Hulkenberg expecting 'musical chairs' to kick in during 2024 season


Nico Hulkenberg believes the winds of change will start blowing on F1's driver market next year, as teams devise their line-ups ahead of the sport's big regulation change in 2026.

Save for Williams which has yet to confirm its driver pairing for next season, although all signs point to the team retaining Logan Sargeant alongside Alex Albon, F1's class of 2024 is set in stone.

However, a multitude of contracts, some of which involve F1's top teams, will expire at the end of 2024, which could see the driver market come to life.

But Hulkenberg also believes that F1's 2026 regulation platform could become a catalyst for change, especially as Audi, which will take over Sauber's entry, will have two seats to fill from 2026.

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"I think there’s still so much gap between now and then," Hulkenberg said at Suzuka recently.

"I mean, sounds like quite a big change [the regulations]. And for sure, I think beginning of next year, you start to wonder about that.

"The musical chairs I think will move in and work quite a bit next year and I think naturally things will fall in place for people so yeah, depends what happens, how you perform and how strong your value is."

Williams' Alex Albon, a man around whom there has been a lot of speculation regarding his future beyond 2024, agreed that drivers are likely to be jockeying for position, off the track, at the end of next year and in 2025 to be in the best possible seat for 2026.

"Yeah, I think just as Nico said," he said. "Of course, we are paying attention to it, I think it’s more that it’s the teams that are paying attention to it more than drivers.

"We’ve just got to focus on our jobs. I think it's as Nico said, we will have our own stock and then it's our performances that raises or lowers it.

"And then, that’s it really. I think more than ever this… I don't know, I haven't been in the sport long enough, but it does seem like there's been a big push around 2026 in general from the whole paddock about keeping… there is a big move around then and that's when we're going to get the big musical chairs like Nico said."

AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda was on the same page as his colleagues. But while the Japanese charger is a member of the Red Bull family, he also has an allegiance to Honda, which will power the Aston Martin team from 2026.

"I’m quite scared now, talking about drivers line-ups!" commented the 23-year-old. "We’ll see.

"Obviously for me now it’s Red Bull family, so it would be nice if I’m part of Red Bull. And yeah also about Honda as well, so see how it looks like. But yeah, I think same copy/paste as them."

Regarding F1's front-runners, Max Verstappen is committed to Red Bull until the end of 2028, but Sergio Perez's contract with the team will expire at the end of 2024.

There could be movement at the Scuderia at the end of next season as both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are signed up until the end of 2024, as are both Alpine drivers, both Haas drivers, Albon and Fernando Alonso.

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