Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Sochi Autodrom, 2018

2018 F1 driver rankings #12: Hulkenberg

2018 F1 season review

Posted on

| Written by

Nico Hulkenberg’s second full season at Renault was a year of feast or famine. When the car was up to it he usually delivered strong results. But he was absent from the points in nearly half of the races and had rather too many crashes.

He ended the season as top midfielder – or ‘Formula 1.5 champion’ – but had the potential to do so rather more emphatically.

A seventh and two sixths from the opening races put him at the forefront of this group. The came Azerbaijan, where Hulkenberg observed his annual tradition of missing a chance to finish on the podium. He was running fifth when he crashed; third place eventually went to Sergio Perez, who was seven places behind Hulkenberg when the Renault hit the wall.

This was the first in a series of prangs for Hulkenberg. By far the worst came at Spa, where he badly mid-judged his braking at the start and wiped out Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc. His weekend had already been spoiled by a power unit change; the crash earned him a penalty for Monza. He hit the wall again at Suzuka and ended his season early when he turned in on Romain Grosjean at Yas Marina, flipping onto his roll hoop.

Nico Hulkenberg

Beat team mate in qualifying 13/19
Beat team mate in race 8/12
Races finished 14/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate 526/878
Qualifying margin -0.121
Points 69

Had it not been for errors like these he might have led the midfield home more often. Even so he did so six times, which no one else managed more than twice.

His first ‘best of the rest win’ came in China, where thanks in part to the Safety Car he was running close enough to the front runners to be able to pass Sebastian Vettel’s wounded Ferrari late in the race. Hulkenberg peaked with fifth at his home race, showing his usual superb touch in mixed conditions.

However he only made three further visits to the points in the second half of the year. This was partly down to those incidents (only Grosjean had as many race-ending collisions, though to be fair he was to blame for Hulkenberg’s Catalunya exit), a couple of technical faults and Renault’s slump in form in the latter races.

For years Hulkenberg has been widely regarded as one of the best F1 drivers not to have had a chance with a front-running team. Next year he will be up against a multiple race-winner when Daniel Ricciardo arrives. He won’t be able to afford as many missed opportunities then.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

Over to you

Retired seven times to his team mate’s two, yet he still managed to finish ahead in the standings and best of the rest. Still has to wake up in the morning knowing Stroll has a podium finish and he doesn’t.

What’s your verdict on Nico Hulkenberg’s 2018 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2018 F1 season review

Browse all 2018 F1 season review articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

72 comments on “2018 F1 driver rankings #12: Hulkenberg”

  1. Sorry, but this has gone too far. Behind Perez, Bottas, Gasly, Kimi? Madness. Entertaining though.

    1. You can’t have Sainz 13 and Hulk 12 when the other has so thorougly outdriven the other.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        13th December 2018, 11:37

        he may have reasonable points, but he caused some very dangerous crashes this year. And his accident in Baku and the final race looked very clumsy indeed. all were race ending and not all of his other races were exactly spectacular. This is a fair enough rating though I think i would have him 2 higher. He has been very good in qualifying and has had quite a few very solid races, but i don’t think this rating is unreasonable. Those thinking Bottas should be around here should think that he hasn’t had any big incidents. He also was basically matched with Hamilton near the start of the season. And also, Hamilton looks to have possibly been at his best ever level recently. That and Red Bull and Ferrari looking as good or better than Mercedes in the races makes Bottas look way worse than he is. i think he will be rated 6th or 7th.

    2. @hahostolze +1 – Totally agree with you.

    3. Keith didn’t even watch this season. No logical explanation of his ranking.

      1. Agree. This is a joke that K-Mag is not least in the top 10…

        1. Hilarious – lets see your rankings.

    4. @hahostolze start a website and do your own ranking or wind your neck in with the outrage under every ranking zzz.

      Course he is behind Gasly and Kimi, both drove better especially Kimi.

