WON'T BE AT LE MANS 2016: Defending Le Mans winner Nico Hulkenberg won't be able to defend his crown in the endurance race in 2016 because of a likely clash with the Azerbaijan GP. Image: AFP/ Yuriko Nakao
Sochi, Russia - Nico Hulkenberg on Thursday (October 8) confirmed he will not be defending his Le Mans title in 2016.
That is because Bernie Ecclestone's re-jigged calendar for 2016 features a controversial clash of the inaugural grand prix in Azerbaijan and the fabled 24 hour endurance sports car race.
"I'm disappointed," Hulkenberg said at Sochi, "but how the calendar is put together is not in my hands. I have to accept it - I have no choice."
Hulkenberg said there is still a faint hope that a further tweak to the calendar in December could end the clash, adding: "I don't know if Porsche would wait that long for me."
"F1 is priority for me"
Asked if skipping Baku might even be an option, the German said categorically: "No, never. F1 is the priority for me."
He even ruled out slotting in a different sports car race or two other than Le Mans next year, saying that the Spa round this year was only to prepare for the main event.
"So if I'm not driving at Le Mans, that would be pointless," said Hulkenberg.
Alonso staying put at McLaren
Elsewhere in the Sochi paddock on Thursday, Fernando Alonso dismissed speculation he might take a sabbatical in 2016 as he waits for McLaren-Honda to get up to speed.
Asked explicitly if he will still be with the Anglo-Japanese collaboration in 2016, the Spaniard said: "Yes. Of course. And 2017."Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Russian GP this weekend.