Nico Hulkenberg’s victory at Le Mans was a real life-changing moment for the German driver but the opportunity of a Formula 1 victory could be waning thought if he doesn’t secure a ride with a championship-capable team.
The German has been overlooked for other drivers such as Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel as well as Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat. These top teams have all signed other drivers and even Williams signed Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
This left a ride at Force India and a reward for his performances was a two-year deal signed last September. however, should one of the top teams come calling, team boss Bob Fernley told AUTOSPORT that they wouldn’t stand in his way:
“Nico signing for another two years was all about continuity from our side, to be able to keep a team together that is obviously now a successful partnership,” Fernley said.
“That’s where we want to stay with it, but does that mean if an offer came through from a championship-winning team it wouldn’t be considered?
“I’m sure Vijay would use the same foresight and vision as he did for the Le Mans decision.”
We just spoke of Nico on our Season Review Podcast and it clearly is beyond my understanding as to why the German hasn’t had an offer from a top team. I do recall McLaren’s then team boss, Martin Whitmarsh suggesting the German’s height as being an issue but it clearly doesn’t seem to be at Force India.
Is there something else the top teams know or see that we fans aren’t hearing or watching from afar? What would keep a top team like Ferrari or McLaren at arms length from Hulkenberg? Is he average or overrated? If he were, surely his Le Mans victory puts some of that to rest?
The logic is beyond me but from everything I’ve seen, he is clearly amongst the top drivers on the grid and I’d go as far as to argue that he could have put in a better performance at Ferrari last year than Kimi Raikkonen did even if he struggled with the tire compounds in his Force India in 2015.
There is one small niggle in me that wonders if he’s a strong leader or team player and if he is completely all-in like, say, Sebastian is? He seems more laid back and less emotionally invested as some of the other drivers but that’s just from watching from afar.
It may be beyond my feeble understanding of F1 but it’s nice to know that Force India would not stand in his way should ever get the call to move up.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT