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Biography

SEASON INFORMATION
15/08/2013

 

Biography

 
Nico Hulkenberg made his Kart debut in 1997 aged ten. Within five years he was German Junior Karting Champion and the following year (2003) he won the German Kart Championship.

It was in 2005 that Nico, now aged sixteen, switched to single-seaters, opting for the German Formula BMW series. It was a remarkable debut, the youngster in many ways emulating the achievements of the previous year's champion, Sebastian Vettel. From twenty races, Nico took eight poles, scoring nine wins. However, his season was slightly overshadowed when he was stripped of victory in the Formula BMW World Final, following claims that he had brake-tested his rivals during a safety car period.

The following year he entered the highly-regarded German F3 Championship with Josef Kaufmann Racing, augmenting this with A1 Grand Prix. While he scored three race wins in the German F3 series - finishing fifth overall - he scored nine wins for Team Germany in A1 GP, winning the second (2006/2007) series for his country almost single-handed.

With Willi Weber, Michael Schumacher's long-time manager, being seat-holder for the German A1 team, and also managing Nico, it came as no surprise when the seven-time World Champion attended the prize-giving in London. Schumacher was generous in his praise of Nico, who many believe has the potential to emulate his fellow-German.

In 2007, Nico moved to the F3 Euroseries with ASM, the team with which Lewis Hamilton and Paul di Resta had previously won the title. There were some amazing performances, not least at the Norisring, when he started from eighteenth on the grid. There were also fine drives at Zandvoort and the Nurburgring.

However, there was silliness once again, this time at Magny Cours, when he was penalised, first for a misdemeanour in qualifying and then crashing into a rival (Filip Salaquarda) in the race.

Finishing third in the F3 Euroseries with four wins, Nico also won the Ultimate Masters of Formula 3 race at Zolder, beating team mate (and F3 Euroseries championship leader) Romain Grosjean, who subsequently found employment as test driver with Renault.

Late in 2007, Nico tested with the Williams F1 team at Jerez, and out-paced Kazuki Nakajima. With Renault said to be watching the youngster, the Grove outfit made its move and signed the German as test and reserve driver for 2008.

The new testing rules meant that Nico got limited time in the Williams in 2008, however, he enjoyed more outings than most other test drivers. In addition to the pre-season tests in Jerez, Valencia and Barcelona, he also drove the car at Paul Ricard during the season and in the post-season tests in Jerez and Barcelona.

In addition to his F1 activities, Nico was kept busy with the Formula 3 Euroseries, taking the title with 7 wins and 6 poles.

In January, having been confirmed as Williams test driver for a second successive season, Nico also made a dramatic debut in the GP2 Asia series with ART Grand Prix, taking pole position at his first attempt and finishing fourth in both races.

While only taking part in 2 of the 6 rounds that comprised the series, such was Nico's form the German finished sixth in the final overall standings.

In the main GP2 Series, Nico scored points in every single round except the season opener in Spain.

His first win came in Germany, his home race, where the youngster won both the Feature and Sprint events, the first driver to do the double on home soil since Giorgio Pantano at Monza in 2006.

Third place at Monza was enough for Nico to secure the 2009 GP2 title with one round still remaining. However, rather than sit back and take it easy, in Portugal Nico scored his fifth win of the season thereby taking his points tally to 100, 25 points clear of runner-up Vitaly Petrov.

Due to the F1 testing restrictions Nico had few outings during 2009 his running mainly limited to a few straight-line runs and two days at Jerez at the end of the season.

On November4 however, it came as no great surprise when Nico was officially confirmed as a Williams driver in the 2010 world championship, the German to be partnered by Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello.

Nico made his debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix, recovering from an early spin to finish in fourteenth. In Australia, he was involved in a first-lap incident with Kamui Kobayashi, after the Japanese driver's front wing failed and sent him into the barrier and rebounding into the path of the German.

