August 19, 1987
Sahara Force India
|Career statistics to end 2013|
They say you should never go back, but then again they don’t say where…
Nico is going back in 2014: back to the Force India team he drove for in 2012, which was his second season as a fully-fledged Grand Prix driver.
His 2013 campaign with Sauber was initially disappointing: the Swiss team, sixth overall in 2012 with 126 points to their credit, never looked like reproducing that form as Hulkenberg and Mexican rookie Esteban Gutierrez teamed up.
In fact it was an ominous start altogether: Nico wasn’t even able to race in the opening round in Australia when a fuel system problem prevented him from taking his place on the grid.
Eighth place and four points in Sepang next time out looked much more promising, but for the remainder of the first half of the season he could add just three more.
Then, as he and the team began to get the hang of managing Pirelli’s tyres, Nico came alive in the second half of the year.
In rounds 12 and 14, Italy and Korea respectively, he finished fifth and fourth respectively, describing his Yeongam performance as “one of the finest drives of my F1 career so far”.
Points in six of the last eight rounds were not enough to move Sauber back up to sixth but they did confirm what many F1 insiders believe: that Hulkenberg is one of the brightest of his generation.
Just before Ferrari announced KimiRaikkonen’s return, Hulkenberg’s name had seemed firmly in the frame for a Maranello drive, but that came to nothing.
So did a possible move to front-runners Lotus, seduced instead by Maldonado’s millions.
So is Force India second- or even third-best? Or will Mercedes engines be the driving force in the new-look F1 that carries the team’s momentum on?
“I know this team and I can see their determination; it’s a great bunch of people and we all share the same hunger for success,” says Hulkenberg himself.