“Expect the unexpected” is overused, really. For months now, all we’ve been talking about is how great and wonderful Nico Hulkenberg is. I won’t dispute that now nor ever, for I too am convinced that the young German is the best driver to have come along since another headline-grabbing German of late. But what are we to expect from Hulkenberg in Brazil, and indeed in any race in the future?
There is no denying the fact that Sauber has dramatically improved since the summer break. Hulkenberg’s standout performances in Italy, Korea, Japan and Austin are all well and good, but it would be silly to think that something just clicked inside of him and he was finally able to perform. A good car cannot fully mask a mediocre driver, just as a great driver cannot fully overcome a mediocre car. Hulkenberg has never been a mediocre driver in his career, so the only obvious reason for these recent performances is the car. Right?
Don’t be too sure. For just as a mediocre car can mask a good driver, there is nothing more revealing about a great driver than a mediocre car that suddenly becomes good. Confused? I’ll explain.
It was obvious that the mediocre iteration of the 2013 Sauber was holding him back. That much was clear. But now that the car has improved dramatically, Hulkenberg is defying expectations left and right; what with his sensational qualifying results in Italy and Austin and the steely determination with which he defended from Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in Korea. Those are the prime examples of what to expect from a great driver who finally gets to prove what he can do in a much improved car. Hulkenberg, it seems, is drastically blurring the lines between the expected and unexpected.
So, what should we expect from him in Brazil? That is a tricky question to answer, for his history at the track certainly gives us high hopes. Pole in 2010 in his Williams in tricky weather conditions, and a near win for Force India last season in the pouring rain after leading more than 40 laps of the race are only, and hopefully, mere tastes of what we can see from the German sensation this year in Brazil. I’ll be safe and unexpect the expected. How you interpret that is up to you…