Sauber signs Nico Hulkenberg on multi-year F1 deal ahead of Audi arrival

Sauber has announced the signing of current Haas Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg on a multi-year contract ahead of Audi’s arrival to the grid in 2026.

Hulkenberg, 36, will leave Haas at the end of 2024 after two seasons with the American team, with his departure being revealed on Friday morning.

This was swiftly followed by confirmation from Sauber that it had signed Hulkenberg to race in 2025 and beyond, ensuring he will be at the team upon its evolution into Audi’s works F1 team in 2026.

“The prospect of competing for Audi is something very special,” Hulkenberg said in a statement. “When a German manufacturer enters Formula One with such determination, it is a unique opportunity. To represent the factory team of such a car brand with a power unit made in Germany is a great honor for me.”

The deal had been long-rumored after Audi set its sights on Hulkenberg to help the development of its F1 project last year. Andreas Seidl, the CEO of Sauber and future Audi F1 boss, said that Hulkenberg would be an “important part of the transformation of our team.”

Hulkenberg rejoined the F1 grid with Haas in 2023 after three seasons away from full-time racing, but quickly proved he had lost none of his pace by leading the team’s efforts through last year.

The announcement marks the latest big step in the F1 driver market for next year that was blown open up Ferrari’s shock swoop for Lewis Hamilton at the start of February.

Audi has made Carlos Sainz, the current Ferrari driver, its top target to join the team next year after the Spaniard was left without a seat following Ferrari’s move for Hamilton.

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With top seats still available at Red Bull and Mercedes for next year, Sainz is still yet to make any firm decision on his future, knowing that racing for Audi would likely be a longer-term building project.

Audi announced in 2022 that it would be entering F1 for the first time from 2026, acquiring the Sauber team and building its own engine. But Sauber currently sits last in the F1 constructors’ championship after failing to score a point in the first five races of the season.

The signing of Hulkenberg means at least one of Sauber’s current drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, will leave the team at the end of the season. It also opens up a seat at Haas for next year, which currently fields Hulkenberg alongside Kevin Magnussen.

The strong favorite to join Haas is British youngster Oliver Bearman, who made a surprise F1 debut in Saudi Arabia for Ferrari after Sainz was withdrawn due to appendicitis.

Bearman, 18, finished seventh despite limited practice, drawing praise from the entire F1 grid. He is already scheduled to take part in six practice sessions for Haas this year as part of his development alongside his racing commitments in Formula Two, but Haas is not expected to make any driver decision imminently.

(Edmund So/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

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