#27 NICO HULKENBERG
It seems strange that the man who excelled at every junior series he competed in holds the record for the most F1 starts without a podium finish. Well respected for his speed and racecraft, Nico Hulkenberg bowed out of Formula 1 at the end of the 2019 season.
|Full Name||Nicolas Hulkenberg|
|Date of Birth||19th August 1987|
|First Race||2010 Bahrain Grand Prix|
Nico Hulkenberg was born in North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany in 1987. His father owns a shipping company and Nico had trained as a freight forwarding agent before firmly deciding on a career in motorsport. Hulkenberg started in karting aged ten, and by 2002 had become the German Junior Kart Champion, and then went on to take the German Kart Championship in the following year. After a final season of karting, and adding the Italian Junior Championship to his list of titles, Hulkenberg progressed to single-seaters.
He made his Formula BMW bow in 2005, taking eight victories and winning the championship ahead of Sebastien Buemi. Hulkenberg also finished first in the 2005 Formula BMW World Final, but was given a ten second penalty after being deemed to have brake tested his rivals during a Safety Car period, relegating him to third. A year in A1GP followed, where he became the series’ most successful driver, winning nine races and single-handedly winning the title for Team Germany. Alongside this, he competed in the German Formula 3 championship, in which he took six podiums and a win, and won the Masters of Formula 3 event at Zolder. The Formula 3 Euro series was next on the German’s radar in 2007. After a solid début with a number of wins and an overall third place ranking, he continued in the series for a second year and dominated proceedings, taking almost double the points of his nearest rival.
Following a stint in the GP2 Asia Series over the winter, Hulkenberg stepped into GP2 for 2009. His first victory in the championship came at his home event, and he followed it up the next day at the Sprint Race taking one of very few GP2 ‘double wins’. Three further wins soon followed and Hulkenberg followed in the footsteps of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton to win the title in his maiden season. Having sealed that championship, and with it the title in every junior series he had competed in, the next step was obvious.
Hulkenberg had been signed up as a Williams F1 test driver in 2007, and had put in a lot of mileage in the team’s car. After being the team’s reserve driver for the 2009 season, he stepped up to a race seat in 2010 alongside Rubens Barrichello. While he failed to match his vastly more experienced team-mate for much of the season, the German scored points on eight occasions. He shocked everyone by taking pole by over a second on a soggy Saturday at the Brazilian Grand Prix – his first, and the team’s first in five years. Despite this, he wasn’t kept on by Williams for 2011 and spent the year on the sidelines as Force India’s reserve driver.
After a year of only running in the car during Friday practice sessions, He stepped back up to a race seat in 2012 with Force India and, once he’d found his feet, became a regular points scorer. He led the race in Brazil but a messy overtake around a backmarker and a badly timed Safety Car saw him finish fifth. He switched to Sauber for 2013, who had been competitive in 2012. The car wasn’t quite on the pace in 2013, but improvements in the second half of the year saw Hulkenberg start third in Italy and finish fourth in Korea. Rumours of deals with Ferrari and Lotus were never more than rumours, and he moved back to Force India for 2014. He scored points at all of the races in the first half of the year and finished ninth overall in the championship. Another year at Force India followed, but it was Hulkenberg’s participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans which gained him headlines in 2015, as he won the prestigious race. One final year and ninth place finish followed at Force India in 2016 before it was announced in October 2016 that Hulkeberg would be joining the Renault team for 2017.
Nico Hulkenberg carried the Renault team for much of the 2017 season, and was their only points scorer up until the Singapore round of the championship. He trounced his team-mate Jolyon Palmer in Qualifying, and was only beaten by his team-mate on a Saturday on two occasions over the year. With a car that was still somewhere off the pace, Hulkenberg became the driver with the most F1 starts to never finish on the podium.
Perhaps Nico Hulkenberg could have scored that first podium at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but a self-inflicted crash when he was in fifth place put an end to that hope. Hulkenberg suffered a number of large crashes throughout the season, notably causing a pile-up at the first corner at the Belgian Grand Prix and being flipped into the crash barriers by Romain Grosjean at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Nevertheless, the German finished ‘best of the rest’ on more occasions than any other midfield driver in 2018, with a best finish of fifth at his home race. He once again beat his team-mate in qualifying over the course of the season, but by a generally smaller margin than in previous years.
HULKENBERG IN 2019
Did Nico Hulkenberg really deserve to be dropped by Renault in favour of Esteban Ocon? It’s a question which has already been debated and will continue to be so. In 2019, Hulkenberg recorded the equal-lowest championship result of his career with fourteenth place. It was the same position as he finished in his maiden season in 2010, albeit scoring 15 more points this year.
Hulkenberg holds the record for most appearances without a podium, and this was another year of missed opportunities for the German. He was on course for a sixth place finish having started seventeenth in Bahrain, until his car let him down. Another points-scoring opportunity was missed due to a software glitch in China. Plus he very easily could have finished on the podium at his home race, if not for crashing out in the damp conditions.
In the year that Hulkenberg said his future in the sport would depend largely on his performance against new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, Hulkenberg was both out-qualified and out-raced by the Australian, although this was regularly by small margins. His best result this season was fifth place in Italy, a race in which he finished one position behind Ricciardo. After the Monza race, Hulkenberg would go on to score points six times in seven Grands Prix, which would have been seven out of seven, if not for Renault’s disqualification at Suzuka. But by that point, his future at the team had already been decided. Read more: Nico Hulkenberg’s 2019 Season In Stats.
Rumours of a switch to Alfa Romeo or Williams surfaced in the latter half of the year, but Hulkenberg will be without a Formula 1 drive for the 2020 season. Whether 2019 was his F1 swansong after 177 races remains to be seen.
NICO HULKENBERG’S F1 RECORD
|Year||Team||Final Position||Points Scored||Wins||Poles||Podiums|