Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 27
Best Finish: 4th (Belgium)
Fastest Laps: 1
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 9th
Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)
Nico Hulkenberg continues to be one of the most frustrating drivers in Formula 1. We all know just how good he is – you don’t win Le Mans on debut by accident – but he is still yet to score a podium finish in F1.
2016 was arguably his best chance yet, with Force India enjoying its strongest season to date. Teammate Sergio Perez was able to stick the car on the podium twice, but Hulkenberg was always lagging behind. His best chances came in Austria, when he started second before fading in the race and retiring, and in Belgium, where he finished an agonizing fourth after being passed by the recovering Lewis Hamilton through the race.
Those were the stand-out moments in an otherwise-muted year for Hulkenberg. P7 and P8s on a regular basis is hardly poor form, but with Perez always one step ahead, the German ended up 29 points back in the drivers’ championship.
A move to Renault beckons for 2017, with the French manufacturer seeing Hulkenberg as the man to lead its charge back up the grid. It could be the move that finally takes him onto the rostrum.
Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)
Maddeningly inconsistent, or frustrating as my colleague Luke calls him, is the way to sum up Nico Hulkenberg’s 2016 season. Few doubt his overall pace but by way of strategic errors (Brazil most notably coming to mine) or poor luck (several first-lap accidents), Hulkenberg’s season was yet another one truly unfulfilled.
Belgium and Brazil witnessed the two latest missed podium opportunities for a driver still yet to score one in more than 100 Grands Prix. And even though he finished ahead of Sergio Perez in seven races when both finished, only one of those was higher than seventh. Otherwise, it was Perez who ended ahead when the team banked more points.
A change of scenery should do him well next year at Renault, and if the car’s a better package, we could see him emerge from the Mexican driver’s slight shadow.