      1. yeah @hahostolze how dare you give your opinion on the comment especially put in place to engage with author?

        just nod and wave, nod and wave

      2. RB13 – interestingly enough, I commented on the forum at the driver’s rankings page – giving my opinion – and you didn’t! (
        So pipe down, please.

  2. If you divide 12 with 2… then you can argue that the article is relatively objective.

  3. So Hulkenberg has had a worse season than Gasly and Bottas? I’d argue he was better than Perez and Raikkonen, should be top 7 in the rankings.

    1. I think Keith is judging people harshly on their errors and rewarding those that didn’t make errors.
      So on that basis, I expect Verstappen at 11th ranking and Vettel at about 9th.
      But somehow I am not sure that is going to happen so…. Not sure what is going on here.

      1. @mickharrold

        My thoughts exactly. The points are a good guide to who balanced risk and reward. Hulk is the formula 1.5 champ. Putting him this low requires a solid justification. Even if he got a podium he was never going to beat a Red Bull.

        I’ll also reduce my objections if Vettel and Verstappen show up soon, since at least it would be logically consistent.

        1. Points (other than for front runners) actually favours taking bold / risky approaches to racing: if an average result nets no points, then risky approaches that alternate between feast (a few points) and famine (still no points) are better overall.

          Being downmarked for bad driving is fine for me, its something I expect a driver rating system to take into account.

          1. And with that saying, you’re actually giving an excellent argument to validate @slotopen‘s point.

  4. Excuse me, but this is a very weird list. Hülkenberg has had so many retirements yet he managed to beat everyone from F1.5 in points and his teammate in qualy mostly without a problem.
    Imo he deserves at least P8 on this list, if not higher.

  5. Hahaha, when I commented earlier that I hope the Hulk won’t be ranked 9th for the fourth consecutive year, this is not what I had in mind. It’s weird really, he was outscored by Perez in 2015 and 2016 and still made to the top 10, and because he did beat a highly rated teammate (comfortably on pace) this year and had some good drives even at the tail end of the season (USA and Mexico), it’s surprising to see him behind Ocon and Perez especially, since both lost to their teammates in one important area or the other. I think he was the 3rd or 4th best midfield driver this year, so this ranking is a bit of a shame.

    I agree about the mistakes, though. They’ve become a recurring theme of his recent career. If he can revert back to the result-wise consistency he showed in 2014 and combine it with the pace he has shown in the previous two seasons I think he’ll be able to keep up with Ricciardo.

  6. Hulkenberg behind Gasly? Really?! How much weighting are we giving 1 good weekend? (Bahrain)

    I usually only really disagree with a couple of Keith’s rankings, but this year is completely out of whack…

    1. @joeypropane

      To be honest Gasly did have two really strong weekends – Bahrain and Hungary. But I get your point.. I wouldn’t rate him higher than the Hulk either. Gasly was paired up against the weakest driver on the grid, while the Hulk had a decently formidable teammate.

      I usually agree with Keith’s rankings as well. At the most I debate a position or two on a couple of drivers.. but this one is pretty ridiculous. Hulkenberg rated lower than Gasly, Perez and Bottas…. that’s a little much. So far, I’d put the 20 to 10 ranks as the following –
      20) Stroll
      19) Hartley
      18) Sirotkin
      17) Vandoorne
      16) Grosjean
      15) Ericsson
      14) Magnussen
      13) Sainz
      12) Gasly
      11) Perez
      10) Bottas

      1. Don’t see how stroll can be worse than sirotkin, but overall sounds reasonable.

  7. Gasly, Bottas, and Stroll have all been given big promotions so the teams must rate them more highly than the likes of Hulk, Ricciardo, Sainz. :-)

  8. Over to you

    Happy, @johnmilk? :-)

    1. that’s the best part of the article @phylyp

  9. It is interesting that the F1.5 WCC drivers and F1.5 WDC are both ranked so low. To those who are criticizing this positioning, I stand by my earlier belief that these rankings by Keith also reflect a driver’s potential (shown across their entire career) vs. their actual 2018 performance.

