Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point, Silverstone, 2020

Hulkenberg was Mercedes’ second choice for Hamilton’s seat – Brawn

2020 F1 season

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Nico Hulkenberg could have occupied the Mercedes seat which Lewis Hamilton has used to win five of the last six world championships, Ross Brawn has revealed.

The former Mercedes boss, now head of motorsport at Formula 1, told the sport’s official website they seriously considered Hulkenberg as a replacement for Michael Schumacher alongside Nico Rosberg at the end of 2012.

Hulkenberg, who was dropped by Renault at the end of last season, returned to Formula 1 over the last two weekends as a substitute for Sergio Perez at Racing Point. Having been unable to start the British Grand Prix due to a power unit failure, Hulkenberg finished seventh yesterday.

“It was going to be an incredible physical challenge for Nico Hulkenberg and I don’t know how much he hurt at the end of the race, but it was great performance all weekend by someone who had just been dropped in the deep end,” said Brawn.

“I almost signed him years ago, when I was in charge at Mercedes. If Lewis hadn’t joined Mercedes when he did, Nico was our next choice.

“I’ve always respected Nico enormously as a driver. He’s a very strong driver who should be in Formula 1.”

Last year another former Mercedes boss, Nick Fry, said the team seriously considered Nick Heidfeld for the seat which went to Hamilton.

Racing Point have said they are “99% sure” Perez will be fit to return for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. The team intends to call on Hulkenberg as a reserve if Perez, who has tested positive for Covid-19 on multiple occasions, is still not available.

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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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32 comments on “Hulkenberg was Mercedes’ second choice for Hamilton’s seat – Brawn”

  1. Second choice for Ferrari, second choice for Mercedes, second choice for Racing Point… This guys entire career is a catalogue of near misses.

  2. Half of the F1 fanbase just internally died right now.

    Imagine a parallel universe where Nico is a triple world champion and down in the history among the greats.

    1. The only reason Hulkenburg is a multiple world champion is because he’s got the best car; and Mercedes are not going to let any ‘foreigner’ beat a German in a Mercedes are they? Why can’t Mercedes just admit Max is the clear No 2.

    2. @pironitheprovocateur

      Nico Rosberg or Nico Hulkenberg?

    3. @pironitheprovocateur It really makes you think

  3. The real shame is Mercedes choosing Bottas over Hulkenberg when Rosberg retired.

    1. I think Rosberg retired two days after Hülkenberg signed the contract with Renault. Talk about luck and this guy.

      1. @pironitheprovocateur No, that happened earlier. His move to Renault was announced between the Japanese and US GP.
        @paeschli Yes, they could have. Bottas, after all, was also already under contract for another team, so no difference in this regard. I guess, getting Renault to terminate the contract would’ve been more difficult than it was with Williams.

    2. Jose Lopes da Silva
      10th August 2020, 13:39

      Bottas was being managed by Wolff.
      Formula One does not operate in an open market anymore. Many say football does not either, as managers influence decisively the outcome of transfers, hirings and firings.
      You have three ladders-pyramids to reach the three top teams. If you’re not in one of them, your chances of getting there are smaller.
      Leclerc was ruling in the midfield but he was also the next in Ferrari’s ladder.
      Verstappen was the prominent one in Red Bull’s channell since 2014.
      Bottas was next in Mercedes, just like Russell is the next now. You won’t see anyone actually considered for Mercedes aside from Russell, unless he screws it really big.

      Does anyone really believe there was any other candidate to Rosberg’s seat? Today we’re talking about Hulkenberg. Every six months, we talk about the long phone call between Alonso and Wolff in December 2016.

      At the same time, we keep discussing drivers to go for the “vacant” Red Bull seat, throwing names, and not realising that more than 10 years have passed since the last non-Red Bull program driver landed a seat there.

      There is great merit in Sainz for being able to break this rule. But every fan feels that Sainz is getting the spot because he’s a little slower than Ricciardo. And Ricciardo, after leaving the system, is going to have many troubles to return. Unless in get a 2009 season again and all this gets mixed up, of course.

    3. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      10th August 2020, 17:40

      I really couldn’t see how hulkenberg was a better choice than bottas at the time. I still think Hulkenberg’s weakness is performing under pressure – possibly why he’s not got a single podium. Bottas, Perez, Grosjean, Magnussen, Kobyashi, Kvyat, Gasly and Stroll – maybe even some others have all managed at least one podium in midfield cars. This doesn’t mean they are all better than Hulkenberg and many involved some luck, but he sure has missed chances in the past:

      I think Bottas and Perez were the main drivers that could managed to get podiums out of cars in the midfield even without much in the way of luck involved. Bottas did a solid job in Canada 2016 as well as 3 races the previous year (Canada, Russia and Mexico) Only didn’t get the podium in Russia because of Kimi. I won’t include any podiums for Bottas in 2014 as the Williams back then was clearly super strong, but Perez once again managed one.

      Perez has had 4 Podiums in the 3 years they were team mates at Force india. In russia 2015, perez was in 3rd on the last lap, then got overtaken by Bottas and kimi, then luckily regained his position. But where was Hulkenberg? He had spun out all by himself at the start. in 2016 at Monaco, Hulkenberg was rather unlucky, but I’m not sure I entirely agree with the article that a podium was in site. Was it really 100% down to the strategy that made him finish 80 seconds behind Perez and lost him the podium that Perez got? Not convinced. He finished 7 seconds behind Alonso so wasn’t exactly being held up in the train. Perez also got a podium in Baku this year while Hulkenberg showed his first of many poor weekends at this track.

      Unfortunately, I think another missed opportunity can be added since this article was written and that was Germany 2019. Nobody expected Kvyat to get one, but he made the most of it. And yet again, Hulkenberg had binned it when a podium was a possibility. Saying that – so did Perez this time.

