg also drove for Alfa Romeo when it was under its previous Sauber guise, and it currently a more competitive option than Williams.
CONFIRMED 2020 DRIVER LINE-UPS
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc
Red Bull: Max Verstappen, TBC
McLarenL Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris
Toro Rosso: TBC, TBC
Renault: Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon
Racing Point: Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll
Alfa Romeo: Kimi Raikkonen, TBC
Haas: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen
Williams: George Russell, TBC