Johnny Herbert reckons Nico Hulkenberg is making a 'sideways' move in joining Sauber

Sky F1 pundit doubts switch linked to Ferrari future too

Last Updated: 17/01/13 10:20am

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Sky Sports F1's Johnny Herbert believes Nico Hulkenberg is taking a clear "step sideways" by moving from Force India to Sauber for next season.

Sauber put an end to weeks of speculation on Wednesday by confirming that Hulkenberg would be driving one of their cars in 2013 after the impressing the team since first making his F1 debut with Williams two years ago.

However, rather than being a big jump up the grid, as things stand, Sauber are set to finish only one place higher in the Constructors' Championship than Force India with the latter having scored 11 more points than their rival since the summer break.

And Herbert, who drove for Sauber for three seasons in the late 1990s, is struggling to see the logic behind Hulkenberg's move.

"I think it's a step sideways," he told Sky Sports News in Abu Dhabi.

"I don't see it's a real step forward because they're battling over a similar position in the Constructors'. They're battling for similar placings during the race weekends. So it's not a big step forward.

"We've seen three very good performances from Sauber and Sergio Perez, and that one from [Kamui] Kobayashi in Japan, but that's been about it. The consistent ones since the summer break actually have been Force India. They're always there. Nico has always been getting some good points finishes."

One potential mooted motive behind Hulkenberg's decision to sign for Sauber is the Hinwil team's long-time links to Ferrari, the Maranello outfit having for many years supplied engines to Peter Sauber's outfit.

Hulkenberg was thought to have been considered for a Ferrari drive next season before the team ultimately opted to retain Felipe Massa and could still be in the running for a future move to partner Fernando Alonso.

Herbert, however, doesn't subscribe to that particular theory.

"There's a lot of talk it's a move closer to Ferrari because he's been rumoured to be going there because Sauber have the Ferrari engine," Johnny added.

"I don't personally believe that really is the case."

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