Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Shanghai International Circuit, 2018

Hulkenberg feels he’s no closer to first podium

2018 F1 season

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Nico Hulkenberg says he feels no closer to his elusive first podium finish in his second season driving for Renault.

The 30-year-old has started 138 races without finishing in the top three which is a record for an F1 driver. Hulkenberg said his chances of reaching the top three appear little different to last year.

“I wouldn’t say [I’m] further away. Not closer, it’s kind of the same. The top six cars are a bit in the distance, out of our reach at the moment under normal circumstances. Then I think it’s us battling with Haas and McLaren quite closely behind.”

Hulkenberg, who won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2015, says he isn’t dwelling on his failure to reach the rostrum since making his F1 debut eight years ago.

“It’s not something that you can force,” he said. “I can’t say I’ll do something crazy, stop on lap one and make it happen somehow.

“You need the right car, you need all the things to be right and in place to be able to achieve the podium and victories, we all know that. Either it comes with time and you are in a position to make it happen or not but of course I would love to have it on my record but it’s not that it bothers me.”

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Being dropped by Williams was “a big step backwards”

Start, Interlagos, 2010
Hulkenberg took a shock pole at Interlagos in 2010
Reflecting on his career so far, Hulkenberg said he is pleased to have bounced back from the “setback” he suffered at the end of his debut season.

“Obviously for me a big step backwards was the end of 2010. Losing the Williams race seat, that was really a setback for my career and impacted the career heavily also.”

Hulkenberg lost his seat at Williams shortly after putting the team on pole position at Interlagos. He said he learned a lot from team mate Rubens Barrichello during that first season.

“Rubens, it was funny because I was a rookie and he was in his 18th season. So he just had me in the pocket the whole time.

“I thought ‘I have him’ and then for quali he would get his hammer out… He always knew exactly where I was and what I was up to and what he was capable of, more importantly. He taught me quite a lot of lessons, it was an interesting year with him.”

Joining Renault has been a positive move for his career, Hulkenberg said, but he named performances for Force India and Sauber among his F1 highlights so far.

Single races like Brazil 2012 when I almost won the race but I crashed with Lewis [Hamilton]. Korea 2013. [There’s] a lot of individual races that were very good because if you don’t have the car to compete every race at the front it’s about individual races and highlights.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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53 comments on “Hulkenberg feels he’s no closer to first podium”

  1. Nor probably is he. One of the most overrated drivers in the 30 years I’ve been watching F1.

    1. ‘one of the most overrated’. really, IYHO of course. He’s been outgunning Sainz who gave Max a good run for his money who outguns Danny Ric, mostly, who smashed Vettel who has won 4 WDC’s.

      A bit of fun linking all that and not entirely serious but neither can you be.

      1. lol, suggesting someone else’s post is ridiculous and then writing this in the same post.

        1. i meant it as a “good reply” not a “bad reply”. it came out wrong when i read it again;
          edit button please @keithcollantine

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        24th April 2018, 21:48

        Well you can create another load of rubbish if you do things this way.
        Sainz was as good as Kvyat in qualifying. Kvyat was dominated by Ricciardo in this area. But yet beat him in points. Ricciardo beat Vettel in 2014. Kvyat must be better than Vettel. Vettel has as many WDCs as Hamilton. Kvyat must be one of the best on the grid! :D

        Ridiculous suggestions over.

        I myself do think Sainz is over rated a bit. Sainz looked close to Verstappen in his first year. But I thought Verstappen improved significantly by the start of 2017. Sainz may have had some great races, but pace over a single lap, he wasn’t much better than Kvyat. Kvyat may have had many incidents, but Sainz caused more retirements than any other driver on the grid last year.

        I think Hulkenberg is good. But I think it isn’t a good sign that he still hasn’t ever managed a podium. I think he’s had his chances. Even though drivers like Bottas have been more lucky with the cars he’s been able to drive, there is no doubt Hulkenberg had one or two chances with a car that was about as good as when Bottas managed his only podium in 2016. Williams was not a great car that season and Force India were clearly better near the end. Perez managed quite a few while in the same team. I think Hulkenberg is pretty solid, but not as good as Bottas or Perez. He had a bad race in China last year getting himself 4 penalty points just in the race alone. And the crash he had in Baku looked about the most clumsy mistake involving just one driver over all of last year. Turning too early into a corner and hitting the wall really looked poor. His car didn’t slip or oversteer. It seemed that it had more grip than he expected. Not a smart move. Hulkenberg had a chance to get really good points here and he binned it. Even the heavily criticized Stroll never managed to make a mistake like this last season when not involving any other driver. The rest of his races looked ok. And some very good. He’s looking good so far this year though.

