F1 Driver Review: Nico Hulkenberg

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After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship season, my colleague Chris Estrada and I are taking a look back on how each of the 23 Formula One drivers who took to the grid fared this past year.

Finishing 10th among the drivers but nonetheless earning lots of respect in 2013 was Nico Hulkenberg…

NICO HULKENBERG

No. 11 Sauber-Ferrari
2013 Stats: 10th Place, 0 Wins, 0 Podiums, 2 Top-5s, 10 Top-10s, 8 Laps Led
Average Start: 9.6
Average Finish: 10.7
DNFs: 3

DiZinno says: I don’t think Hulkenberg plans to put together his best run of races in the second half, on the free agent market, every year, but that’s been the career trajectory for the talented German. In 2010 with Williams, 2012 with Force India and now 2013 with Sauber, all of Hulkenberg’s best efforts have come after the summer break, coupled with car upgrades that have allowed him to overcompensate for midfield machinery better than most in the field. Korea’s fourth place was the ultimate highlight among many others both in qualifying and the races. Alas, call it another case of “too little, too late” when it came to grabbing a top-flight seat. Or maybe that should be “too little money” given who he lost out on the Lotus seat…

Estrada says: Held back by a middling C32 in the first half of the season, Hulkenberg was still able to knock out four finishes in the points before Sauber brought its upgrades for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Two races later at Monza, everything finally came together for the Hulk and his Swiss-based team as he qualified a superb third and held on to a fifth-place result on race day – a fantastic result out of a car that had been so-so at best. The performance stayed solid for the remainder of the year, which also saw Hulkenberg deliver a fourth-place finish in Korea. But despite his heroics (and smoking rookie teammate Esteban Gutierrez), he couldn’t attract a top-flight ride and will have to once again try and elevate a mid-field squad next year at Force India.

MRTI: pre-season testing Day 3 notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Day 3 of pre-season testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway saw the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda continue testing for the second day in a row, with each series completing three sessions on what was their final day of running.

Quick reports on both series are below.

Pro Mazda: Cunha Surges to the Front

While Saturday saw Pro Mazda newcomers like Oliver Askew, Parker Thompson, and Rinus VeeKey lead the way, Sunday saw a pair of second-year Pro Mazda drivers take their turns at the top of the speed charts. In the combined results, Juncos Racing’s Carlos Cunha turned the fastest lap of the final session, also good enough to be the outright fastest lap of the weekend, taking advantage of a fresh set of Cooper Tires to do so.

“I’m really happy, Juncos Racing is an amazing team,” Cunha said of the team’s performance. “On track, we are always improving, never going backwards and that’s very good. We have tested a lot but we still need to learn a lot about the car, though we are almost to a perfect setup. The team has given me everything I need to be comfortable inside the car, to know what the car needs, and to know what I need to be a better driver. We have time to improve and we are moving forward quickly.”

Fellow sophomore driver Sting Ray Robb, now with Team Pelfrey, was right behind Cunha in second.

Combined results across both Saturday and Sunday can be found here.

USF2000: Kirkwood, Cape Motorsports Stay On Top of Deep USF2000 Field

New Cape Motorsports driver Kyle Kirkwood, who topped Session 2 on Saturday, stayed on top of the combined speed charts across the weekend on the strength of his best lap from Session 3 of the weekend on Saturday.

Pabst Racing’s Rasmus Lindh was right behind Kirkwood, on the strength of his quick lap from Session 1.

However, Sunday’s running saw a different driver assert his authority, with Kaylen Frederick, Lindh’s teammate at Pabst, turning the fastest lap during the final session.

Frederick ended up fourth in the combined results, which can be viewed here.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will take to the Homestead-Miami road course on Monday for the final day of testing for the Mazda Road to Indy.

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