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Nico Hulkenberg: Why He Might Never Be a Formula 1 Champion

Written by Isabel Brito, Edited by Sameena Khan

Image Credits: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Nico Hulkenberg started his career in Formula 1 when he tested with the Williams F1 team in 2007, paving his way into the sport and securing a seat for the 2010 season with the same team. However, his luck in the series was far from stellar since the beginning, but that is to be expected in at least the first three seasons of a driver in Formula One.

Regardless, Hulkenberg moved quickly from Williams to Force India, where he spent two seasons, one of them being as their reserve driver, a role that the German driver constantly finds himself in. Driving for Force India, his luck seemed to be better; with a semi-competitive car, he could have some great races, but not enough to be considered worthy of a championship contender.

In 2013 Sauber signed the German driver for the season, and yet again, he had a first race failure, which also seemed to be a position he constantly found himself in. However, his races with Sauber are far more memorable than those with previous teams, but in the end, he was signed again by Force India for the 2014 season. Hulkenberg drove for the team until 2016. Unfortunately, nothing from his time in Force India is remembered as a critical moment in his career. All his achievements in that time were sixth or seventh places, giving him a top-ten season finish.

Renault 2017 to 2019 was his last season in Formula 1, where he had a chance to prove that he could be a world champion, but that wasn’t the case. Yet again, Hulkenberg couldn’t give any performances to earn him a podium or a race victory. Instead, it allowed the German driver to perform at a mid-level.

In the future, he could be given a high-performing car where he can show his true potential, but in my eyes, he has had multiple opportunities to do so. Time and time again, we have seen other drivers achieve far greater things in a mid-level car than Nico Hulkenberg ever has. The German driver has been through various teams; somehow, he became that driver promise that was never solidified. In his great career in other series, he showed that he was a capable driver of winning races and being at the top of the grid.

In retrospect, Hulkenberg never seemed to fit into formula one. A big part of being a racing driver is finding a team where they feel confident and comfortable that their actions are worth it. Still, in the case of Nico, his confidence drifted away as the years passed. It is crucial to understand that maybe he’s not cut out to be a Formula one driver, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t cut out to be a driver altogether. Nico has had his chance and didn’t make anything of it, but maybe he’d be able to do so in a different series, besides the fact that it must be mind-breaking seeing even younger drivers achieve everything he’s always wanted.

His time in the series has ultimately expired, and he eventually became a seat filler, meaning that when nobody else can fill the seat, he will do it. Not to invalidate the worth of his seat, but for any team, it’s more convenient to take on a rookie driver that will give them the results the teams are looking for. Hulkenberg might have been an overhyped driver that never had the qualities to be a champion in the first place, and I think in his time, he was given far more credit than he ever truly deserved. Now that the German is driving for Haas, I see it very far-fetched for him to ever achieve anything with that team, but he was what they could afford, in all honesty. I don’t believe he will have a chance for a victory or a podium, but time will tell whether Haas can give him what he desires.

1 comment

1 Comment

Mar 28, 2023

I like your piece Isabel - on this occasion its quite critical of both Haas and Hulkenberg 🤣🤣.

Hulkenberg could have a very nice career with a good team in Sports Cars if he wanted - but he is still going in F1, easily as good as KMag which is being proven by results... and after last year everyone thought KMag was amazing. Hulkenberg is doing what many drivers have, staying in F1 because its the premier series, you are one of the best 20 odd drivers on the planet. Haas was probably his only option this year, I am sure he was happy to sign and Haas will probably be happy that so far they are still using the…

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