x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

New investors say Hulkenberg is bound for Lotus

Mansoor Ijaz, head of the consortium that has agreed to buy a 35 percent stake in Lotus, said a contract with the driver was, 'prepared and ready to go.'

Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg, shown at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, is reportedly headed for Lotus to replace Kimi Raikkonen. Tom Gandolfini / AFP
Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg, shown at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, is reportedly headed for Lotus to replace Kimi Raikkonen. Tom Gandolfini / AFP

Lotus are poised to recruit Nico Hulkenberg to replace Ferrari-bound Finn Kimi Raikikonen next season, according to the head of the team’s new investors.

“As the incoming owners and shareholders, we have made it clear what our preference is,” said Mansoor Ijaz, head of Quantum Motorsports, a consortium that has reportedly agreed to buy a 35 per cent stake in Lotus from Genii Capital.

“I wish the transition had been smoother between Kimi and the next driver - who we believe will be Nico - but sometimes in life things don’t’ happen so clearly, or as nicely, as you want.”

Ijaz added that a contract for Hulkenberg had been drawn up and prepared and said that the German driver was excited about the move. Hulkenberg is currently with Sauber.

Ijaz told Autosport.com that the deal was poised to go through.

“I can tell you the contract was prepared and ready to go,” he said. “I know Nico is excited about doing this and I think it is a matter of a very short period before that is all finalised.

“Nico is a man well within himself. He is an up-and-coming driver.

“He has a fairly long career span ahead of him. In every sport the athlete has a fixed life span and if he has five or seven years left in him, that is enough for him to rise the very top of the pack with a good car, good technology and a strong team behind him.”

Hulkenberg finished 14th in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after being lapped by triumphant compatriot and newly-crowned quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.

Raikkonen, in dispute with Lotus over unpaid wages of more than 15 million Euros, arrived late and departed early. He started from the pit lane and retired at the opening corner following a collision.

Lewis Hamilton also admitted that he is bemused by his own disappointing recent race form after finishing seventh in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

His Mercedes team-mate German Nico Rosberg came home third.

Briton Hamilton said, “Even if I was ahead, I would have been overtaken, I just wasn’t good overall.

“It was like I had another 50kg in the car, I was just too slow. Just no pace.

“Ultimately I am not particularly happy with my performance, but I am very happy with the team’s performance.

“The development and hard work that has gone in has been remarkable. For whatever reasons, maybe being a new car, I have not got on well with it.

“And really it is for me very, very confusing. I was half a second up on my qualifying lap, 100 per cent, and if I hadn’t made a mistake and been on the front row, the position would have been different.

“But still, when I get to the race I don’t know what happens. I really struggle. For a lot of races it’s been like that.”