Cyril Abiteboul admits he would find it difficult to accept a Formula 1 grid without Nico Hülkenberg despite his Renault F1 Team having announced the German’s departure at the end of 2019.
Hülkenberg will be replaced at Renault by Mercedes-Benz protégé Esteban Ocon for 2020 after three years with the team, and Abiteboul felt it would be relatively easy for the former GP2 Series champion to find another seat on the grid.
However, a move to the Haas F1 Team has fallen through following the news that Romain Grosjean has been re-signed for a fifth consecutive season, while Antonio Giovinazzi is set for a second season with Alfa Romeo Racing. Red Bull Racing have also distanced themselves from Hülkenberg despite only having Max Verstappen confirmed.
The only other option at this point would be Williams Racing, who do have a vacancy following the news prior to the Singapore Grand Prix that Robert Kubica will leave after just one season, but the Grove-based team are likely to need a driver with significant funding, with Nicholas Latifi the favourite for the ride.
Abiteboul says it would be difficult for him if Hülkenberg drops off the grid completely, but whatever happens, the German will have the feeling of having unfinished business in Formula 1 and will work hard on returning in 2021, if not before.
“It would be difficult,” Abiteboul is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com. “Because, I think I’ve said it on a number of occasions, we feel Nico has been a pillar in the team’s construction.
“He’s obviously also a great driver. He’s a huge professional outside of the track, has got huge experience. And, for me, whether it’s between Renault and Nico, or Formula 1 and Nico, it will be unfinished business.
“So, I can’t do anything but really hoping he will find a way forward. But it’s a bit out of our hands now.”