It is amazing how fast rumors spread these days. Robin Frijns has just lost his GP2 drive, which, in all honesty was on shaky ground due to its race-by-race basis. Was it for a lack of money that he lost the seat, or is he being prepped for an F1 debut very soon?
Further rumors have emerged that the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix may be Nico Hulkenberg’s very last with the Sauber team. He has already been rumored to have gone unpaid for the past six months, despite the overwhelming denial by Peter Sauber and his team. Regardless of the monetary factors in the German’s deal, the fact remains that his role in the 2013 Silly Season is one of the most important.
If Nico is to race for the final time with Sauber this weekend, who will replace him at the team, and where will he go?
As for the potentially empty seat, there are two immediate options, one more realistic than the other. Robin Frijns, Sauber’s official reserve and test driver would seem the obvious choice for filling the void created by Nico. Indeed, the “timely” loss of his GP2 drive would suggest that he is being prepped for a racing role when F1 resumes after the summer break in Belgium. But what is holding him back? The very reason Robin may have lost his seat, is money. Robin has gone this whole season under the constant threat of losing his drives without warning. His finances are underwhelming, to say the least, and one could argue the only reason he has been racing this season is due to his prodigious speed and race craft.
So, is he being groomed for a race seat in Formula One, or is this a case of extremely unfortunate timing? Come from Sauber’s point of view. Would you rather have to pay as much as you are able to for Hulkenberg, of have Frijns for free? You wouldn’t have to pay for the latter, but you wouldn’t be getting paid, as such. This is the line that Sauber has to tread for the rest of the season until their lucrative Russian deal is set in stone.
Speaking of Russia, the other, if unrealistic, option would be for Sergey Sirotkin to take Nico’ place. He has money, no question about it, but is completely inexperienced. I am not holding out any hope for this scenario playing out, and you shouldn’t as well, but considering it has been brought up in the rumors, I felt I should address it.
Sauber has gotten itself into a very tight and constricting bind, it seems. I must stress that the rumors I have mentioned are just that: Rumors. We don’t know for sure if what I have explained here will unfold. For now, we must wait until after the weekend passes to reassess the situation.
We certainly have something to sink our teeth into, though.