Nico Hulkenberg Becoming a Hot Commodity in F1 Driver Market

Nico Hulkenberg finished eighth for Racing Point at the F1 Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring on Sunday. He very nearly had a turn at the wheel of Alex Albon’s Red Bull.

Ultimately, Hulkenberg—F1’s current hot rumor with just about every potential open seat—was called up at the last minute at the Nurburgring to replace Racing Point’s ill Lance Stroll in qualifying and the race. Hulkenberg finished eighth in the race after starting dead last.

Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher said there is no shame in his fellow German qualifying last.

“If he had been on the pace of the others straight away, that would just mean they are all overpaid,” he told German media outlet Sky Deutschland.

Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer was not the first F1 team boss to make a call to Hulkenberg last weekend. Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko said that he called the 33-year-old on Hulkenberg on Friday.

“On the one hand, we are talking with Nico about being a commentator for Servus TV when we will have Formula 1 in 2021,” Marko said. “But I was also in contact with him on Friday because Alex Albon had an unclear corona test result and we almost needed a replacement.”

Curiously, it is believed Hulkenberg is also under consideration by Red Bull for a full race seat in 2021, to potentially replace the underperforming Albon.

“Albon has to perform,” Marko said.

Albon has not been performing as of late. He finished 17th and was a early retirement at Nurburgring.

Nico Rosberg, the 2016 F1 champion, called it a “poor race” from the struggling British-born Thai, while fellow Red Bull stablemate Daniil Kvyat even described a move on him by Albon on Sunday as “unprofessional.”

Daniel Ricciardo, Verstappen’s former Red Bull teammate, said racing alongside the Dutchman can’t be easy for Albon.

“Max is that good,” Ricciardo told L’Equipe. “It’s definitely not easy for young drivers like Pierre (Gasly) or Alex. “You have to be quite resilient mentally to race against Max.”

Marko doesn’t deny that Albon’s place is not set in stone.

“Outside of our own drivers, I can say clearly that only Hulkenberg and Perez are available,” he said. “I basically believe that hardly anyone can get closer than three tenths of a second to Max Verstappen. On good days, Albon can do that, too.”

For his part, Hulkenberg said his appearances as substitute in 2020 so far have not resulted in a contract. Hulkenberg has started just two races this season, but he’s scored in both and actually sits 15th in the F1 Drivers’ Championship standings, ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi and George Russell.

And when asked on Sunday about his chances of replacing Albon next year, Hulkenberg answered: “Very small.

“Red Bull always stands by its junior team drivers,” Hulkenberg said. “You never know in Formula 1 but it’s not always just performance that matters. Often there are other factors that play a really big role.”

Is Nico Hulkenberg deserving of another chance at a full-time ride in Formula 1? After all, he’s never even had a podium in 179 career F1 starts. Start a conversation in the comments section below.

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