Formula 1

Did Ferrari block Hulkenberg from joining Lotus?

Hulkenberg will complete 2013 with Sauber. (©GettyImages)
Hulkenberg will complete 2013 with Sauber. (©GettyImages).

It has emerged Ferrari intervened to stop Nico Hulkenberg from joining Lotus for the final two races of the season.

The German, who is linked to Lotus's second seat alongside Romain Grosjean for 2014, was also considered to replace Kimi Raikkonen for the final two races of the 2013 season.

With the two teams battling for second along with Mercedes in the Constructor's championship various rumours and theories are being mentioned around the paddock in Austin ahead of this weekend's US Grand Prix.

Earlier it was touted that Ferrari encouraged Raikkonen to have his back surgery early and miss the final two races and now it is believed they blocked Lotus from signing one of the best drivers in the second half of the season.

Other speculation claims that, contrary to earlier reports, Hulkenberg is still tied to his Sauber contract though it was thought the Swiss team had breached the terms by not paying the German earlier in the season.

Hulkenberg's manager, Werner Heinz, told Sport1 radio that the 26-year-old would indeed have broken a valid contract by racing for Lotus.

"Sure, it would have meant that, but I also don't think Sauber would have put obstacles in the way," he added.

Now though Ferrari were seen as the biggest obstacle between Lotus and the 'Hulk'.

"Apparently," read a report in the German newspaper Bild, "Ferrari took care of Hulkenberg's unpaid salary, so that he could not be hired by Lotus."

Indeed Sauber and Ferrari have a very close relationship with the Italian team providing engines.

So close was the prospect of Hulkenberg joining Lotus for Austin and Brazil that it is now reported Hulkenberg visited Enstone for a seat-fitting, a standard procedure for all future drivers.

"One can only speculate about the reason for the change of plans," read a report in Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"In Austin on Wednesday it was rumoured that Sauber paid Hulkenberg's salary at the last minute."

A report on the Italian website blogf1.it added: "According to our sources, the money came straight from Maranello."

Now it is confirmed that Heikki Kovalainen will be in the E21 at the Circuit of the Americas this weekend and Interlagos a week later.

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