    I agree about the mistakes, though. They’ve become a recurring theme of his recent career.

    And as @neutronstar mentioned, the Hulk seems error-prone at times, and has shown a slight tendency to choke at key moments, which shows in his podium score against Perez.

    1. And if my belief about how Keith approaches these rankings are true, I’d expect to see Vettel quite soon.

      1. @phylyp – Given the way the rankings are going so far, I’m expecting Hamilton to be somewhere in the top 8. Probably.

    2. @phylyp Keith said in another thread that the rankings are a representation of how the drivers performed and are not connected to their history (for example doesn’t give margin for rookies). I though however, considering the rankings so far, that he has managed to do that

    3. tendency to choke

      What about Bottas?

      and, error-prone seems to describe Perez, Ocon, Vettel, and even young (early in season) Verstappen more than Hulkenberg.

      Of course I’m biased as he is my hero being the well-deserved F1.5 WDC ;)

      1. No, your hero, your subject of devotion rather, is VER. That’s why you added the words ‘even’ and ‘young’. Don’t try to hide it, be proud, hahhahahhaahah.

        FYI, bc clearly you didn’t see the season without orange goggles, VER has made faaaaaaaaaaaaaar more mistakes than HUL. He may have made more mistakes this season alone than HUL in his whole 8 year F1-career.

        And how in the world is OCO error prone? OCO is a tidy driver and has made about a fifth of VERs 2018 mistakes in his whole 50 GP career. Furthermore he holds the all-time record of most consecutive finishes from start of career with 27. Your orange media have fabricated this error prone story, in the aftermath of BRA this year, hahahahahahahha. Just keep repeating it et voilà, you start believing it yourself.


        1. He didn’t say anything particular about verstappen, it’s you who take every chance to dig at him!

  10. It always amuses me how many people are genuinly offended or agitated by something this trivial as driver rankings. It’s just a matter of opinions based on the same facts, that’s all. Keep up the good work Keith.

    1. Agreed @matthijs, these are subjective and will definitely differ from person to person. I wish readers just use the points articulated in the article to discuss (and contradict) drivers strengths and weaknesses, but not get hung up like it is the reader is who is being unfairly rated.

    2. @matthijs this is the INTERNET! There is no place for love, we deal in hatred, welcome to hell pal

    3. Agreed… we all watch the same races but none of us view them through the same eyes.

    4. @matthijs – This…

      At the end of the day, it’s Keith’s opinion, but some people seem to think he absolutely isn’t allowed one which is quite pathetic.

  11. These rankings on this website used to be very fair and objective until 5-6 years back. Then, some drivers started showing up at odd places in the rankings raising a few eyebrows. By this year’s ranking, my eyebrows are raised and my eyes are rolling. These rankings aren’t about the season, it is about off-season clicks and off-season traffic.

    Great website otherwise.

    1. @sumedhvidwans Yep – spot on.

  12. I like the rankings so far

  13. This is turning out to be the weirdest ranks I’ve seen here.

    Hulk made Sainz look ordinary, yet is only one place ahead of him, and apparently had a worst season than Perez, Ocon, Bottas, Kimi, Alonso and Vettel. Don’t know in what world. Hell I could make a case that he had a better season than Max and Ricciardo, but seeing him this low is incomprehensibly to me.

    Between Hulk, the best of the rest, and Vandoorne, only 3 places. Wow!

    He had two mistakes, Baku and Spa. The Suzuka crash was in FP3, if we are bringing out that sort of detail into the rankings I assume Keith you will go check everyone that crashed in the free practices? Go and check all of them in Suzuka, there a couple of guys yet to be ranked that should get a knock.

    The oddest thing is the inconsistency in the articles. Yesterday it was all praise for Sainz, even to the extent of coming up with an overtake that didn’t exist (Mandela effect?) and today mainly words of disapproval for Hulk, feels like it is a justification for the rankings instead of an actual performance assessment at this point. Of course we would never fully agree in such a wide community, but generally from what I’m seeing in the comments most of the people are struggling to understand this one and the others.

