F1 reporter Ralf Bach writes in his usual direct way about Nico Hulkenberg F1 future.
What do Nico Hülkenberg and Robert Kubica have in common? Both are big names in the Formula 1 scene, highly respected for their driving skills, but both having a tough 2019 season, and both, not having a job next year (yet). But here the similarities stop.
While Robert Kubica, who suffered a severe rally accident in 2011, preemptively announced his own resignation from Williams, Nico Hulkenberg waited and waited and got “sacked” at Renault and “unwanted” at Haas (at least that’s how Günther Steiner explained it).
In my opinion, it was the German’s own fault. He was just too sure of himself. And even though healthy self-esteem is the basis for achieving success in Formula 1, too much of it can obstruct one’s view.
The fact is, Daniel Ricciardo showed Hulkenberg his limits this year. In the brutal and short-lived world of F1, this means Hulkenberg’s share price suddenly experienced a dramatic decline in value. Or in other words, his shares are worth much less than he himself appraises them.
In a recent telephone conversation, Red Bull chief advisor Helmut Marko explained Hulkenberg’s case to me in his usual direct and sober way:
“Whenever Hülkenberg had to deliver, he didn’t. That’s what distinguishes a top pilot from a good pilot. With Ricciardo, he had, for the first time, a teammate of top-caliber.”
“Especially in qualifying, he didn’t look good against Daniel. That’s why he isn’t a candidate for Red Bull.”
But what are the German’s chances to stay in the premier class of motorsport? Free cockpits are only available at Williams and Alfa Romeo. At Williams, however, the Canadian Nicolas Latifi is considered the certain successor to Kubica. For two reasons: First, his father is a multimillionaire with plenty of money to spend on his son’s career. Second, Latifi convinced experts both in Formula 2 and in his tests with Williams.
Why should Williams, the least successful team on the grid, pay Hülkenberg a salary, if Latifi delivers decent performance and also brings plenty of needed cash with him?
At Alfa, it will also be very difficult for Hulkenberg. Although team boss Vasseur is a fan of the German, he is a team principal without power. Ferrari or the Swedish owners are in charge and they both seem to be disagreeing who should drive in 2020.
Die Swedish faction favors their own countryman Marcus Ericsson. At Ferrari, they favor keeping their junior driver Antonio Giovinazzi for 2020, despite his lackluster performance this year.
But at Ferrari, there is another, much more important motivation behind it. Schumi junior (Mick Schumacher) is being groomed to continue his father’s legacy at Ferrari. For that, it would fit into Ferrari’s personnel decisions perfectly, if Antonios stays for another year and Schumi junior gains more experience in F2 and finally getting ready to drive for Alfa from the following season.
There Is One More Option!
So is there no way out (in) for Nico? Not completely! Should Alfa fall through, too, there remains one last option in my opinion: Toro Rosso.
Team principal Franz Tost is also a fan of Hülkenberg. And Helmut Marko only talked about Hülkenberg not being suitable for the big Red Bull team.
One thing is certain, from Red Bull’s junior programs, there isn’t anyone ready to move up to F1 yet, and whether Pierre Gasly, who was demoted back to Toro Rosso, remains in F1 is still an open question.
Fact is, even Helmut Marko and Red Bull with Toro Rosso at its side don’t mind ‘good’ a pilot in their team.
*This article was first published in German at autobild.de/motorsport.