Korea-changing moment for Nico Hulkenberg?


For all those that feared the Sauber drivers performance in Monza last month was a one-off, this past weekend in Korea showed to the world that it categorically was not, and further reinforced the desire and need for Nico Hulkenberg to be given a race seat at the front of the Formula 1 field. So, will this latest drive prove a career-changer for Nico? Can one race really change things that much? Probably not - a point the man himself agrees with - but is this the first time he's shone so brightly in his Formula 1 career?

He's lead races in a Williams, Force India and Sauber; taken a pole position in the trickiest of conditions around one of the most intimidating and formidable circuits on the calendar; and developed a reputation for being sensible but firm racer.

You could throw out there the argument that he hasn't yet finished on the podium. You could, but should you? Has he ever had the car to do so? Or is that the test of a truly great driver, extracting more from a car that 99.99% of others simply could not? As I say, you could use it against him, but it would be grossly unfair.

The German is impressing many, and collecting admirers every time he heads out on track. Not just admirers in the grandstands, on their sofas or behind a keyboard, but where it ultimately counts - the pit lane. Well, that's the word, and it's how it should be. But why then has he been overlooked for so many 'top' drives already in his Formula 1 career? He'd surely interest all the major contenders, but why is it only now that we may see one of them taking a chance?

'Taking a chance' appears to suggest it would be a risk. It wouldn't. We've witnessed just what he can do in not only a midfield team, but a range of midfield teams. It's arguably that point that is the most impressive. In just three seasons of racing in this formula, he's raced for three different teams. All teams in a similar range of competition, but ones which differ greatly in just about everything else. He adapts quickly, and come the second half of the season, finds a whole new level of performance. Take a look at his results in the latter stages of a season and you'll see points finish after points finish; an incredible streak of consistency at the end of an ever increasingly long and tiring year.

Back to Korea for the moment. There's been a mark able increase in the performance of the Sauber over recent races, highlighted by both drivers looking far more competitive in their respective sections of the field. It has certainly helped Nico with his quest to race and battle for crucial major points, but it should take nothing away from the brilliant driving performances he's delivering as well.

His battle with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso was brilliant and intriguing to watch. It perfectly encapsulated the kind of Nico Hulkenberg is. Not intimidated by any name, defending his space on the circuit and when the time comes to fight back, he strikes instantly and cleanly. He drove a very smart race, placing his car in all the right positions and using the strengths of his Sauber to ensure the gap to the 2008 World Champion was manageable. If you want a demonstration in how to keep a position on track in a slower car than those around you, re-watch that battle.

One of the major differences between Nico and others in the midfield looking to break forwards is his high number of standout moments and races. For several others you can think of one or two, but with The Hulk it's considerably more. Monza and Korea this season, Brazil and Spa last season and Brazil in his debut season to name but a few. And, as stated earlier, he's achieved this in a multitude of cars.

Will Korea alone change his career in Formula 1? Probably not, but a whole host of similarly impressive races over several seasons surely will, at some point, pay off. Won't they?! Please. Will someone sign him? Please. Nico Hulkenberg. It's incredible that he's not yet racing at the front. Hopefully this will change, and change soon.

Paul Godley - 07/10/2013

Image source (and all image rights): Nico Hulkenberg leads Lewis Hamilton and the rest via - grandprix.com/

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