    Just thought to let this out, because usually the rankings are very balanced but we are only in position 12 and I’m not getting that vibe.

    1. Another mistake was that yesterday Hulks position was given away on the Magnussen article

    2. As much as I like you comments, mixing serious serious contributions with humour/sarcasm, it seems that you have a slight dislike for Alonso. @johnmilk
      Luckily his F1 days are over (for now) and you will be saved the same serious consequences as that ‘guy with the camera’ ;)

      1. @coldfly I have a serious, not slight, dislike not only for Alonso, but for everyone else. It might transpire more on Fred because people don’t give enough attention to the talent that is Lance Stroll, not my fault.

      2. @coldfly but you got me intrigued, what in my comment gave you that impression? It was quite balanced for my standards

        1. *wrong

          PS would be fun if this reply/follow up makes it before my comment which is still awaiting m0deration.

        2. @johnmilk
          You had him triggered with “(..) he had a better season than Max (..).”
          His ALO-part was just an attempt to create a smokescreen, a diversion, to discredit your comment without him showing desperate trying to defend VER. But he doesn’t fool anybody.

  14. Sigh… I love you Keith, but I swear you just don’t like Hulk… He should be at least top 7. Behind Gasly, Bottas, Perez, Raikkonen, Ocon? Nah…

  15. I’ve been kind of on board with the rankings so far, but this one is way off what I had in my mind. it fails the sense check i.e. if you put every driver in a one-on-one showdown on the basis of this year, who do they win/lose against. to my mind, hulk wins against more the half the grid so 12th is…a little off, to put it mildly. there are many drivers that you could say hulk outperformed, but the main candidate is bottas. where is he?

  16. A decent season overall albeit a bit too many errors most notably in Baku and Spa, but despite that as well as Renault’s slump in performance towards the tail-end of the season managed to finish the season as the best-of-the-best.

  17. This ranking, summed up in two words: Yeah, no.

  18. I believe Keith prefers regularity to speed if said speed brings crashes (see Grosjean, Vandoorne’s -other way round- or Hulk’s positions). That’s how I understand these rankings.

    1. I don’t remember Max Chilton ever finishing too highly in the rankings – and he was a pillar of (slow) consistency!

      3 places between Vandoorne and Hulkenberg is barrel-of-badgers crazy.

    2. I guess a lot of it is about how well they use their potential (and the cars potential) during the season. Squandering a lot of it on needless crashes makes it very hard to rate the performance as good, doesn’t it @tango?

      When the driver is clearly fast and able to extract a lot, if they only do so at half of the races, that really is no good. Even though it makes for exciting times for fans to watch. Going up against Ricciardo will be interesting. I do think that Hulkenberg had some of the frustration with the car that we saw Max have early in the year, when he was clearly too impatient and pushed over the limits to get a result too often.

      1. I’m not saying I completely disagree, but it might be an explanation for an “unorthodox” ranking (though I’d thought at the time of my first message that Gasly would be next up, being fast but unrealiable). To be fair, I believe formula 1.5 drivers are like their car, pretty close to one another and therefore the ranking is probably due to minor choices. @bascb

        1. Well we should see max no 11 based on all his mistakes, which far exceed hulks.

  19. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    13th December 2018, 11:57

    I have no clue why Spa is Hulkenberg’s fault – Leclerc jumped in front of Alonso, the outside lane became slower than the inside lane, Hulk reacted a split second too slow but that’s a racing incident. This could happen on any street out there, not in F1 when trying to race.

    If Hulkenberg misjudged the braking zone, then Grosjean who was next to Hulk and the entire field also massively misjudged it but they didn’t have a car divebombing in front of another car. If anyone deserved a penalty there, it’s Leclerc who cut across nearly the entire track.

