In what might prove to be the 32-year-old’s final season in Formula 1, Hulkenberg was shuffled back to de facto number two status at Renault thanks to the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo.
But while Ricciardo did outperform him, on qualifying pace there was little to choose between them with the average gap just 0.045s in the Australian’s favour.
On race day, Hulkenberg struggled a little more and was not able to reach his 2018 heights, failing to ‘win’ the midfield race even once. But he was a dependable performer whose results were undermined by Renault’s myriad problems and proved he still has something to offer at this level.
Do you have any regrets and frustrations that things just didn’t click for you this year? I don't have any frustration over that. I can see clearly why it happened and the lack of progress this year is probably part of it. And then where it all starts with a bit of a negative vibe in the team, but no, I'm cool with it.
A lot of drivers find themselves refreshed after a year out of F1, could that happen to you? It can, that’s why I'm also you know not ruling on anything [for the future]. A big part of me is excited for that break that I'm going to get, not living with this schedule, this rhythm and doing things that at this time are preset.
So will it feeling like going back to the karting days? I never had a break since it started when I was seven. It has always been my life, my world and then 10 years here [in F1] so it’s going to be very different and quite a shock as well. I’m sure there will be moments where it’s hard and the ceiling will drop on my head, but that’s part of it.
Looking at your career, did you make the right moves? Not all moves were right or perfect. That's the difficult thing in F1, that you take a decision six-eight months before you're going to get there with things changing. With hindsight, it’s easy to say that the change to Sauber in 2013, whilst it was a very good second half of the season, all in all that move was maybe not the best for my career.
What was the big one that got away that you’d like to change? Sao Paulo 2012. I was in bed watching Sky classic races, and I just tuned in and it's that race. I'm leading and I watched it all over again and my heart was bleeding. That was the day. Before the safety car I was leading [with Jenson Button not far behind] by 50 seconds. So that was a special race, a special day, a very young Hulk! That was one of the special drives from the history books.
Do you think if you had won it would have changed your career? Maybe. It’s always difficult to tell what would have happened in that situation.
You have started the most F1 races without podiums – what does that mean to you? Obviously, it’s a fact and it is what it is. I’m not bitter about that one. I would like not to have that but there were some reasons and some circumstances that prevented that podium. That’s the way it is.