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Audi working to reunite Hulkenberg and Sainz in 2025

Sauber is reportedly working to sign Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz for 2025 as Audi increases its influence on the Swiss outfit. Following the German manufacturer’s complete takeover of the team, CEO Andreas Seidl is understood to have two clear preferences. Ahead of the upcoming regulation changes, the acquisitions of Sainz and Hulkenberg would be a statement of intent. However, the Hinwil-based team still has a lot to prove.

It would be unfair to say that Sauber is uncompetitive to start 2024. The C44 has shown reasonable pace this year, briefly flirting with points in Bahrain, Australia and – to a lesser extent – Jeddah. However, operational errors have ruined any chances of finishing in the top ten.

Valtteri Bottas was especially unfortunate in Melbourne. He made up several places before a nightmare pit stop put him outside of points contention.

Considering these persistent unforced errors, criticising Bottas and Zhou’s future F1 prospects might seem unfair. Unfortunately for Sauber’s existing duo, misfortune is unlikely to override the preferred targets Audi is chasing for the future.

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Carlos Sainz

Carlos Sainz is a driver who, in many ways, would ordinarily be outside Sauber’s reach. The Spaniard claimed his third race win and twentieth podium in Melbourne, adding to an already impressive CV. At the bare minimum, Sainz has held his own against the excellent 26-year-old in his time at Ferrari.

As a team sitting 9th in the Championship, attractive a driver of this calibre is normally out of the question. However, Sainz is without a contract for next season. Although there are seats elsewhere, there is no guarantee a top team like Mercedes will sign him.

This is where Audi will try and capitalise on any opportunities. Their interest in Sainz is well-established, with recent information from the German outlet AMuS confirming that this interest hasn’t gone away.

Audi’s Sauber takeover changes the equation for 2026 and beyond. Whilst a new manufacturer is unlikely to take F1 by storm in year one, there will be no shortage of resources. Should this project (which would likely be built around the Spaniard) prove attractive, this move is not out of bounds.

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Nico Hulkenberg

In the second half of 2023, Nico Hulkenberg made no secret of his frustrations about Haas’s lack of development. Although the situation has vastly improved, he is not oblivious to the inherent limitations of a customer team like Haas.

Since returning to F1, his speed has shown no signs of declining, establishing him as a reference for Ayao Komatsu’s team. As an experienced German driver, Hulkenberg ticks all the boxes on Audi’s list.

Given this could be his last opportunity for a big contract in F1, the move seems logical. All reports indicate this is a probable move, although the upcoming weeks and months will shed more light on this.

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What of Bottas and Zhou?

The two current drivers at Sauber, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, are fighting for their careers. Though far from responsible for the C44’s uninspiring speed, they were not signed by Andreas Seidl or Audi – who will stamp their mark on the team’s driver lineup.

Still, they are not out of contention. The most likely scenario this year is that Hulkenberg will join Audi, but Carlos Sainz is – at best – an ambitious target. As a result, the Sauber duo could still maintain their positions.

Until a final decision is reached, the Hinwil-based team will continue to assess their options.


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