      I agree that he isn’t the most lucky driver out there, but I think Bottas was easily a better choice for Mercedes and looking at Hulkenberg’s performance in the years since Bottas has been at mercedes (other than 2018) I think it is pretty clear Bottas would have easily been better. While I think Hulkenberg was rated too low last year in the driver rankings (15th), I don’t think he was a top 10 driver that season and IMO his performance just wasn’t quite what it used to be. As was the case last year, he didn’t on a single occasion finish best of the rest outside the big 3 teams, which Ricciardo did plenty of times. Based on his experience and skill, I still think he fully deserves to be in F1, but I don’t think he’s good enough for a top team.

      1. Jonathan Edwards
        10th August 2020, 18:41

        It absolutely was the strategy that lost Hulk the Monaco podium. He was running ahead of Perez on the road and had looked the quicker driver all weekend. The team pitted him early, for no apparent reason, and he was stuck in a train of cars. Perez pitted enough laps later to come out ahead of said train, and got the podium. The team even apologized to Hulkenberg at the time for their obvious blunder. Perez lucked into virtually every podium he’s achieved with Racing Point. Fair play to him for being there to pick up the pieces, but he didn’t achieve these results through sheer pace.

        Hulk threw plenty of other chances away, all on his own, however, no debate there.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          10th August 2020, 19:14

          While I don’t agree that Perez lucked into every podium, I apologise for not realising just how much time that strategy in Monaco cost Hulkenberg.

        2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          10th August 2020, 19:25

          Racing point also don’t have any podiums strictly speaking ;) Perez got them with Force India.

  4. RocketTankski
    10th August 2020, 12:51

    But then perhaps Nico Rosberg would be a multiple champion and Hulk would be his wingman? Meanwhile Lewis followed Alonso’s path out of McLaren Honda and ended up in a Renault

    1. Ooh, my brain hurts to even think about it.. ;)

    2. I think that’s almost certain. It would be Rosberg going for his 7th title this year, and being considered an all time great, while Lewis would indeed have a career similar to Alonso’s, just with one title less.

      Just demonstrates how much fans overestimate the drivers’ importance.

      1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
        10th August 2020, 13:49

        Or maybe, if it had been Rosberg as lead Mercedes driver instead of Hamilton, Vettel would have managed to steal the championship in 2017 and/or ’18, in which case he would still be the number 1 driver at Ferrari.

        Or maybe Hülkenberg would have pulled a Rosberg in 2016, beaten Ham– er, Rosberg to the title, and then immediately retired … and then, just maybe, Mercedes would have hired Hamilton to replace him.

        This game of “what if” is quite fun actually. A lot more entertaining than the reality we actually got, although I suppose that might just be a case of “the grass is always greener …”

    3. So actually Nico Rosberg is having worse luck than Nico Hulkenberg.

    4. Would Rosberg have been as fast without Hamilton’s data?

      1. @pastaman I had to comment!

        I honestly don’t think he would have been as fast as he was without Lewis’ data. I’ve felt that way for years. I’m sure Hamilton did find things on certain weekends to improve his times by reading Nico’s data. Although, based on no proof other than Nico all too often asking his engineer what Lewis was doing in quali or a race, I really think Nico benefited way more than Lewis on the other person’s data.

        It was also around the time that Nico was constantly looking for coaching, was when they banned engineers aiding drivers so much over the radio. I remember a wet Malaysian qualifying a few years ago, when Nico was much slower than Lewis & he asked something along the lines of “Is Lewis using the dry line or karting line?”.

        A few weeks later, if I’m not mistaken they banned all that help over the radio.

  5. Yes, in one alternate reality, he could’ve ended up at Mercedes alongside Nico Rosberg for 2013 and subsequently got to enjoy the team’s successful period starting from the following season, although in another alternative reality Sergio Perez could’ve gone there instead of going to Mclaren, or had Jenson Button stayed in the team from 2009 to 2010 when it became the present Mercedes works team, he could’ve still been there at the beginning of the hybrid era to enjoy the success alongside Nico R. The history of F1 is full of what-ifs.

    1. @jerejj you.missed the one about Jacques Villeneuve returning with Brawn, winning that years championship with his hair painted Brawn yellow dayglow, then staying at Mercedes and winning 3 more championships before releasing another album featuring Hamilton who just quitted F1 after being depressed for missing the Merc deal and staying with McLaren during the Honda years…

  6. I think if he did go to Mercedes he would have been beaten comprehensively by Rosberg, just my 2c.

    1. Wow, great find sir… It shows Toto is lying on one of this 2 articles.
      Also, it could be possible that Hulk is helped by Toto to land a seat somewhere next year.

      1. @omarr-pepper The thing about Nick Heidfeld being a candidate for Mercedes back in the day is what Nick Fry brought up rather than Toto.

      2. Except it was BRAWN that has mentioned HULK in this thread not Toto.
        As an aside… I’ve not seen you comment for a while Omar. I may well have missed recent comments you have made but I’ve noticed you have dumped your allegiance with VETTEL and Jumped on the VER bandwagon! Shame on you.

  7. Hulkenberg would be at least a 5 time champion right now. Second best all time.

    The Mercedes records are all rather hollow if you ask me.

  8. Suffering Williams Fan
    10th August 2020, 21:15

    I suspect Hulkenberg would have preferred not to have heard that little detail – “Hey Nico, just imagine what the last few years could have been like!”

  9. Imagine the confusion of having 2 Nico’s in a team

    1. It’d be almost as bad as owning 2 teams and only employing drivers named Seb or Dan.

  10. Hulkenberg and Da Costa *gives these guys seats.

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