Nico Hulkenberg plays down significance fourth at Korean GP will have on his future
"People have looked at me for more time," ace tells Sky F1
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 06/10/13 1:15pm
With Ferrari's signing of Kimi Raikkonen last month meaning all the grid's star drivers have finalised their plans for next season, the highly-rated Hulkenberg had already emerged at the centre of the remaining driver market speculation in recent weeks with the current Sauber driver most strongly linked with a move to Lotus.
A month on from what was already his best result of the season at Monza, where he qualified third and finished fifth, Hulkenberg made the most out his latest Q3 starting berth in Korea to drive a brilliant race to fourth place on Sunday, which equals his career-best finish from Spa 2012.
With the performance coming just days after Hulkenberg admitted a decision over his future was imminent, it therefore appears to have come at a perfect time for the 26-year-old's chances of gaining a long-mooted promotion up the grid.
However, while naturally delighted with the result amid an otherwise poor season for Sauber, Hulkenberg attempted to play down its wider significance for his own prospects.
"I am pleased just for the sake of having done a good result. Mega team effort, 12 points. For us it's a big thing," he told Sky Sports F1.
"But I don't think this result only will change my future day and night. People have looked at me, if they're interested, for more time.
"Obviously today is good, no question and no argument, but they just don't look at one race do they? I don't hope so at least!"
Although Hulkenberg made up two positions at the expense of the Ferraris on the opening lap, and then used the C32's strong straightline speed to complete an opportunistic pass on Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes at the post-Safety Car restart, the German's route to fourth was largely built on an expert show of defensive driving.
Nonetheless, after beating Mercedes and Ferrari to the team's best result for exactly 12 months, Hulkenberg acknowledged that it reflected the step forward Sauber had made since August.
"We certainly seemed to have had a kick-start since after the summer break," he explained.
"We have certainly improved the car and a few things together, the different tyres which Pirelli brought to Budapest combined with a major update which we also brought to Budapest, the understanding of the car set-up, all these things combined make us a lot stronger."
And although he briefly lost fourth place for Hamilton in the closing stages into the first corner, Hulkenberg explained why he had not been unduly troubled by the sight of the Mercedes passing him.
"That's why I didn't even close the door," he said. "If you go there you have marbles on the tyres and I knew I only had to get a good exit out of turn one, my top speed was so good anyway and I had DRS so I knew it would be quite an easy task to pass him again on the straight."