Hulkenberg readies for his first F1 race at familiar Nurburgring

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Coming off of his first points-paying finish in over two months at Sunday’s British Grand Prix, Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg is now preparing for a challenge he has never faced: Racing a Formula One car at the Nurburgring, site of this coming weekend’s German Grand Prix.

While “The Hulk” has been part of the F1 paddock for the last four seasons – three in a race seat, one in a reserve capacity – he’s only competed in his home event when it’s been at Hockenheim, which has alternated the event yearly with Nurburgring since 2007. The last time F1 visited the latter facility came two years ago, when Hulkenberg was in a test driver role at Force India.

But Hulkenberg does have plenty of experience in other categories at Nurburgring. In fact, he was quite successful there while heading down the road to F1, winning in multiple feeder categories such as the Formula 3 Euro Series and GP2.

Obviously, those series are quite different from F1 but track knowledge is track knowledge, and it has Hulkenberg confident that he can enjoy a productive weekend on home ground.

“The Nurburgring is another traditional track with a lot of changes in altitude and good combinations, which makes it a lot of fun to drive,” he said. “Of course, the fans will play a big part and I am looking forward to taking to the track in front of a home crowd.

“Although this is my third [racing] season, I have never raced at the Nurburgring in a Formula One car, so this is a first for me. Overall, however, I know what to expect. I guess everything will be a bit faster and I might perceive things a little different, but I know the track well and I am looking forward to a nice weekend.”

With only six points overall this season – all from Hulkenberg – the Sauber team is likely hoping for that as well.

You can watch the German Grand Prix this Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. ET on CNBC, as well as on your online and mobile devices with NBC Sports Live Extra.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. A dream start occurred for Sebastien Bourdais and the Dale Coyne Racing team upon their reunion, followed by a nightmare in Indianapolis with a huge crash in qualifying, and ended with a rapid recovery to build confidence for 2018.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: 14th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 24 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 11.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 21st Place (8 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 74 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 11.0 Avg. Finish

The 2017 campaign for Sebastien Bourdais upon his return to Dale Coyne Racing will forever be known as both a year of “what could have been” and a year of “what a comeback it was.”

The abnormal season for Bourdais stretched eight races with a three-month break in the middle owing to his own mistake qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fracture to his right hip. His car was a rocket ship; but after two laps at 231 mph, Bourdais appeared to over-correct and destroyed the wall at Turn 2 in Indy in a massive 127G impact. It was a horrific looking accident, but one that also saw Bourdais rather lucky to have not been injured worse.

It set forth in motion an incredible recovery that saw Bourdais back testing the Monday after Mid-Ohio, just over two months since the accident, then in race action just over three months later at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval, and because Bourdais is a regulation badass, he finished in the top-10 straight out of the box. He worked as hard as he did to return earlier than anticipated to avoid an offseason of questions asking if he’d come back and if he’d be strong enough to do so.

The recovery was a welcome story to end the year after the agony at Indy that stopped a potential title run or certainly top-five in points finish in its tracks. A classic Coyne strategy special vaulted Bourdais from last to first and a popular win in his U.S. hometown of St. Petersburg to kick off the year. A second place at Long Beach backed it up and eighth at Barber kept him atop the standings.

But Indy was shaping up to be an important bounce back weekend after Bourdais got taken out in Phoenix, then incurred an engine failure in the IMS road course race. And then, of course, his loud and violent accident qualifying for the ‘500 changed the course of the season.

After three “almost there” but largely unfulfilling years at KV Racing Technology, Bourdais embraced the family atmosphere back at Coyne along with longtime engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson, determined to continue punching above the team’s weight. He crafted a remarkable story all season and will be keen to fulfill it over the course of a proper full campaign in 2018.