        Others can certainly have their own views, but I do think Hulkenberg is a bit over rated. And that said, the fact that he’s well ahead of Sainz makes me think that Sainz isn’t that good either. I think Ricciardo and Verstappen are on anothe level to Sainz. But then, both Hulkenberg and Sainz are clearly doing better than Verstappen at the moment, and so is virtually every other driver taking into consideration what they drive. Verstappen really needs to improve.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      24th April 2018, 17:03


      the kid belongs in a Ferrari or Mercedes and should have been there long ago.

      1. Totally agree

      2. @freelittlebirds, then, presumably, Perez is also deserving of a seat at Ferrari or Mercedes given that he beat Hulkenberg in 2015 and 2016 when they were in the same team.

        1. Perez does also deserve a top drive

        2. In a car built around Perez, who brought all the money, while Hulk had all the bad luck in the world… Hulk was quicker, their compared stats show that :)

          1. Hulk had 10kg on Perez.

          2. @hugh11, you know, you are demonstrating that there seems to be a curiously aggressive attitude towards Perez by some of Hulkenberg’s fans and that some seem to have an attitude of constantly wanting to put him down in order to elevate Hulkenberg.

            I mean, those claims that the car was “built around Perez” are all conveniently retrospective in nature and feel like something of an excuse – whilst, of course, I suspect that you would then furiously deny the possibility that Hulkenberg might be ahead of Sainz at Renault because Renault are building their car around him and simply claim that it must all be down to the driver alone.

            I am more inclined to agree with that Ben Rowe says, which is that I am starting to feel that Hulkenberg is a little overhyped (and I say that even though I do like him and think he is a good driver, but not as exceptional as people say he is).

        3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          25th April 2018, 0:15

          Perez is a great driver – I don’t think he would do well in a top car unless he had a relatively (and that’s the keyword) slow teammate. If he was 0.2-0.3 seconds quicker on a lap over a season, Perez would be up there with Nico and the rest.

      3. I wouldn’t call him a kid anymore but he’ll get there. He has earned it.
        I have always been in the Hulk’s corner.

    3. Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahaha.

    4. These responses are exactly what I mean. He has been in F1 for nearly a decade and still doesn’t have a podium? Oh it’s his weight. He just needs more time or a better car. The cream rises to the top fast in F1. I can’t think of any drivers in the past that have had 140 starts without a podium that deserved to be in a top team in any other capacity than a #2 driver. I honestly just want to understand why he is rated so highly 9 years in.

      1. Get in his car and do better then. Or do you even have a driver’s license?

        1. What does this have to do with me? Why would you compare him to me? I’m not in Formula 1. I think I and others were comparing him to other Formula 1 drivers. Apples to apples kind of thing.

          1. @darryn I disagree with you on Hulkenberg, but absolutely agree with you 100% on the “what about you?” issue. It seems to always pop up on many sites. As if any fan ever claims to better than any F1 driver.

      2. I can’t think of any drivers in the past that have had 140 starts without a podium that deserved to be in a top team in any other capacity than a #2 driver

        Of course you can’t, there’s no other driver with 140 starts without a podium in the first place.

      3. He’s highly rated because those in the know have access to his data. He’s never had a car with the pace on merit to earn a podium, so hard to fault him for that. He had a chance to move to a factory team earlier in his career, but it was widely publicized that he was indeed passed over because of his weight. These aren’t (entirely) the gripes of fanboys.

        Others have mentioned his time with Perez, and the fact that Perez scored podiums in the same car. Yes, but in every case Perez has been on the podium, he’s lucked into it. Futhermore, the Monaco podium should have been Hulk’s, but for a strategic blunder that gifted it to Perez. Similar to how Verstappen’s first win should have went to Ricciardo. The biggest issue for Hulkenberg is that he didn’t annihilate Perez like he was expected to. The first year he did, but things were awfully even the second two years. Credit Perez for stepping up, but he is fortunate to drive in an era when tire management is rewarded so heavily, and especially so in his time with Nico in Force India. With the changes the last two years, I would expect Hulk to have a clear pace advantage had he remained with Force India.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          25th April 2018, 13:31

          One of the best comments I’ve read on this forum explaining the differences between Checo and Hulk.

          Imo, Hulk belongs in a top team where he would need to prove whether he deserves it like all the other drivers have to. We all talk about whether Max, Daniel, Valtteri, Kimi belong at their teams.

          Checo belongs in a top midfield team which can use Checo’s ability to exploit alternative strategies (ie use harder compounds for longer stints) to advance ahead of a top team. He’s also extremely consistent in scoring points (at least when Ocon is not around him) and points are extremely important for midfield teams.

          He can bring extraordinary results to a midfield team as evidenced last season with Ocon and Hulk over the years. I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that Checo is the best midfield driver in the world. It’s akin to saying that Nadal is the best tennis player on clay.

      4. @darryn are you saying Alonso is no longer the cream of the crop either then? Because he hasnt been near a podium in nearly half a decade.

        Because of course the car and team have NOTHING to do with results do they…..

      5. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        25th April 2018, 13:22

        @darryn if he was overrated – he’d be out of F1 long ago. As you stated he’s tall, he’s heavy, he is not a pay driver and he can’t even get a podium. And yet Renault rushed to sign him up as their driver and Prost obviously has faith in him.

        Many of us thought he would get Raikonnen’s seat at Ferrari and that could have been Domenicali’s biggest mistake as a team principal – the way it was handled was also horrible.

        Also he would have been the perfect candidate for Rosberg’s seat had he not signed for Renault and many have said that.

        Renault will most likely succeed in this sport since they manufacture the engines. If Renault merges with Nissan, they could be a powerhouse. Between Hulk, Sainz, and Prost that team has the greatest potential of all teams out there.

      6. Nico’s lack of podium in the cars he has had is no different to Mika’s or Jenson lack of wins in the cars they had.

        But they went on to win world titles.

    5. well my prize for the most overrated driver goes surely to max verstappen. not because he’s bad of course, but he has to win multiple wdc-s to meet the expectations, and should be at least flawless for a season… which he doesn’t look like achieving in the foreseeable future in my mind. he’s taking too much risks for beating someone like alonso or vettel over a season.

      1. I’m certainly not a fan of Max, but you can tell he has “it”. Hulkenberg just doesn’t. Whether Max tempers his stupidity like Senna was able to do for the most part or end up like JPM is a question that will be answered in the future.

        1. i wasn’t comparing verstappen to hulkenberg. max is clearly better. comparing max with ayrton is what i don’t agree with. senna was a master tactitian, max isn’t. he doesn’t know when to hold everything back. overrated torpedo driver. in my opinion most overrated by far. “it” creates a “fun show”, not multiple wdc-s. in a merc 2014-2016 sure, but so would hulkenberg or half to 3/4 of the field.

        2. on second reading of your comment i’d argue hulk could be a reliable no. 2 @ a top team not causing stupid trouble @ all & scoring reliably. max isn’t consistent enough for no. 1 and too aggressive fir no.2. maybe next to alonso @ mclaren could be fun, although mclaren are a big joke anyways these days without a crash, overdriven tyres or 2-3 almost crashes per race to think about.

    6. I agree fully and his time must be up soon. At renault he was their 5th choice. It should been Romain in that seat.

  2. As much as I love three teams battling for the win, the gap to the midfield is so large, it’s not even funny. Hulk’s best bet is to be there when the top guys slip up. He could’ve finished on the podium at Baku last year, but binned it. He can’t afford any more of those in a season like this, where opportunities will be hard to come by.

    1. Yes, I thought he was behind in baku compared to stroll, but actually when ricciardo passed both williams before massa’s retirement, hulkenberg was alongside, so could’ve challenged stroll.

  3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    24th April 2018, 17:00

    Nice to hear Hulk explain the vast difference between him and Rubens in terms of experience.

    Williams is truly a fantastic team – they got rid of Hulkenberg and brought in Lance Stroll and kept Lance for a 2nd season.

    That crash with Lewis unfortunately cost Nico so much but ultimately it was Williams that did him in. There are 2 careers for Nico – the one he has now and another one with many wins and a possible championship had he not crashed into Lewis in that race.

    Although not my style, I do wonder if it would be karmic payback if Williams struggles for 10-20 years to get a taste of what they did to Nico.

    1. You skipped a couple steps between Hulk and Stroll but yeah, you’re pretty much spot on. Reminds me of Sergio Perez in a way. Had that awful season with McLaren never happened, I reckon he’d be a hot commodity among the contenders. It really makes me wonder how much closer the racing would be if F1 were a fully homologated spec series.

      1. @forzamaldonado Do you not watch F2? The cream still rises to the top! Albeit the field is not as deep in quality.

        1. @forzamaldonado Nobody’s doubting that. He’s talking about how close it would be. I would predict that most races, no cars will be lapped.

  4. Poor dude that never had a proper seat. But I can see a Rosberg-like redemption if only Renault makes it right.

    1. Let him race more WEC. He seems to shine when he comes off that rubber and back into F1’s crap.

    2. Poor dude?? He been in good okay cars and FI he was just beaten up by Perez…

  5. Honestly, I’ve been a Hulkenberg fan for many years now, and there are so many times that I’ve thought about his collision with Lewis in Brazil 2012 and how different his career might have been today if he had the privilege of carrying the “race winner” tag around with him. Barring his two mistakes in that race, it was one of the most astonishing drives I have ever seen by a driver in a midfield car. The kind of margins he managed to pull over the rest of the field (with Button in the first stint and with Hamilton in the second) were remarkable. He qualified only 7th in the dry.

