Unsettled Nico Hulkenberg declares himself ready for the step up to Ferrari
German in the frame to replace the struggling Felipe Massa
By Pete Gill and James Galloway at Spa. Last Updated: 22/08/13 2:04pm
Could both Hulkenberg and Ricciardo be moving up the grid in 2014?
Unsettled Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg says he feels ready to make the step up to a team such as Ferrari.
With the F1 transfer market opening for business again following the summer break, Hulkenberg has revealed he is in talks with a number of teams as he considers his options for the 2014 season.
The highly-rated German has been repeatedly linked away from Sauber in recent months, most noticeably with Ferrari, with whom he is reported to have held talks about the possibility of replacing the under-pressure Felipe Massa.
"I would feel ready and I do feel ready," Hulkenberg responded to Sky Sports News after being asked if he felt equipped to move up the grid.
"It's my third year, and I feel I have gained quite a bit of experience. There is always room for improvement, there are still things I learn every weekend. You always get better, and next year is a new game because of the new regulations, but I think I am off for a challenge like that."
With Mercedes and McLaren almost certain to retain their current driver line-ups, and Daniel Ricciardo widely expected to succeed Mark Webber at Red Bull, Ferrari, for whom Massa has endured an undistinguished season, are poised to offer the most obvious route for promotion. Nonetheless, Hulkenberg, who has driven for a different team in each of his three years in F1, believes he has more than one option to consider as he weighs up his next move.
"I wouldn't name it the ultimate drive but obviously it is a big team with a big history," he added. "I wouldn't exclude anyone at this point, we are talking to different teams and evaluating all the options, and when the time is right we will decide what we think is best for my future."
As is often the case, the current driver market appears to be stalled by the uncertainty surrounding a high-profile driver's plans - in this case Raikkonen - but Hulkenberg believes the speed of his own future being resolved is "not neccessarily dependent all on him [Raikkonen]".
Speaking to reporters, Hulkenberg insisted that he wouldn't be making any decisions until he was happy with the situation.
"What you want and what is happening, that is sometimes not the same," he said. "You have to wait and see. I want to make a decision when I feel I've made the right choice and when I'm comfortable with everything."
But when pressed on a possible timescale, the German added: "Ideally I'd like to have it done by September, end of September."
Having previously driven for Williams, Hulkenberg's decision to leave for Force India for Sauber at the end of 2012 has yet to bear fruit, with the German scoring just seven points in the first half of the season. But the move was also widely interpreted as being a tactical ploy to move him closer to Ferrari as the Scuderia currently supply Sauber's engines. If so, it's a gamble which may be poised to pay a significant dividend.