Without trying to sound like a broken record, let me explain just why Nico Hulkenberg is too good to be giving up on a top drive.
The German’s career highlights include pole position at the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix in wet conditions while driving a less-than-competitive Williams, leading for more than 40 laps at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix in wet conditions while fending off Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton in their superior Mclarens, securing third spot on the grid at the Italian Grand Prix this year (finishing fifth), as well as fending off Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in Korea on his way to a phenomenal fourth-place finish.
These are mere snapshots of what has been a stellar grand prix career which spans just over 50 races. What he has achieved in midfield machinery each and every year is something that doesn’t come around all too often, so the fact that the Formula One paddock regards Hulkenberg as the next world champion in waiting should come as no surprise.
Financial circumstances meant that 2014 will not be the year we all finally get to see Nico in a car worthy of his immense talent, which points to an aspect of the sport that needs fixing as soon as possible. With his return to Force India next year, Nico will get the opportunity to build on the impressive form he showed at the end of the 2012 season.
In fact, next year will be the first time in his short career that he has started two seasons with the same team. There was a worry for a while that the young German would become a serial team-hopper, endlessly changing scenes in the hope that something special would happen. Had his career been defined by this, a great disservice to the sport and its fans would have been done.
As it happens, Force India could be in a great position in 2014. They finished higher in the constructors’ championship this past season than they did in 2012, meaning they get to work with more prize money, which means they already start at an advantage compared to midfield rivals Sauber, Toro Rosso and Williams.
Their Mercedes engine is also rumored to be the power unit to have in 2014. Renowned for its power, the Mercedes unit will now have to employ good fuel consumption to be the best in the field, but Mercedes are quietly confident about their prospects in the engine department. Also, considering that there wasn’t a single Mercedes engine failure in the whole 2013 season, the confidence levels for all of the company’s customers should be boosted.
But, all of these promising signs should not deter Nico from his search for a top drive. Like I said earlier, he is just too good to be overlooked. Some say that his move to Sauber was a bad one, and that their slow and frankly poor start to the season put him in the shadows of other drivers, just as teams were looking for young prospects to fill potentially empty seats at the end of the year.
Did Sauber’s run of good form come too late in the season? Perhaps. But the money Lotus was supposed to receive didn’t come at all, paving the way for Pastor Maldonado.
Nico should never give up, and he is unlikely to do that anytime soon. But, his prospects are depressingly slim. With Daniel Ricciardo slated for a long Red Bull career, Kevin Magnussen secure at Mclaren, Jules Bianchi primed for a Ferrari debut in a couple of years and Maldonado set for a potentially long spell at Lotus thanks to his millions in sponsorship, there are no potential vacancies at top teams. That is, unless the Maldonado-Lotus partnership goes horribly wrong.
Nico Hulkenberg is without doubt the sport’s brightest prospect. He is too good to give up on. Let’s hope the top teams start to realize this soon.