    It’s a shame that almost every podium opportunity he has ever had has been squandered either by bad luck or his own mistakes and that he has to carry the title of “most starts without a podium”. Frankly, lesser drivers have won a race (Pastor Maldonado) and I don’t think anyone can argue that Hulkenberg doesn’t have the talent to score a podium at least, based on his pace and general consistency, given that he can stop messing up at the most crucial moments.

    1. I know, it kills me so much too… And tbh, if not for the backmarkers around there, Lewis could’ve maybe reacted and avoided Hulk (unless I’m clutching at straws) and he might’ve still got at least 2nd… I dunno, it’s so frustrating to see him in good positions and constantly get screwed over – Monaco 2016, when he was ahead of Perez but got put on a worse strategy, and Perez got the podium, Brazil 2017, when he would’ve got 3rd if not for getting a puncture from a stray piece of debris… Also reportedly not getting the Ferrari seat in 2014 as he was deemed ‘too tall’ (though this isn’t confirmed). It’s really annoying and I get so upset for him, he even gets bad luck when he’s just on for an okay result, and just argh… I could rant all day

      1. Brazil 2017 had a chance of 3rd for hulkenberg? Must be 2016 you mean, I’m not sure on that, we’re talking about holding off a charging verstappen.

        1. Oh yeah typo, my mistake, and given how much quicker he was than Perez, he’d have been too far ahead for Max possibly.

      2. @hugh11 I feel you man, Monaco and Brazil 2016 were especially hard to digest…but don’t get too upset, we fans can only support our drivers and the rest is out of our hands.

    2. I think hamilton would’ve won tbh, hulkenberg would’ve got 2nd, we’re talking about a very strong driver in the wet already back then and mclaren was the best car (aside from red bull, but vettel had to recover that race), even alonso couldn’t keep up with button and he needed to catch him to win the title.

      1. @esploratore Hulkenberg was catching Hamilton very fast when they crashed, so I do think he had the pace to win.

  6. Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez are probably going to end up as the two best drivers never to get a drive in a top car. In my opinion they are the two most underrated in Formula 1, particularly Perez

    1. People always judge driver performances based on one season (ricc beated Vettel, button beated Perez etc etc) but reality is they’re form is also evolving some of them getting better or more experienced etc….

    2. Yes, they definitely deserve a year in an actual top car, mclaren 2013 is useless when it comes to assessing what’d a driver’s real potential, unfortunately the seats in what can be considered competitive cars are only 6 right now and half of them are locked, so only 3 drivers at best can go there, and I don’t really buy into mercedes wanting to get rid of bottas, so that’s only 2.

      1. what’s*, I think an edit button isn’t really a big ask, this site has been around for a lot of time!

  7. I think he’s just stating reality, it’s not a testament to his skills or otherwise.

    There is a massive gap between the first 3 teams and the rest. That means for him (or any other driver in the other teams) to have a shot of a podium, you need at least 3 DNF’s in the top 3 teams and one of the remainder to be compromised in some way either by penalty (likely in DR’s case later this year for PU elements) or misjudgement.

    What Hulk needs to do, and what Renault needs to really focus on is consistently being the best of the rest. Hulk because it’s the only chance he has of ever securing a top exam drive (other than the one he’s in). Renault because it wants to be a “top team”and should be approaching that point by the end of this year if their return to F1 is to be regarded as a success.

  8. Hulkenberg never been show anything special beside making mistakes all the time and still being arrogant. Please replace him with Romain or Perez. Those two at least been shown merrit gettting podiums..

  9. Hulk (and Perez) may look under/overrated in different circunstances, but in the end are very talented drivers with different pros and cons. Hulk on qualy and muscling against the car and physics (like current cars and pre pirelli era) looks strong but lacks the consistency and cleverness to steal every point, more like a hit or miss driver. In the right car he would have picked bright races, but in the circumstances that he had to live he couldnt, he was very close but no cigar. On the oposite, Perez is hot headed and lacks speed on the ragged edge but on pace he usually manages the car really well and gets the points (and podiums on lucky circumstances). The start of the Pirelli era, about mantaining every part of the car alive without killing it (front and rear tyres and temp windows, brakes, energy stores, and such), suited Perez nicely but now that the balance is more about going balls out longer he got his hands full. Both are Ferrari 2nd driver material.

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