"The chances are the worst at Lotus. If you believe the rumours, Maldonado is already there." - Nico Hulkenberg
Nov.15 (GMM) Nico Hulkenberg has admitted the likelihood of a Lotus race seat for 2014 has dropped almost to zero.
Asked by the Swiss newspaper Blick to say where he is going after the Brazil finale, the Sauber driver answered: "I can only say that I am going (on), but not where.
"The options are well known," said the German, who despite having a seat fitting at Enstone this week ultimately decided against replacing Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen for the last two races of 2013.
"Force India, Sauber, Lotus," said Hulkenberg.
But the implication of his 'no' to Lotus is that the financially-struggling team could not offer him a seat for 2014.
Hulkenberg did say Lotus would at least have paid him for Austin and Brazil. "Of course I would not drive for nothing. I'm not a charity," he insisted.
For 2014, however, he admitted: "The chances are the worst at Lotus. If you believe the rumours, Maldonado is already there."
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that the deadline for Lotus' 'Quantum' deal to be finalised is Friday.
But correspondent Michael Schmidt said even Lotus no longer believes in a "miracle".
Mark Webber described a driver market in which the highly-rated Hulkenberg could be left on the sidelines as "unhealthy" for the pinnacle of motor sport.
Indeed, Hulkenberg admitted it is curious he was never in real contention to replace Sergio Perez at McLaren.
"I often spoke to Martin Whitmarsh," he said. "It's hard to know why there was so little interest. I believe I have made all the right arguments on the track."
Nevertheless, he said the uncertainty of late 2010 - when Williams left him without a seat for 2011 at the very last minute - was a worse feeling.
"It was constantly put off and put off until I had nothing," said Hulkenberg. "But I was still new to the business. Now I've got used to it."