  20. Hulkenberg made two huge mistakes: in Azerbaijan and at Spa. At Yas Marina Grosjean should cut the corner, but he tried to use the gap which didn’t exist.
    Vettel and Verstappen made more mistakes and you will put them higher… and won’t mention about their fails in practice.

    “But he was absent from the points in nearly half of the races and had rather too many crashes.”
    Races without the points:
    Baku, Spa & Monza – his fault (there was zero chance to score because of grid penalty at Spa)
    Spain & Abu Dhabi – Grosjean’s fault
    Austria – engine failure
    Hungary – missed almost all Friday because of technical failures and issue with fuel bowser during qualifying (Sainz 5th Hulk 13th)
    Russia, Japan and Brazil – the car was uncompetitive (Sainz scored one point)

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      13th December 2018, 12:18

      @rafal if you take away Leclerc’s sudden move across the track in front of Alonso at Spa, do you believe that Hulk would have still hit Alonso? If not, then it wasn’t Hulk’s fault.

    2. Abu Dhabi was clearly, and he admitted to it, Hulk’s fault @rafal, for the rest I do sort of agree with what you are writing.

      1. @bosyber
        Look at this kerb and corner’s profile. How Grosjean want to rotate the car without crash? It was impossible.
        Hulkenberg left no space but Grosjean could avoid sending him into the wall.

        “It was a racing incident; I didn’t see Grosjean – I thought that he went off the track and I took the apex, but the tyres touched and I flipped to go upside down.”

    3. Pretty much the conclusion I came to. Yes he made those 2 mistakes (Spa which was still 100% his fault but I think the outcome made a smaller mistake seem much bigger), but he comfortably outpaced his team-mate all year long when there wasn’t issues involved, and definitely should be far higher up than 12th place… Sainz is incredibly highly rated by many people, and Hulk put him in his place.

  21. List is madness this year

  22. This website has really gone downhill, not sure you’re even trying anymore

  23. Hulkenberg’s hanging like a cow down here.

  24. So far, I had little problem with the ranking. a single place up or down wasn’t even worth commenting on it(maybe that was the point of this outrageous placing to stir controversy? Good job then!). But this is just unbelievable and unjustifiable! There is really no logic in putting a driver who was best of the rest despite retiring from more races than all his rivals, most of these not his fault, beat his highly rated team-mate by every metric possible behind Perez, Ocon, Gasly, even Kimi who I am a fan of, let alone the Mr. “my tires are gone but there’s still a quarter of the race to run” Bottas.

    Really no other word other than “silly” can describe this placing

    1. just to add to this: it easy to say he made too many errors. But in reality he made only 3: Baku, Spa, Abu Dhabi. Which is less than others higher than him in this rating which is of questionable worth suddenly. many is a vague word used to distort facts so let’s be concrete please.

      1. Yes, IF you consider those mistakes many, then you have a fast driver who made many mistakes, hulkenberg.

        You want another of those drivers? Verstappen, early year.

        You want another? Vettel, late year.

        They made a lot of mistakes too and all 3 pretty much performance wise got the best out of the car, so I wouldn’t really understand a 12th, a 5th and a 4th place ranking for the 3 for example.

  25. Just look at the comments and you get an idea how absurd this placing is…

  26. I disagree with Hulkenberg’s ranking. Unfortunately he might be perceived similarly by the many people due to his unspectacular highs when he dominated class B from start to finish or spectacular lows (Spa, Baku, some will also say Abu Dhabi).

  27. And to think that the author of this ranking wants us to give him money because it is “independent professional journalism”.
    My old uncle Peter who only sees the summaries of the races and never stepped on a circuit can make a ranking much more consistent than this…

  28. In general agree with most people here, hulkenberg deserved better this year, I think I could make a case for him having been better than all 3 next ones, bottas, ocon and raikkonen and perhaps some more, case in point if hulkenberg was fast but made many mistakes he should be close to 2 other fast drivers who made many mistakes: vettel and verstappen.

    Consider their cars have 1,5 sec performance difference, you can only do what your car allows.

Comments are closed.