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Hulkenberg says Seidl the ‘driving factor’ in new Sauber deal as he reveals previous McLaren conversation

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Nico Hulkenberg has admitted that Andreas Seidl played a key role in him signing for Audi, with the current Haas racer set to switch to Kick Sauber in 2025 before the automotive giants complete their takeover of the Swiss team.

Seidl is CEO of both Sauber Motorsport AG, which runs Kick Sauber, and the future Audi F1 factory team, having joined the Hinwil-based operation from McLaren – where he was Team Principal – in late 2022.

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Hulkenberg worked with his fellow German almost a decade ago, winning the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans for Porsche in 2015 when respected engineer and manager Seidl headed up the brand’s World Endurance Championship efforts.

Now a reunion is on the cards as Hulkenberg gets set to move to Kick Sauber next winter, ahead of Audi taking over the entry for 2026, when new regulations – including power units with increased electrical power and the introduction 100% sustainable fuels – will come into effect.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 04: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari leads

Hulkenberg will swap Haas for Kick Sauber in 2025, ahead of the Swiss team being taken over by Audi

Asked about Seidl’s influence, Hulkenberg said: “He’s the driving factor there, one of the deciders, one of the top, key people in the management at Audi. Of course, it came through him, and he’s a very direct and straightforward guy with me.”

At this point, Hulkenberg recalled a conversation with Seidl several years ago, when he was looking for his next opportunity after being replaced by Esteban Ocon at the works Renault team (now Alpine) at the end of the 2019 campaign.

READ MORE: Hulkenberg ‘very excited’ by Audi project as he sees opportunity for manufacturer to be competitive ‘straight away’

“I remember in 2020, before the season had started, and I was not sure what I wanted to do,” Hulkenberg continued. “I phoned him up, and he was at McLaren at the time. I was like, ‘Is there maybe a chance for me?’, and he was like a straight, ‘No, don’t even get your hopes up, it’s not going to happen’.

“This time around [with the Audi project], a few years later, it was very different, and he was very keen to sign and to have me.”

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Hulkenberg won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche in 2015, when Seidl was at the helm

On that note, Hulkenberg expressed pride over the impact he has made during his F1 comeback so far, having returned with Haas in 2023 and built on a series of ‘super-sub’ outings for Racing Point and Aston Martin during a spell on the sidelines.

“I’m happy, and I think it’s reward to the good work that I and my team have put in – I think it’s credit to the good work over the last year-and-a-half,” said the now 36-year-old.

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“Since the comeback, I feel… of course, I’ve done the odd mistake, but on balance the performance I think was good, it was there. I think that’s always convincing in your best arguments.

“I also know how much I have invested and worked for it. I’m in a happy and good headspace now, since the comeback, compared to let’s say the end of 2019. I’m embracing it, probably living through it more consciously, enjoying it more also, the bad days as well as the good days.”

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