German Nico Hulkenberg has turned down an offer from Lotus to replace Kimi Raikkonen for the final two races as the Finn undergoes back surgery.
The 26-year-old is seen as the hot favourite to replace Raikkonen full-time from 2014 if the deal with Quantum Racing is closed.
However, should that deal collapse the now available Pastor Maldonado and his Venezuelan millions would likely make the trip from Grove to Enstone.
In an interesting twist Hulkenberg’s manager Werner Heinz confirmed Lotus had indeed put an offer on the table to attract his driver to the team for the final two races in Austin and Brazil.
“We were presented an offer that we are exploring now,” Heinz was quoted by the SID news agency.
“Within the next two days, a decision will be made. But this does not mean that Nico is leaving Sauber,” he added.
With no guarantee of a full-time seat the move was seen as a big risk for the highly-rated German, indeed RTL commentator and former driver Christian Danner told Bild: ”It’s a big risk.”
“He would have to get used to a new car in the space of three practice sessions — usually you need months.”
After reflecting and much discussion later Heinz confirmed to Bild: ”We had an offer from Lotus and we discussed it.
“We decided that Nico will do the last two races with Sauber.”
The decision now means Lotus reserve Davide Valsecchi will likely make his F1 debut this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas and Interlagos next week.
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