Has his time come and gone? Many people believe that Hülkenberg’s F1 career has gone backwards, rather than forwards. Should he be in a Ferrari? Or a Mercedes, Red Bull or perhaps he should have returned to Williams on their journey back to the top of the F1 ladder. Instead, he’s currently at Force India; fighting for points, but not podiums and wins, which for a man of his talent he perhaps should be.
After progressing through Formula BMW, A1 GP, German Formula 3 and crushing the GP2 series in 2009, Nico Hülkenberg finally got his Formula One break with Williams for 2010, partnering vastly most experienced team-mate Rubens Barrichello. His début season showed promise, qualifying 5th at Malaysia, and scooping up his first ever F1 point. Points finishes at Italy, where he finished 7th, Hungary where he finished an impressive sixth, along with points at Korea, Singapore and Brazil rounded off a solid year. He even managed to get a pole-position in the wet at Brazil, Williams’ first since 2005.
Yet for 2011, Williams chose Barrichello and GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado, who brought a wealth of money into the team, and the German was left without a drive.
He tested for Vijay Mallya’s Force India, who promoted him to second driver behind Scot Paul di Resta for 2012 and he scored points on a fairly consistent basis, even picking up a 4th place the Belgian Grand Prix. For 2013, he moved to Sauber, in what was some sort of breakthrough year, picking up a lot of points on his way to 10th in the championship, outperforming the machinery he had at his disposal. He picked up another 4th place at Korea as well.
But for the past 2 seasons, Hülkenberg has moved back to Force India, where he has established himself as one of the best midfield runners, consistent, fast and reliable, getting 4 top 5 finishes (all in 2014 so far), yet not picking up a podium.
Another display of Hülkenberg’s obvious talent came at Le Mans in 2015, where in his #19 Porsche alongside Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber, he won the prestigious race from one of his other fellow Porsche’s and the 3-time winning Audi trio of Lotterer, Fässler and Tréluyer.
One can hope that to find success at the highest level, he doesn’t have to make a full switch to sports cars.