Hulkenberg driving a Red Bull

After securing his place at Haas for 2024, the question remains as to whether Nico Hülkenberg will soon be sitting in a Red Bull seat.

For Hülkenberg, the confirmation that he will be with Haas in 2024 didn’t come as a shock. He revealed that he had been aware for several weeks and months that the synergy between him and the American team was strong. Moreover, the contractual mechanisms for an extension were already in place. “It was predictable,” he says.



The German driver, who celebrated his 36th birthday last Saturday, makes it clear that this wasn’t a new deal. As reported back in July, Hülkenberg’s contract was originally for two years, covering 2023 and 2024. So there was no need for lengthy negotiations.

Hülkenberg expresses his satisfaction with Haas, despite their modest results on the track (scoring points on only two of the first twelve race weekends). “I have enjoyed this phase of my career so far and I want more. I’m happy,” he says.


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However, Haas is not on the same level as Red Bull. At the end of 2020, Hülkenberg almost secured a place in what’s now F1’s premier team, although Sergio Perez ultimately took precedence for the 2021 season. Nevertheless, Hülkenberg will remain with the team for 2023 in a car that is at least visually similar to Red Bull’s, as confirmed by team manager Guenther Steiner.

Haas continue to struggle with tyre-related issues and they’re implementing updates to address this. At Zandvoort, a new rear brake ventilation system was used to help dissipate heat from the tyres and improve race consistency.

Günther Steiner explains, “The effect depends partly on whether the tyre is heated from the inside or from the surface. We have updates for this race, we’ve completely redesigned the rear brake vents to control the temperature coming from the inside. Then we have to look at the surface. To get better grip we need more downforce.”

In terms of aerodynamics, the forthcoming updates will be in line with Red Bull’s concepts, not necessarily for performance gains, but in terms of design. “All the cars these days look pretty similar in terms of concept. But the devil is in the detail, where you have to achieve excellence. The trend is in that direction,” says Steiner.


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New brake ventilation

Steiner doesn’t quite reveal his intentions. It’s possible that the changes will affect the side pods. In particular, teams like Mercedes and McLaren have revamped their designs for the 2023 season, moving closer to the Red Bull model, and both teams have reaped the benefits. As a result, Haas may soon be moving away from its Ferrari-based tub-shaped side boxes.

Steiner admits he’s unhappy with the team’s current performance. Hulkenberg insists that it is only speculation as to how these issues will be resolved, adding, “I hope we can get a grip on some of these challenges and improve.”

As for the expected success of the new brake ventilation at Zandvoort, Hulkenberg is cautious, noting that he will wait and see how the car performs.

“Hopefully it’s positive. Obviously we need to improve, otherwise we will fall further behind.”



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Closer competition in qualifying

The description of the problem seems simple: On a fast lap, Hulkenberg can mitigate the VF-23’s lack of grip thanks to the tyres’ high grip levels on the single hot lap that quali dictates. However, trying to extend this advantage over longer distances strains the tyres, causing them to wear and exposing the car’s true limitations.

Hülkenberg explains: “New tyres offer much more grip. They can last for about 90 seconds. But not for 20 or 30 laps. In qualifying the field is much tighter. But watch the race after lap 5 or 10 and you’ll see the big gaps.”


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Tyres and aerodynamics

The tyre and aerodynamic issues are intertwined. Increasing grip benefits both by reducing skidding, which in turn reduces overheating. Hülkenberg concludes: “It’s all connected and we need a comprehensive improvement.”

He avoids placing the blame entirely on Pirelli, noting that the tyre manufacturer’s sensitivity to temperature is a well-known aspect. However, he insists: “I’ve known these tyres for over a decade. Other teams manage them better. So it’s an issue we need to address.”

“You work with the grip you have as a driver. If your grip level is lower than others, you have a fundamental problem. You’re slow at first, you lack speed. At the same time, if the tyres overheat, it’s a double challenge. Avoiding or working around the problem is relatively complex.”


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Hulkenberg’s positive outlook

Despite the challenges, Hülkenberg remains enthusiastic. He admits that the thought of racing in the air-conditioned studios, where he became a favourite with the Austrian TV audience in 2022, occasionally crosses his mind. But he’s happy to be back in the select circle of F1 drivers.

He’s never regretted his return, even if he sometimes dreams of watching races on television instead. He sums up his feelings by saying, “I’m here because I enjoy it and I want to be here. I’m still in the mood. The alternative of sitting at home and watching on TV is always there. But at the moment I’m more inclined to be in the car, even if it’s going in the wrong direction”


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Unfazed by the fame that comes with his role, he remarks: “It’s a bit harder to go unnoticed at the airport. People want selfies. It’s fine, but it’s different. Much else hasn’t changed”.

Team boss Günther Steiner is also happy to have switched from one German (Mick Schumacher) to another (Nico Hülkenberg). Hülkenberg has been consistent, making minimal mistakes and qualifying well.

“After a few races, there was no doubt,” Steiner confirms.

As for Hülkenberg, his future in F1 continues to unfold, even if it is not with Red Bull. “Wishing and dreaming is one thing,” he admits. “Reality is what it is, and it isn’t.” Asked if he still dreams, Nico replies: “I still dream, a lot and intensely.

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