Nico Hulkenberg proud to have 'survived' pay driver era in F1

Nico Hulkenberg says he takes some pride in having "survived" for nearly a decade in Formula 1 despite the ever-growing threat posed by pay drivers

Nico Hulkenberg proud to have 'survived' pay driver era in F1

The highly-rated Hulkenberg, who once came close to a Ferrari seat, has yet to take a podium in F1 but is moving closer to the front as his Renault team makes progress.

Hulkenberg said that while he still wants to achieve much more in F1, he is already satisfied to have held onto a place on the grid for so long given he has not had sponsorship to bring to teams.

"In a way that is an achievement," he told Autosport in an exclusive interview reflecting on his career.

"To still be here and have survived that, I think it does say something about me and the driver I am.

"At the same time that sounds a bit shit also. And boring, you know? I want more.

"But we know that you need to have the right timing, you need to be in the right car in the right moment. That's why I am here now. My career is not done.

"I have a very good team partner with Renault now, and obviously we have a target together and a vision that we're fighting hard for and working for."

Hulkenberg reckoned that the only time there was a serious risk of him disappearing from F1 was when Williams dropped him in favour of the well-supported Pastor Maldonado at the end of his rookie season in 2010.

The lifeline of a Force India reserve role got him back onto the grid in one of its race seats for 2012, and after a single season with Sauber he then returned to Force India for 2014-16 before last year's Renault switch.

"Obviously at the end of 2010, that was the most dangerous and severe time, let's say, after my first year and when Williams didn't keep me on," he said.

"Since then, there were teams out there valuing talent over money - which was good for me."

Asked if he ever felt vulnerable, Hulkenberg replied: "Maybe yes, in a way. I never had the help of money in the background - it could be the cherry on the top a little bit - whereas some others had that to offer.

"But I had to do it through performance and convince that way."

Hulkenberg came close to a Ferrari deal for 2014, as the team weighed up a replacement for Felipe Massa.

But despite contracts having been drawn up, in the end Ferrari made a last-minute decision to sign Kimi Raikkonen as team-mate to Fernando Alonso.

Looking back at that time, Hulkenberg said the Ferrari move had "seemed serious" and "seemed close" but says he does not waste time wondering what might have been.

"There were negotiations, there were contracts flowing about, being sent between lawyers, but it doesn't matter now," he said.

"At the end it didn't happen, and the rest is history."

shares
comments
Robert Kubica surprised to enjoy non-racing Williams F1 team role

Previous article

Robert Kubica surprised to enjoy non-racing Williams F1 team role

Next article

Mercedes and F1 partner Petronas discussing new fuel projects

Mercedes and F1 partner Petronas discussing new fuel projects
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Drivers Nico Hulkenberg
Author Oleg Karpov
Why Tsunoda can become Japan’s greatest F1 talent Plus

Why Tsunoda can become Japan’s greatest F1 talent

While Japan's fever for motor racing is well-documented, the country has yet to produce a Formula 1 superstar – but that could be about to change, says BEN EDWARDS

Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration Plus

Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration

For too long, F1's richest teams have justified being able to spend as much as they want because that's the way they've always conducted their business. STUART CODLING says that's no reason not to kick a bad habit

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021
The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate Plus

The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate

It's been a tough start to Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin F1 career, with a lack of pre-season testing mileage followed by an incident-packed Bahrain GP. But two key underlying factors mean a turnaround is not guaranteed

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021
The diva that stole a march on F1’s wide-bodied opposition Plus

The diva that stole a march on F1’s wide-bodied opposition

In 2017 new F1 technical regulations were supposed to add drama - and peg Mercedes back. STUART CODLING looks at the car which, while troubled, set the stage for the wide-bodied Formula 1 era

Formula 1
Apr 13, 2021
The themes to watch in F1’s Imola return Plus

The themes to watch in F1’s Imola return

Three weeks is a long time in Formula 1, but in the reshaped start to the 2021 season the teams head to Imola to pick things up after the frenetic Bahrain opener. Here's what to look out for and the developments to follow at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Formula 1
Apr 13, 2021
The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola Plus

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

After a pandemic-hit winter of seat-swapping, F1 kicked off its season with several new faces in town, other drivers adapting to new environments, and one making a much-anticipated comeback. BEN ANDERSON looks at who made the most of their opportunity and who needs to try harder…

Formula 1
Apr 12, 2021
The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture Plus

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture

Aston Martin’s only previous foray into Formula 1 in the late 1950s was a short-lived and unsuccessful affair. But it could have been so different, says NIGEL ROEBUCK

Formula 1
Apr 10, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of car-racing titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace Plus

Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of car-racing titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace

Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Formula 1
Apr 9, 2021