Route to Formula 1
Hulkenberg made his karting debut in 1997 at the age of 10 and went on to work his way up the ranks and make it to Formula 1.
Progressing from karting the German started to race in the German Formula BMW in 2005. He dominated the championship and won the title with relative ease. He won the world final but was then stripped as it was deemed that he brake tested his rivals under the safety car.
For the 2006/07 Hulkenberg joined the German A1 Grand Prix team. He picked up nine race wins in his rookie season making him the most successful young driver in A1GP history.
The next chapter of the Germans racing career would be to take part in Formula 3. He finished the season in 5th and picked up a number of race victories.
In his debut season in GP2 Hulkenberg won the series and immediately caught the attention of those in Formula 1. He won the title with two races to spare becoming the first driver to do so in GP2.
‘The Hulk’ was managed by famous manager Wili Weber who also looked over Michael Schumacher's career. Weber said that Hulkenberg would be in Formula 1 by 2008 and that he had described the racer as an “unbelievable talent”
Formula 1 career
Hulkenberg first drove a Formula 1 car in 2007 when he tested for Williams. Wili Weber had initially tried to get Hulkenberg a test role at Renault but the deal fell through. Hulkenberg impressed Williams so much during the two day test that they officially signed him as their test driver.
In 2010 he was signed for a full time racing seat with Williams. Hulkenberg drove well for the team and managed to get Williams’ first pole position since 2005 in the Brazilian Grand Prix. However, Frank Williams announced that Hulkenberg would not be driving for Williams in 2011 as other drivers could offer more money.
In 2011 Hulkenberg became Force India's reserve driver and would often test for the team on Friday practise sessions.
It was announced that for the 2012 season he would join Paul Di Resta in a racing seat with the team. Hulkenberg was consistently faster than his team mate and had a great season for Force India finishing 17 points ahead of Di Resta and out qualifying him 12 times.
For the 2013 season Hulkenberg would race for Sauber and once again had a solid season proving that he deserved his place in Formula 1.
In 2014 he returned to Force India and stayed with the team for three seasons. Hulkenberg drove alongside Sergio Perez and each year the team would improve up the constructors table. In 2016 Hulkenberg was still with the team and helped them to reach the status of ‘best of the rest’ by finishing the season fourth in the constructors championship.
Switching to Renault
For the 2017 season Nico Hulkenberg signed for Renault and drove alongside Jolyon Palmer. In 2018 Hulkenberg stayed at the team and raced with Carlos Sainz as his team mate.
For the 2019 season Daniel Ricciardo joined the team and the two will hoped that they can help Renault get back to the top of Formula 1. It didn't prove to be the case, and Hulkenberg was pushed to the sidelines.
F1 exit and new opportunities
Hulkenberg did not achieve the dream results with Renault in 2019. He was overshadowed by Ricciardo and had to settle for 14th place in the overall standings, the second-lowest result of his F1 career. He did not return to the French racetrack the following year.
For Hulkenberg, his F1 adventure seemed to be over, but his status as reserve driver for all Mercedes-powered teams would provide him with some unexpected opportunities. The first came in 2020, where he acted as a substitute for Sergio Perez when the Mexican was struck by the coronavirus. Later that year, he was called up again when Lance Stroll also tested positive.
Another opportunity presented itself at the start of the 2022 F1 season. This time it was Sebastian Vettel who had to miss the first two races of the year, leaving Hulkenberg to be called up to act as a replacement in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Nico Hulkenberg in 2023
Hulkenberg appeared to have put himself in the spotlight enough with his substitutions to earn another permanent seat. Haas chose to show Mick Schumacher the exit door after his second season in F1 and is inviting 35-year-old Hulkenberg for a comeback. With the most starts without a podium, he has an unwanted record to his name, which he hopes to end in the future.