In Malaysia, having made it to Q3 for the first time, qualifying fifth and out-qualifying Barrichello for the first time, Nico looked set to finish eleventh until Fernando Alonso blew his engine three laps from the end, thus promoting the German to tenth and into the points.

He was tenth again at Silverstone, while in Hungary he finished sixth, a career best. He also picked up points finishes in Italy, Singapore, and Korea. In the Japanese Grand Prix, Renault driver Vitaly Petrov misjudged a move at the start and cut across Nico's nose thereby taking them both out of the race.

It was at this time that reports began to emerge suggesting that Nico might lose his seat to GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado in 2011, the Venezuelan able to bring much needed cash to the Grove outfit.

At Interlagos, the penultimate race of the season, Nico took his first F1 pole position, beating Sebastian Vettel by 1.049s. It was Williams first pole position since the 2005 European Grand Prix.

To prove it was no fluke, the youngster completed a final lap having already secured pole, increasing the gap to the rest of the field. Unfortunately, next day, after losing the lead on the opening lap, he eventually finished the race in eighth place.

Days after the season finale in Abu Dhabi, Williams confirmed that Nico would not be with the team in 2011, his seat, as predicted, going to Maldonado.

While he was unable to secure a race seat for 2011, he was handed the role of test and reserve driver at Force India.

Courtesy of the deal struck with the team, Nico was one of the few test and reserve drivers to actually have any serious mileage, replacing Paul di Resta in all the Friday morning sessions apart from Monaco and Hungary, where he replaced Adrian Sutil.

In mid-December, Force India ended weeks of speculation when it confirmed that Nico would partner Paul di Resta in 2012, the Silverstone outfit having dropped Adrian Sutil in favour of his countryman.

Once again, 2012 saw Force India caught up in the war zone that is the midfield, the Silverstone-based outfit battling Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso, though in all honesty much of fight was with its Swiss rivals. Once again the Indian team enjoyed a low key start to the season, gaining momentum as the year progressed. Indeed, from Belgium to Brazil the team enjoyed a run of nine races in which it scored points, a feat only managed (and bettered) by five other teams.

At its best on street circuits the VJM05 lost out as its rivals continued to bring on the updates. And there's the rub, for while Force India enjoyed a healthy run of points finishes in the second half of the season it could have been so much better however, as Technical Director Andy Green admitted following the summer shut down the team effectively gave up on development and instead switched focus to 2013. Just a bit more effort, a little more self belief and it is entirely possible that Force India could have beaten Sauber to sixth overall.

As expected, the driver pairing was strong, though for much of the year Nico clearly had the edge over his Scottish teammate. Indeed, it would be fair to say that Nico was one of the true stars of 2012, a season in which several shone brightly.

Out-qualifying di Resta 12-8, Nico gave a number of impressive performances, most notably Valencia and Spa, however, it was at Interlagos, a circuit he clearly enjoys, where he really came of age. Performing brilliantly in the wet, the German looked set for a shock win until a tangle with Lewis Hamilton, thereby giving the British media good cause for another German driver to despise.

Linked with both Ferrari and McLaren, it came as a surprise - to pt it mildly when Nico opted to move to Sauber for 2013, though here at Pitpass we believe this to be a stepping stone before joining Alonso at Maranello in 2014.

Whether The Swiss team will allow Nico to shine again in 2013 remains to be seen, though, if nothing else, we can be sure of some fireworks as the German, along with di Resta and others, vie for the attention of the big guns.

Statistics - at the end of 2012 Season

Drivers' Titles: 0
Seasons in F1: 2
Grand Prix: 39
Wins: 0
Poles: 1
Fastest Laps: 1

Best result in 2012: 4th (Belgium)
Best qualifying 2012: 5th (Germany)
Worst qualifying 2012: 24th (Italy)
2012: Out-qualified Paul di Resta 12 times
2012: Out-qualified by Paul di Resta 8 times

2012: Completed 1075 out of 1192 laps (90.2%)
2012: Finished 18 times from 20 starts (90%)

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