Former Formula 1 driver Nico Hulkenberg has opened-up about his departure from the sport at the end of the 2019 season, and revealed he was “close” to signing with a top team in 2013.
The record-holder for most F1 races without a podium, Hulkenberg was never able to deliver a truly standout performance despite being one of the more highly-regarded drivers on the grid. Now in a wide-ranging interview with German website t-online, Hulkenberg has revealed what could have been.
“In 2013 I was close to making the breakthrough and signing for a top team, but unfortunately that didn’t work out,” he revealed.
A year with a particularly active silly-season, 2013 saw several high-profile seats change hands for the 2014 season, with Mark Webber making way for Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull, Sergio Perez swapped-out for Kevin Magnussen at McLaren, and Kimi Raikkonen returning to Ferrari in place of Felipe Massa.
As Hulkenberg tells it, performances such as the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix — where he led the race before a series of errors saw him finish fifth — had put him in with a chance of finding a competitive drive, but after being passed-over in 2013, teams started to look instead for younger talents.
“There are always special moments in races where you just have to deliver, and then at best, it goes on and you get into a top team. Normally that should happen in two to four years.
“At some point, new talents will follow. You have to be at the right place at the right time with the right people. Everything simply has to fit together.”
Nevertheless, Hulkenberg does not begrudge those teams for looking elsewhere, and knows he earned the respect of many throughout his years with Williams, Force India, Sauber and Renault.
“I still delivered, otherwise I wouldn’t have survived ten years in Formula One. Because they don’t hire you there for fun,” he joked.