Nico Hulkenberg has set his sights on Force India as he fights to stay on the Formula 1 grid for 2011.
Along with Renault – which has strongly hinted that it will retain Vitaly Petrov – Force India is the only established team that has not yet announced its driver line-up for next season.
Incumbents Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi are thought to be strong contenders, along with reserve driver and DTM champion Paul di Resta, but Hulkenberg hopes he can convince Vijay Mallya’s team to take him on instead of one of its existing trio.
“Force India is our best shot, but it is also no secret that quite a few drivers are trying to land a seat there,” said Hulkenberg in an interview with the official Formula 1 website.
“We are talking to them and let’s wait and see what develops.”
He said he was determined to keep fighting for a 2011 race seat rather than settling for a reserve role or looking outside F1.
“The hope is still there and I am not giving up,” Hulkenberg declared.
“I hope I can give you a positive answer very soon. Hopefully before Christmas.”
After a slow start to his rookie season with Williams, the former A1GP, Formula 3 Euro Series and GP2 champion raised his game from the middle of the year – and underlined his talent with a stunning pole position at a damp Interlagos.
But Williams dropped him in favour of new GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado at the end of the season – a decision Hulkenberg is convinced was due to the level of personal funding that Maldonado can bring.
“Sure, it has something to do with the still-difficult global financial situation,” said Hulkenberg.
“It has become much harder to find funding – sponsors are either dropping out or cutting their budget.
“Unfortunately the team has not done too well over the last couple of years and we all know that Formula 1 is a tough business environment where your performance permanently judges you.
“And if you cannot produce that performance you eventually have to look for other ways to close the budget gap.”
Hulkenberg admitted that his own lack of funding was an issue as he hunted for a new seat.
“It has become much, much harder to open doors if your application does not come with a serious sponsor package and you really only rely on your talent as the sole ‘sales argument,'” he said.
“This is quite frustrating and somewhat sad – especially if you can show you have had a good season as a reference.”