RACE DEBRIEF

    What does 2020 hold for Nico Hulkenberg? In Japan, the outgoing Renault driver was coy about his future, but said that if a Formula 1 seat doesn’t arise he’ll need some time to “find a new challenge”. Regardless, he’s adamant that he’ll end up in a racing car of some sort.

    Hulkenberg will be replaced by Esteban Ocon at Renault in 2020, an announcement made in Belgium that left the German in the lurch for next season. So, with just five races of the 2019 season remaining – and with Kimi Raikkonen's team mate at Alfa Romeo, Red Bull's seat alongside Max Verstappen and George Russell's partner at Williams still to be confirmed – had there been any more developments regarding a seat for Hulkenberg next year?

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    “No, frankly not,” said Hulkenberg in Suzuka. “There’s no news, so it’s a little bit more of a patience game. I’ll have to wait and see a little bit longer.”

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    A Le Mans 24 Hours winner in 2015, Hulkenberg has enjoyed a long F1 career so far, having made his debut at Williams in 2010, subsequently moving to Force India and Sauber, before being employed by Renault’s works team in 2017. But while his options appear to be limited for 2020, it was clear Hulkenberg was feeling philosophical about the chances of his F1 career coming to an end.

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    “I guess there is that scenario, but to be honest if it wasn’t to continue here after that obviously I haven’t given it that much thought. Also for me personally I would take some time to get clarity over what I want, find a new challenge.

    “Of course I will be in a racing car in the future because that’s what I love doing, it’s my passion. Only time will tell what happens then,” he said.

    The task now at hand for Renault, Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo is their fight for fourth in the constructors’ championship against McLaren – and with that battle in mind, they’ve brought a new front wing to Japan designed to give the R.S.19s more downforce and grip.

    2019

    Constructors' standings before Japan

    POSITION POINTS
    4 McLaren McLaren McLaren 101
    5 Renault Renault Renault 68

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    “Yeah it’s new, so we’ll see how that copes – if it’ll bring something to the party or not,” was Hulkenberg’s brief evaluation of the new part.

    “Obviously we want to score as many points as possible on Sunday. We are still fighting in the championship, it’s about getting the maximum out of the car and ourselves especially on Saturday, but [also] Sunday,” he said.

    Renault have only scored one point at Suzuka since 2016 – when they rejoined F1 as a factory team – thanks to the P10 last year of Carlos Sainz, now leading the team at McLaren. And although Hulkenberg enjoyed a run of five top-10 finishes here from 2012-16, he hasn’t had the same luck with his current employer just yet...