Hulkenberg talking to Alfa Romeo

As it stands, other than the seat alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull, the only outstanding vacancies for the 2020 grid are at Toro Rosso, Williams and Alfa Romeo.

Always looking to promote from within, Nico Hulkenberg has no chance of a seat at either Red Bull or Toro Rosso, which leaves his former team, Williams or Alfa.

Shunning a return to Grove the German admits that his only hope for next year is the seat alongside Kimi Raikkonen, even though that increasingly looks to be reserved for Antonio Giovinazzi.

Asked if he has talked to Alfa, Hulkenberg admitted: “Of course, we’ve gone through the ranks and everything.”

While the German has enjoyed title-winning success in F3 and GP2 with Alfa team boss, Fred Vasseur previously, Hulkenberg admits that the team with which he made his F1 debut, Williams is not an option.

“I think they need somebody else,” he said. “I think I’m not the right person, I’m not the right driver for them.

“Just where I am in my career and where they are, the timing side I just don’t think it’s the right timing for us,” he added. “With all due respect to the team, and I’ve raced for them and everything, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Dismissing the inevitable reserve or sim driver role, though keen to remain on the F1 grid, the German said that if the Alfa move doesn’t come about he will look at other series or perhaps take a racing sabbatical.

“Honestly I don’t know right now. It depends on what happens, what unfolds here, and once I have that answer I’ll look at other things.

“I said earlier, I don’t want to rush into something or jump into something just to race. It needs to be something that I like, a challenge that excites me. I have no conclusion, no perfect answer for that yet.”

Enjoying the dubious honour of being the driver to have contested the most Grands Prix without ever making it to the podium, Hulkenberg insists he has no regrets.

“It doesn’t feel like unfinished business,” he said. “I’ve done my business, I’ve performed well over the years, very consistently, many times when it was on the verge when other people didn’t get hired or get a job, I still was wanted, and paid to drive. That also speaks for some quality. Of course I would like to have a different kind of record, more points, a podium and victories.

“I know the reasons why things maybe didn’t go that way, but I’m at peace with myself there, I sleep well at night with my eyes closed. I’d love to continue racing, but if not, life goes on.

“F1 is still F1,” he concluded, “it means a lot, it is the pinnacle of motor racing, so it’s not an alternative option that I go somewhere else now, because this is still the best drivers in the world, the best teams, the best engineers.

“When you put it together, have a great weekend or race, and it’s only P6… 7… 8 or whatever it is, it still gives you satisfaction, it pays back. In a different way of course, but that’s reality.”

Of course, if Renault is going to pull the plug and leave F1 at the end of 2020, the German could find himself on pole position in terms of securing an early role at an F1 team for 2020 which would lead to a return to the grid in 2021.