Nico Hulkenberg admits he would “love to see” a partnership with Kevin Magnussen at Haas following his departure from Renault, as both drivers insist their rivalry is overplayed.
The pair were involved in a feisty on-track battle at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix, that saw Hulkenberg pat Magnussen on the back after the race and call him “the most unsporting driver,” to which the Dane replied “suck my balls.” With Haas team principal Guenther Steiner admitting an interest in Hulkenberg — who will be replaced by Esteban Ocon at Renault in 2020 — the German was asked about the possibility of being paired with Magnussen at Haas.
“I’d love to see that…” Hulkenberg said. “A teammate is a teammate. You kind of have to accept him. Some you get on (with) but you don’t have to get on — maybe it’s better, I don’t know. I don’t think it would be a deal-breaker for me.”
Hulkenberg shrugged off their altercation at the Hungaroring. “It was racing. No (it wasn’t damaging), have a bit of humor please. It’s no biggie.”
Magnussen also says their relationship is focused on too much by the media and could withstand them being teammates.
“You made it a story,” Magnussen said. “Well, Netflix, that’s true.
“It’s been dramatized massively. Between me and Nico there’s only been one incident, in Hungary. It’s incredible that we’re still talking about it.
“There’s not many drivers who are friends off the track. We say hi to each other when we see each other on the driver parade or whatever. There’s no issues between us.”
Following confirmation of his Renault departure, Hulkenberg took to Twitter to state, “It is well known that the choice of drivers is not only about performance, it is a whole bundle of factors,” but says he accepts the team’s decision after a disappointing first half of the year for the French manufacturer.
“I think things are connected, aren’t they?” Hulkenberg said of his outspoken comments prior to the summer break. “I’ve been here three years now — ’17 was good progress, ’18 was still good and this year we’ve had a very tough year.
“Of course with the difficult year we are having, there is probably some wish for change, or something has to give, and obviously it contributes to that and probably leads to this decision. It’s a pity we can’t continue, particularly as this year we wanted to make a step forward but couldn’t really get it yet. That’s that. The situation is what it is.
“I feel OK to be honest. Of course I was disappointed when I got the news but I had some time to digest it and it was a fair and good process. I see the team’s point and I accept that decision — if I agree with it, that’s a different matter. But that’s just racing and life.
“I can understand the situation and therefore it’s not too hard to deal with. I feel comfortable in my skin and I know that there is appetite from other teams, so I feel OK. Nine races to go with Renault and I want to score as much as I can and leave the team with a strong finish to the season.”