Nico Hülkenberg will make his 150th Formula One start at the Singapore Grand Prix this Sunday. Regarded as reliable, fast, and proven talent, it is remarkable to believe that the German has yet to score a podium finish in his eight-year career. A champion in various Formula 3 series, GP2, and he is also a winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Porsche 919 Hybrid. Winning the GP2 championship in his first year matches a feat done only by Formula One champions Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. So why has he not achieved some of the same success of his peers? Money.
This sport requires money, and that was evident in 2011 when Hülkenberg lost his drive at Williams to Pastor Maldonado despite an excellent rookie year. Maldonado brought with him a fortune that Williams couldn’t refuse. The lack of sponsorship dollars is a badge of honor to Hülkenberg as he has had to endure the recent pay driver era. Speaking to autosport.com, he said, “To still be here and have survived that, I think it does say something about me and the driver I am.” Becoming a test driver for Williams, and then again for Force India, he was able to prove his worth as a team guy first and a driver second. Hard work and determination have gotten the German to Renault, and that relationship will continue as his drive is secured in 2019 despite 4th place being his highest result to date.
There is a consensus around the sport that talented drivers like Hülkenberg are losing opportunities because of pay drivers. Whether you believe this notion or not, let us appreciate the rarity that Hülkenberg is. He is a man who’s talent has outweighed his financial restrictions. This Sunday, he will try to break his record of consecutive Grand Prix starts without a podium. A record he took from Adrian Sutil 28 races ago.