Comment: Why Hulkenberg is still treading water in F1

On track, Nico Hulkenberg has done absolutely everything he possibly could to prove he has what it takes to cut it right at the front of the Formula 1 field

Comment: Why Hulkenberg is still treading water in F1

Yet after four seasons as a grand prix driver (one of those 'resting' as a reserve after being dropped by Williams) he is facing the prospect of another season with a midfield team.

Hulkenberg rejoins Force India

Force India is an extremely effective race team, but it is not one of F1's behemoths. If the Mercedes engine is stronger than the rest and the Silverstone-based squad does a good job with its car, he could certainly get some good results. But it's fair to say he won't be winning the world championship in 2014.

The team will be delighted with the signing. Hulkenberg showed during the second half of last season that with a decent car, he can excel. His drive in the Korean Grand Prix, holding off first Fernando Alonso and then Lewis Hamilton, was first rate.

Not only was he quick, but had the strength of mind to leave the door wide open into Turn 1, knowing that if he defended he would be a sitting duck. It was a masterclass of racecraft.

This was not an isolated incident during 2013. Even during the first half of the season, he drove extremely well, it was just that he was in a Sauber that was not particularly competitive until the rear end upgrade introduced in Hungary.

So why isn't he in a top drive? Well, there are legitimate concerns about Hulkenberg's weight given the demands of the 2014 regulations. A tall driver, he couldn't shave off much more weight without starting to lose whole body parts.

There have also been some questionable decisions in the past, notably choosing to move from Force India to Sauber in the first place, which meant his profile was low in the first half of this year when the big teams were thinking about their line-ups.

That arguably played a part in him missing out on the Ferrari seat to proven quantity Kimi Raikkonen, especially as the relationship between Sauber and Hulkenberg, early in the season, was a little rocky.

The third factor is the economic situation. In the times of plenty, he'd be on a three-year deal with a big team being paid $10 million a year by now.

But Force India wasn't worried about any of this, instead focusing on the fact he can be relied upon to deliver not just a few great races a year, but a lot of them during a season.

The team knows how good he is and will realise they have a driver capable of exploiting any opportunity to overachieve that he is presented with. The Brazilian Grands Prix of 2010 and 2012 prove that.

All credit to Vijay Mallya's team for having the courage to sign a driver of the highest calibre on merit at a time when there are plenty of accomplished drivers on the market. This is exactly what an upwardly-mobile, well-run team should be doing.

For Hulkenberg himself, it feels like another season of treading water. All he can do is keep doing what he's doing, carry on giant-killing and hope that he is recognised as what he is - a world champion in waiting.

shares
comments
Nico Hulkenberg rejoins Force India for F1 2014 campaign
Previous article

Nico Hulkenberg rejoins Force India for F1 2014 campaign

Next article

Sebastian Vettel quizzed FIA chief Jean Todt over F1 donut rules

Sebastian Vettel quizzed FIA chief Jean Todt over F1 donut rules
The sliding doors moment that saved Red Bull and Porsche Plus

The sliding doors moment that saved Red Bull and Porsche

OPINION: Everything looked set for Red Bull and Porsche to join forces for the 2026 season, before the marriage between both parties was called off. While at the time it looked like a major coup for Formula 1 in gaining both VW Group powerhouses Audi and Porsche for 2026, Red Bull and Porsche have really been spared a potentially fractious relationship.

How Tyrrell’s post-Stewart era descended into a fight to survive Plus

How Tyrrell’s post-Stewart era descended into a fight to survive

Glory days for Tyrrell became increasingly infrequent
 after Jackie Stewart’s retirement. But in the latest instalment of his history of the team for Autosport's sister title GP Racing, 
MAURICE HAMILTON recalls how Ken Tyrrell’s plucky and defiantly small team stayed bold enough to innovate – springing a surprise with F1’s first six-wheeled car

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2022
The forgettable final car of a former F1 giant that gave Damon Hill his start Plus

The forgettable final car of a former F1 giant that gave Damon Hill his start

While it launched the F1 career 
of a future world champion, STUART CODLING recalls that the BT60 was also the final nail in the coffin of a once-great marque 30 years ago. Here is its story

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2022
How departing F1 boss Brawn views F1’s new rules - and the future Plus

How departing F1 boss Brawn views F1’s new rules - and the future

Multiple-title-winning designer and team boss Ross Brawn is finally leaving Formula 1 after nearly 50 years in motorsport. But he still has plenty of insights on what’s working and what comes next, as he revealed to Autosport in a far-reaching exclusive interview in Abu Dhabi

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2022
The key F1 management call Ferrari must make to avoid more defeat Plus

The key F1 management call Ferrari must make to avoid more defeat

OPINION: Mattia Binotto’s departure from Ferrari will naturally bring a range of changes across the Formula 1 team. But how the changes shape up and the impact they could have is set to be dictated by a key direction Ferrari’s top dogs will need to pick

Formula 1
Nov 30, 2022
The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants Plus

The difference between Mercedes’ stumble and the fall of F1 giants

OPINION: Mercedes endured its worst season of the hybrid Formula 1 era, but was mercifully spared its first winless campaign in over a decade late on. It has owned up to the mistakes it made which led to its troubled W13. And while its task to return to title-challenging contention is not small, its 2022 season seems more like a blip than the beginning of a downward spiral.

Formula 1
Nov 29, 2022
The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star Plus

The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star

Esteban Ocon likes to point out he’s the first driver since Lewis Hamilton to emerge from a spell as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate with a superior overall points record. While some may disagree, as LUKE SMITH discovered, the 2021 Hungarian GP winner reckons it’s not just luck which has made him France’s pre-eminent Formula 1 driver of the moment…

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2022
How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy Plus

How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy

The death of Dietrich Mateschitz last month has not only deprived Red Bull of its visionary founder, it has shorn Formula 1 of one of its most influential benefactors. Mateschitz himself was famously media-shy, preferring to let the brand do the talking on his behalf. And, while it’s now normal to speak of Red Bull F1 titles and champions made, Mateschitz never assumed it would be easy or even possible – as ANTHONY ROWLINSON discovered during this previously unpublished interview from 2006…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2022