Throughout the last ten years, Nico Hulkenberg has been a regular in the Formula One paddock. However, despite his longevity and talent, the German has never stood on the podium, let alone claim a race victory. Although he isn’t the only driver to ever suffer this fate, few can argue that Hulkenberg’s always been on the brink of success, albeit continuing to fall short. So, let’s consider whether he’s the sport’s unluckiest driver.
Results Haven’t Matched His Talent
Prior to making his F1 debut with Williams back in 2010, Hulkenberg arrived in the highest level of open-wheel racing with a title-winning reputation. Having won the 2009 GP2 Series, much was expected of the now 32-year-old racer. Early on in his Williams career, Hulkenberg secured the team’s first pole positions in more than five years. However, he was unable to turn his front-row start into a podium, finishing the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix in the eighth.
Two years later, Hulkenberg had the opportunity to not only get himself on the podium at Interlagos but clinch the race win. Once again, however, misfortune struck. As the race entered its latter stages, the former Force India driver collided with Lewis Hamilton at turn one and subsequently picked up a drive-through penalty. By the time he saw the chequered flag, Hulkenberg had dropped down to the fifth position, equaling his best-ever race finish.
Seven years on from his second near-miss at Brazil, Hulkenberg let another podium opportunity slip through his fingers at his home race. Having dropped from second to fourth in unpredictable conditions, the German lost grip and slid into the barriers at turn 16. On reflection, Hulkenberg has described this incident as “hard to swallow”.
F1’s Forgotten Man?
For all of his contributions to the sport, the former Renault driver became a victim of the driver market towards the end of the 2019 championship. Despite going on to finish 14th in the drivers’ standings, it was announced that Hulkenberg would lose his seat to Esteban Ocon, who came into Renault to partner Daniel Ricciardo. Subsequently, the German failed to secure a drive for 2020.
“Nico Hülkenberg” (CC BY 2.0) by Jaffa The Cake
Although his struggles for a long-awaited podium position can be somewhat attributed to his own mistakes, few drivers are as naturally talented as Hulkenberg. Interestingly, the 32-year-old still has aspirations of racing again in F1 over the coming years. While many teams had already finalized their line-ups, there are a number of options that could appeal to the German.
According to Motor Sport Magazine, seats are likely to be available at Alfa Romeo and Haas, with the four current drivers all out of contract at the end of 2020. Although neither team are likely to be among the favorites to win this year’s constructors’ championship, with Alfa Romeo being 3000/1 with F1 betting at bet365 to win the accolade, as of August 5th, they would provide a platform for Hulkenberg to get back into the sport.
The Wait Goes On
Unfortunately for Hulkenberg, his best opportunities for a podium may well now be behind him. With seats for next year, not a guarantee, the German may end his F1 career as the best driver to fall short of a top-three finish. However, given the sport’s unpredictability, the possibility shouldn’t be ruled out, especially given Hulkenberg’s talent.