Nico Hulkenberg relaxed amid contract uncertainty with Renault

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The 32-year-old German is scouting around for a new challenge after being ousted from his seat for 2020.

In August, Renault said it would be replacing Hulkenberg with Mercedes test driver and former Force India driver Esteban Ocon for next season.
“It does change the perspective slightly when you don’t have the certainty about your future,” Hulkenberg told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.

“You see things a bit differently and maybe you appreciate it more. For me, the situation is what it is. I’m not uncomfortable, I have to say. In a way, I feel quite good and relaxed about it. I did what I could.

“If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. You can’t force things.”

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Hulkenberg driving during practice Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

‘I’m not sure’

Hulkenberg has had a long F1 career since his debut in 2010 with Williams, enjoying stints at both Force India and Sauber before moving to Renault in 2017.

He even found time in 2015 to be part of the Porsche team that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

With his impending free-agency on the horizon, there are three main openings that have still yet to be filled for the upcoming 2020 season — at Alfa Romeo alongside Kimi Raikkonen, at Red Bull partnering Max Verstappen and at Williams alongside George Russell.

While talks between the German and Alfa Romeo are ongoing, Hulkenberg has ruled out a return to Williams, claiming he’s “not the right person for them right now.”

And with just five races remaining on the 2019 calendar and his future still up in the air, Hulkenberg still has no idea where or if he’ll be racing next year.

“To be frank, I’m not sure,” he said.

“I would have thought that things would have already moved a bit faster but here we are now in Suzuka and we don’t really have an answer yet.”

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Hulkenberg at the unveiling of the new Williams Formula One car in 2009.

Head in the game

With all the questions surrounding his racing future, Hulkenberg says it could be easy to lose focus on the actual racing.

“As long as you’re active and racing, you have to be fully focused on that and committed,” the German said.

“If your mind drifts away or you let it drift away, it takes away your focus, your capacity, and you gave to be really present to live in Formula One and be 100% devoted and focused on that.

“My mind has always been here and just living life from one weekend to the next, one race to the next.”

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Hulkenberg prepares to drive at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.

Rain delay

While Renault have struggled at Suzuka in recent years — they have picked up only one point there since 2016 — Hulkenberg enjoyed a run of five top-10 finishes from 2012-16.

But Hulkenberg might have to wait to race on what he calls an “iconic” Japanese track.

Typhoon Hagibis, thought to be the biggest in years, is bearing down on the region.
It has already led to two Rugby World Cup matches scheduled for Saturday to be canceled on safety grounds.
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But with qualifying scheduled for Saturday, Formula 1 bosses said in a statement they are “closely monitoring” the situation.

Formula One in Japan is no stranger to extreme weather. In 2014 French driver Jules Bianchi died nine months after crashing in the heavy rain at Suzuka.

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