Nico Hulkenberg

Points 0 Position 22 Date of Birth August / 29 / 1987
Place of Birth Emmerich am Rhein Team Aston Martin Car Number 27

Nico Hulkenberg is the unfortunate holder of some of the most unwanted records in Formula 1.

The German is a vastly experienced and capable racer but unfortunately, he has never been able to translate his talent into tangible success.

Therefore, he is often swiftly associated with a couple of less-than-desirable stats that qualify him as something of a ‘nearly’ man.

If you were to scroll through various statistical charts, you would find Hulkenberg sitting not so proudly at the top of some and very high up in others.

For instance, nobody is likely to match his tally of the first 181 starts in his F1 career failing to yield a podium finish for a very long time. That total is 53 ahead of anyone else in history and none of the current crop of drivers are even close to half of Hulkenberg’s number.

He also has the most points without a win and is likely to sit in the top three on the list of most races without a victory for a good few years – and could replace Andrea de Cesaris in top spot with 208 if his career lasts longer than one more full season.

But even though these are not entries a driver would want on his CV, it does not mean they are without positives either.

Hulkenberg clearly has plenty to offer a team, giving the impression of being a mature, articulate driver whose knowhow is a valuable asset towards making both technical and operational progress.

 

Career

Hulkenberg took what could be perceived as the most traditional route to Formula 1, winning the secondary GP2 Series for the ART Grand Prix team in 2009 at the age of 22.

He had tested an F1 car for Williams two years earlier and had become their reserve driver in his GP2 title-winning campaign, so it looked a natural step when the Grove team took him on for a race seat in 2010 alongside fellow new recruit Rubens Barrichello. Nico Rosberg had moved on to Mercedes and Kazuki Nakajima was dropped.

Although Hulkenberg was outscored 47-22 by his much more experienced Brazilian colleague, there was one notable highlight for him – he achieved his first, and so far only, pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix on a damp circuit.

Unfortunately, he could not capitalise upon it in the race, losing the lead immediately to eventual winner Sebastian Vettel and falling back to finish eighth, a lap down.

That proved to be Hulkenberg’s one and only season with Williams because they brought in the well-funded Pastor Maldonado to replace him, so he took on a test and reserve driver role with Force India for 2011 before being promoted to a race seat in 2012 to succeed compatriot Adrian Sutil.

In that year, ‘The Hulk’ achieved his highest race placing of fourth for the first time, in the Belgian Grand Prix.

As had been the case at Williams, he was on the move again after one racing season, but this time there was a seat waiting at Sauber where he took over from Kamui Kobayashi and secured another P4 finish in Korea.

Yet again, now for the third time in a nomadic F1 career thus far, Hulkenberg upped sticks again for 2013 – back to whence he came, namely Force India, and this time it became a more settled stay.

He completed three seasons alongside Sergio Perez and was a consistent performer in the upper midfield, although his most productive spell was at the start of 2014 when he finished in the top six in six of the first seven races.

In the second half of 2016, Hulkenberg finished fourth in Belgium again – and just six weeks later it was announced he was off to join Renault for the following season.

Just like in his second Force India spell, it became a three-year stint with the French team.

The first of those was the least productive, alongside Jolyon Palmer who was replaced towards the end of the season by Carlos Sainz - and the German-Spanish duo were a much more potent force in 2018.

Again, Hulkenberg was a regular in the top six and achieved his highest ever Drivers’ World Championship placing of seventh, although his points total of 69 for that year was some way adrift of his highest with Force India.

Sainz moved on to McLaren and in came Daniel Ricciardo at Renault for 2019, which turned out to be Hulkenberg’s last full campaign before a few years off the grid.

He had to make way for Esteban Ocon in 2020 and made a return to his old Silverstone-based employers, now titled Racing Point, as a reserve driver.

That was the year seriously affected by the pandemic and unfortunately both Racing Point drivers – Perez and Lance Stroll – contracted Covid-19, which gave Hulkenberg opportunities to deputise for them in three grands prix at Silverstone and Nurburgring.

Showing no signs of rust, he remarkably qualified third for the second Silverstone race, the weekend after his car had agonisingly failed to fire up in the garage for the British Grand Prix. Hulkenberg scored points in both races he was able to start that year.

Although 2021 produced no racing action for him as reserve driver for the team’s transformation into Aston Martin, Hulkenberg was straight back on the grid at the start of the 2022 campaign.

This time, it was his fellow countryman Vettel who was hit by Covid-19 and therefore the four-time former World Champion had to miss the opening two races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

It was the start of the new era of technical regulations and Aston Martin made a slower start than they had hoped for, Hulkenberg able to complete the first two grands prix but only in 17th and 12th positions respectively.

Unlike some drivers, Hulkenberg has not been tempted to seek opportunities in other series and his most recent competitive outing outside of F1 was when he tackled the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2015 for the only time – and won it.

History

As mentioned above, Hulkenberg had a fairly conventional route into F1, taking up karting at the age of 10 and within six years capturing national titles in Germany.

He was taken under the wing of Willi Weber, who saw him as something of a successor to Michael Schumacher, whom he also managed, although of course it was Vettel who ended up closer to fitting that particular profile.

When stepping up to cars, Hulkenberg won the German Formula BMW title at the first attempt in 2005 and also finished first in the world final of that category - but was disqualified after being accused of brake-testing a rival during a Safety Car period!

Next stop was Formula 3 and the short-lived A1 Grand Prix series, both of which yielded title success for Hulkenberg. They were significant stepping stones on the way to his GP2 Series victory in 2009.

During that campaign, Hulkenberg got on top with five victories in the last 12 races to clinch the title by 25 points from Vitaly Petrov.

Further down the standings were Romain Grosjean (fourth), Maldonado who replaced Hulkenberg at Williams (sixth) and his future team-mate Perez (12th).

In financial terms, it is relevant to state that Hulkenberg’s father, Dieter, owned a shipping company, so there was probably never going to be much doubt about the family being able to afford a kart to indulge Nico’s childhood passion.

When he last raced full time in 2019, Hulkenberg’s salary with Renault was reported to be $10million. As a reserve driver, it was reported to still be a highly lucrative $4million.

Depending on the accuracy of that information, it would mean Hulkenberg was being paid more than some full-time racers – perhaps even a quarter of the field in 2022.

In terms of sponsorships, the brand with which Hulkenberg has been most readily associated throughout his career is Stuttgart-based vehicle inspection company Dekra.

They were beside him, and on his apparel, from the start of his single-seater career right through to the end of 2018, his penultimate year with Renault.

Hulkenberg’s other main commercial partner has been Alpinestars, a motorsports and action sports clothing manufacturer based in Italy.

Their branding featured prominently on his race suit in particular when he stood in for Perez at Silverstone in 2020.

As mentioned above, Hulkenberg’s father was the owner of Hulkenberg Spedition, a shipping company based in Emmerich am Rhein where Nico was born, very close to the border with the Netherlands.

Hulkenberg jnr actually trained as a freight forwarding agent at his father’s company before his racing career took off. His mother’s name is Susanne.

In terms of girlfriends, Hulkenberg was reported to have been in a relationship with police officer Laura Zinnel for eight years until 2014.

However, the following year he met Lithuanian fashion designer Egle Ruskyte. They were reported to have become engaged in Venice in September 2020 and got married in Mallorca the following summer.

In September 2021, Egle gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter named Noemi Sky – to whom Hulkenberg has referred as his greatest “success” story outside of Formula 1.

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